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Teachings 5

[#’s 696-947] TEACHINGS # 5

 

  • THOUGHTS FROM GENESIS- Been reading Genesis 12-22. I felt like the Lord wanted me to overview some stuff. Paul will quote the account in Gen: 15 [and 12] a lot. ‘The just shall live by faith’ is oft mentioned in the New Testament. He uses Abraham as an argument for Justification by Faith. Both Romans and Galatians are masterpieces at this. In my first book ‘House of Prayer or Den of Thieves’ I wrote a chapter titled ‘the Abrahamic Blessing’. I tried to undue a false teaching that arose out of the prosperity movement that taught the ‘Abrahamic Blessing’ was believers being promised material stuff. If you read the chapter [Galatians 3] you will see the Abrahamic blessing to mean Gods promise to Abraham that he would bless the whole world thru his child [seed]. Paul uses this to combat the Judiazers who were teaching you get saved by the law. Paul in essence says ‘God promised Abraham that he would bless [in context, to ‘Justify’ and give the Spirit to those who have faith] the world thru his child [Jesus] long before he gave the law to Moses’. And being God can’t lie, the first promise [to Abraham] is stronger than the second promise to Moses [Law]. Good stuff! But a false teaching twists the ‘promise’ and says ‘see, Paul says we are Abraham’s kids [true] and therefore we get his blessings’ [stuff] false! There are many reasons why it is false, but if your Pastor simply reads scripture in context, he will lead you right. I have grown ‘weary’ over the years in trying to correct this stuff. I have come to the conclusion that many well meaning Pastors/Teachers should have never had the large area of influence [media] due to the ‘basic’ level of thought they were functioning at. I want to be kind, but many of these doctrines are propagated because the mass of teaching going out is by brothers who simply can’t grasp scripture in context. Now, they are not all bad! But if your Pastor can’t see that the same writer of Galatians would also write 1st Timothy 6, and say ‘false teachers will rise in the last days, teaching gain is godliness. Turn away from them’ the fact that Paul connects false prophets to those who connect money with ‘godliness’ shows you that Paul is not teaching the Galatians that they were going to get rich because they had faith! Simple stuff, but the average teacher that can’t see or discern this should not be teaching on TV![or radio]. Because they wind up propagating stuff that is false. That’s why James says ‘don’t all try to be teachers, you will be held to a higher standard’. There seems to be a mindset in Christian ministry that says ‘The goal of our ‘church’ is to raise as much money as possible, expand our influence as far as possible, and have our Pastors message go to the ends of the earth’. This causes there to be a basic violation of ‘not many of you should be teachers’. Or a rush to get your words out! Now, God does ordain certain voices at certain times to have great influence. And it is fine for all ministers to try and get the gospel out as much a possible. But when I hear these national voices teach the most obvious mistakes, I think ‘surely these guys are not supposed to be teaching on this level’! So in Abraham’s story, the Lord tells him ‘I am going to bless the whole planet thru your seed’. God is giving us glimpses of Jesus Christ and his purpose to bring blessing to the whole world thru him. Have you been ‘blessed’ [born again] thru Abrahams seed?

 

  • GENESIS 12: 1-3 ‘The Lord said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; [God will do it, not him!] and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless THEM that bless thee, and curse HIM that curseth thee: and IN THEE SHALL ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED’. The blessing is contingent upon Abraham going on a pilgrimage, for his entire life! Jesus said a prophet has no honor in his home town and among his own family. Over the years I have seen many gifted men along the way. Many still live WITH THEIR PARENTS. Or have a family situation where their wife IS THE PARENT. They have never ‘launched out’ and become responsible adults. There came a time in Abrahams life where the Lord said ‘you must leave your familiar surroundings, in order to become a great nation of people, you must leave the comfortable nation [environment] that you are trusting’. Some times all it takes is a willingness to get up and begin the journey. It’s scary at first, but no adventure is 100 % safe! Notice the Lord also informs him that he WILL FACE OPPOSITION! Those [plural] who are for him will be there. And HIM [singular] that is against thee shall also be there. God promises there are more on your side than on the critic’s side! Hey, they might only be invisible angels [Elijah, Elisha] but God says the numbers are on your side. The enemy often uses this ploy against you. ‘Hey, everyone thinks you are a failure, what are you still doing trying to finish Gods work!’ These were the accusations that Nehemiah would hear. That everyone is talking about what a mess the whole thing is. ‘Who does he think he is anyway’? Who cares what they think! We will ALL be dead and gone in a few years, the voices of opposition will be gone. The only thing that will matter then is what you did with a sincere and noble heart. At least you will have some rewards coming, the critics will only ‘have words’.

 

  • GENESIS 12- Abraham goes into the Promised Land. God begins appearing to him, and Abraham builds an altar and calls on the Lord. A key principle to ‘possessing your land’ is responding right! Each time you move forward in the journey it is imperative that you ‘hear God’. He must ‘appear to you’ in some way [thru scripture, prophetic direction, etc] and your response should be prayer. This sequence of events will take place more than one time with Abraham and his kids. Though they are strangers in the land, each time God appears to them they set up ‘outposts’ [altars] for the Kingdom. Altars are places of prayer and sacrifice. They are ‘contact points’ between heaven and earth. Abrahams grandson, Jacob, will ‘set up one’ at Bethel [house of God] and have a dream of angels ascending and descending on a Ladder. Which of course is a type of the Cross. Abraham goes into Egypt and commits a familiar sin that he will pass on to his kids. The famous ‘this is my sister, not my wife’ deal. Pharaoh takes her and God curses Pharaoh and Pharaoh rebukes Abraham for lying out of fear. Isaac will do the same later on. Notice in this chapter the Lord told Abraham to ‘leave his family and go into a new place’ did he fully obey? Not really. He takes Lot [nephew] with him. Of course he was to take his wife, but I am not sure if he fudged on the Lot thing. You will notice later that as soon as he separates from Lot that the Lord begins reaffirming the promise to him. I kinda get the feeling that things were put on hold until he fully obeyed. One of the things we will see in Abraham’s life, was though he was a great man of faith. Yet he struggled like everyone else. He still clung to stuff out of fear. We end this chapter with Abraham going up out of Egypt, a short excursion and lesson in disobedience. Some of these early failures will plague his future dynasty!

 

  • GENESIS 13- Abraham leaves Egypt and the scripture says HE WAS VERY RICH! One of the things we want to do as we review these chapters is to rightly divide the word of God. The church went thru an ‘immature’ level of thinking and teaching. She [the church!] saw all these truths on God blessing Abraham. The many true verses on ‘the blessing of the Lord, it makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it’ ‘the Lord gives you power to get wealth that he may establish his covenant in the earth’ and all the other truths on God meeting the needs of his kids and blessing them. But the teachers went overboard and taught a doctrine of a rich Jesus who died to make you rich. They would become the false prophets that Paul would warn Timothy about in 1st Timothy 6. So here we want to see and understand that the Lord blessed Abraham and did make him rich. We also want to balance this with all the teachings of Jesus on ‘beware of covetousness, for a mans life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesses’ ‘you can not serve God and money’ ‘the love of money is the root of all evil, while some have gone after it they have left the faith’ [Paul]. All of these scriptures are true, not just the ones we like the most! In this chapter Abraham separates from Lot and the lord reaffirms his promise to him. It seems like God was waiting on Abraham to ‘fully leave his family’ like the earlier verse said ‘get thee out of thy country AND FROM THY KINDRED’ here he finally left ‘the kindred’ and God said ‘now lets keep going’! Sometimes the only thing holding us back is full obedience. You don’t need to re do everything! Just bring some stuff back into alignment. Also after the Egypt ‘side trail’ Abraham renews his ‘first love’ and reconnects with God at bethel, but then moves to another spot and builds another altar. This chapter says ‘he went on his journeys’. God didn’t want Abraham to go stagnant, enjoy the area around the first altar and never advance. The purpose for Abraham was to be a father of MANY NATIONS. You can’t do that if your comfortable just settling down on the street corner and ‘pastoring your little flock’ [ouch!]. God wants us to ‘go on journeys’. I am not saying there are not times where ‘Pastoring the flock’ is OK. But the modern church goes to extremes. She either wants to build huge 20 thousand seat auditoriums [which tends to lead to a spectator mentality] or preach to 30 people at a time! God’s purpose is to impact all of society with the gospel. Jesus gospel was bigger than the one we embrace today. Hey, if you really enjoyed God’s presence at ‘Bethel’ just wait until you get to the next altar! Don’t forget Bethel [your first love] but you have a nation [nations!] to inherit!

 

  • GENESIS 14- Abraham goes after the kings who took Lot captive. He takes his 318 trained men and gets Lot and the rest of the spoils from the invading armies. When Abraham brings the stuff back to the King of Sodom, the king tells Abraham ‘take all the goods as well’. Abraham refuses and takes only his expenses. You also find Abraham later on paying for the burial site for Sarah and his family. Even though the people wanted to give it as a ‘tax free gift’! It is important to see that although Abraham was rich, he often refused free handouts! The problem with the church today is you have too many Preachers who see the truths on Abraham being rich and they mix it with a message that says ‘sow seed into my ministry, don’t disobey God!’ it is taught in a way that violates the whole character of Abraham. If you want the lord to bless you, reexamine the way your are expecting it. Abraham would not take free stuff! The church needs to teach prosperity in balance with all the other principles of diligence and giving to God and being smart investors and AVOIDING FREE GIFTS! This mode of operation will be found in the life of Abraham more than once!

 

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

 

  • GENESIS 16- Abraham is around 85 years old. He’s been waiting around 10 years for God to fulfill the promise and give him a child. In the last chapter he suggested for the Lord to count his servant from his household as the heir. Now Sarah says ‘take my maid Hagar and have a son with her’. Of course the sons name is Ishmael. For all you preachers who read this site, well you know the story. But for all my buddies let me explain. Ishmael is usually looked upon as ‘the flesh’. That is Abraham went out in his own strength and tries to make Gods promise happen. True. But Paul will use this story in Galatians 4 and teach the difference between law and grace. Though Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations [Muslim people for the most part]. Yet Paul does not compare Ishmael to ‘natural Arab descent’. He compares Ishmael to JEWISH PEOPLE WHO ARE LAW KEEPERS AND WHO PERSECUTE TRUE BELIEVERS! Now, I don’t want to go anti Semitic. I want you to see this very important distinction. Today we should see this whole story thru the eyes of law versus grace. Not thru the eyes of Jew versus Muslim! When you preach it the ethnic way [Jew versus Muslim] you do harm to the purpose of God. Paul will use the illustration to show how all those who are under grace are free and don’t have to be under a legalistic mindset. He will compare Ishmael to those who are NATURAL JERUSALEM [not Arab people!] and say ‘you must be free from trying to please God thru the law, and come to the Cross!’ [Hebrews, Romans, Galatians, etc.] Preaching it like this is consistent with the New Testament. Preaching it like the American Fundamentalists causes strife in the world! So read this chapter along with Galatians 3 and 4. Think about what I just told you as you read, and see if it falls down on the side of grace versus ethnic division. God loves all people. He is calling all nations to himself thru Christ. Let’s keep this in mind as we ‘preach the bible’. Many times we do damage to the purpose of God because we think ‘preach the bible’ means spewing out hatred to Muslim people. Here we have shown you that this is not the will of God!

 

  • GENESIS 17- Once again God appears to Abraham to reassure him of the original promise. What did God promise him again? He will be the father of many nations [Paul will refer this to Abraham being the father, spiritually, of all believers. Not just natural Israel!] God told him he would be a blessing to the whole world thru his offspring [Both Jesus individually, all men being justified and receiving the Spirit by faith. And also thru the ‘corporate Christ’. The whole body of Christ, including Jew and gentile believers] and Abraham would ‘inherit all this land thru his offspring’. If you go back and look at the actual borders that God spoke of, it is much more than what you see on a map of Israel today! We are going to deal with the mistaken idea of the Protestant American Evangelist and his preaching on so called ‘replacement theology’. Now The Lord will reaffirm this basic promise and tell Abraham ‘walk before me and be perfect’. I get the sense that the Lord was waiting until Abraham’s faith was ‘perfect’ enough to fulfill the promise [read my commentary on Hebrews 11 on this site!] It’s like the Lord was saying ‘walk right son, I am waiting to give you all the stuff I spoke of!’ Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 90. God says ‘Sarah will be the mother of many nations’. It seems like Abraham all ready gave up on his future son Isaac and had all his hopes on Ishmael. Abraham will say this in response to the promised Isaac. ‘O that Ishmael would live before thee’ in essence ‘just do the promise thru Ishmael, I’m all right with it’. God says no, he will do it thru the promised child! Now, let’s get into it. Read Galatians 3-4 and Romans 3-4. Paul will take all these promises and say ‘the promise that God made to Abraham that he would inherit the world was not to Abraham or his kids thru the law, but by faith. So at the end [fulfillment] the promise might apply to all the kids, not just to natural Jews who are living by the law’. Paul absolutely is a REPLACEMENT THEOLOGIAN! He is really not guilty of what this so called accusation means. Some preachers will say those who ‘spiritualize’ the promise of God to Israel and apply them to the church are ‘replacement theologians’. But the fact is Paul is doing this! Read Romans 4: 13-14. Paul interprets these passages to refer to the church. Both Jew and non Jew who believe. ‘Why brother, how can the church fulfill the promise of God to Abraham that his seed [kids] would inherit the holy land’? Easy, the New Testament clearly states that we are joint heirs with Christ. We basically own the planet. There are believers right now in every part of the Holy land and all Palestine and Iraq and Egypt and as a matter of fact all over the world! Did you notice Paul will expand the ‘land promise’ from the holy land to the world! Jesus is actually seated at Gods right hand in heaven ruling from a universal throne [which includes Israel!] and is expanding his actual earthly presence thru the church. The fact that right now Abraham has spiritual children inhabiting the whole planet, including Israel. Shows that the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled thru ALL THE SEED, not just those who are ‘of the law’ [natural Israel]. Well in a nutshell, Paul was a ‘replacement theologian’ but I prefer to see it more as a ‘full world theologian’ a type of interpretation that sees all of Gods kids possessing all of Gods world thru the ‘promise of the Spirit’. NOTE; It is vital for believers to see this truth. It will keep us from getting involved in ‘holy wars’ between Israel and Palestine and advocating actual murder as a fulfillment of Gods word! [See entry 827]

 

  • GENESIS 18- The Lord appears to Abraham and tells him he is going to destroy Sodom. Abraham has family living there [Lot] and pleads with the Lord not to judge the place. Abraham says ‘what if 50 righteous people are there, will you destroy them with the rest’? The Lord says ‘No’. Abraham goes all the way to ‘what about 10 people’ and the Lord assures Abraham he will not destroy the place if there are 10 righteous people there. Well, you know the story. Lot and his family will leave and God will judge the place. Peter will use the example of Lot and say ‘the Lord knows how to deliver [save] the righteous’. He ‘delivered’ just Lot. Also the Lord ‘saved’ Noah who was a preacher of righteousness. David in Psalms says ‘The righteous cry [call upon] and the Lord hears and saves them’. The theme of God ‘saving the righteous’ is different than God ‘saving sinners’. This is actually what Paul is referring to in Romans 10 ‘with the heart mans believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’. In essence ‘you are saved’ when you believe. And the process of ‘ongoing promised salvation and deliverance will come to all who call’. Hey, once you believe [are made just] you can’t help but call! For the Spirit of God is sent forth into your heart and you will cry ‘Abba, father’. I don’t want to get technical here. If you asked Jesus into your heart and are truly serving God, great! But in context there is a ‘salvation of the righteous’ as well as a ‘salvation of the sinner’. They are intricately connected, but you see the doctrine here. God will save the just over and over again as they call upon his name. The righteous cry and the Lord hears their prayer and delivers them.

 

  • GENESIS 19- The Lord tells Lot to leave Sodom quickly. Lot has to be forcibly removed by the angels! The men of Sodom wanted to have ‘relations’ with the angels! Lot offers his daughters instead and the men pass on the offer. God initially tells Lot to flee to the mountain [the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into and are safe- once again we will see the doctrine of the righteous being saved by the Lord]. Lot offers the angels a compromise. He says ‘let me go to this nearby city instead’ the angels say ‘fine’. The next day lot wakes up and sees the total destruction of Sodom and realizes this was the last city he lived in that the Lord wasn’t to happy with. He must have turned around and thought ‘geez, the lord also wasn’t to happy with me going to this other city [Zoar] either, he wanted me to go to the mountain’ and he tells his kids ‘you know what, that mountain retreat sounds like a good idea after all’! The scripture says he feared to stay in Zoar! If you read 2nd Peter 2 and Jude you will see Lot mentioned. The writers will once again say the Lord knows how to save the righteous. These chapters speak of both the deliverance of Noah and the story of Lot. Many times rapture theorists will see the truth of God saving his people from wrath and mistakenly apply it to a geographical deliverance. Both lot and Noah are examples of believers who were ‘removed from wicked places and preserved from God’s wrath’. It was a geographical salvation if you will. In the New Testament the wrath of God is seen in a more universal dimension. In John 3 the scripture says ‘the wrath of God continually abides on the unbeliever’. Paul will say ‘Jesus delivered us from the wrath to come’. Past tense! The New Testament doctrine of promised deliverance from ‘the wrath to come’ is not contingent upon a geographical location. It is based on ‘being in Christ’ [the city of God, the bride the lambs wife! Revelation] and coming ‘out of Babylon’. The world [not the earth!] and its false systems of pride and sin. So in context you can apply these geographical deliverances to the child of God being spared from future wrath. But you shouldn’t develop a doctrine that says ‘Jesus comes back 2 more times, one to take away believers for 7 years and another to reveal himself’. Jesus will come back, but if you haven’t already been ‘delivered from Babylon’ by the time he comes, then be assured ‘the wrath of God abideth on you’.

 

  • GENESIS 20- Abraham does it again! He travels to Gerar and tells the king ‘Sarah is my sister, not my wife’. This time the king takes her but before he sleeps with her God appears to him in a dream and tells him not to do it. In this chapter we see dreams, prophets and healing mentioned. All before Pentecost! In the following days we will cover Joseph and his dreams. I want you to see the reality of God communicating and interjecting himself into the human story as he wills. The fact that all thru out scripture AND CHURCH HISTORY we see an ongoing work of God in supernatural things shows us that God is still sovereign and can do all the things he has ever done. One of the big divisions in Christianity today has to do with the Charismatic movement and the more Orthodox/Reformed brothers. While I realize the Reformed brothers do accept the supernatural workings of God, some of them hold to cessationist views of the gifts of the Spirit. The Charismatics will accept the gifts, but often fall short in the simple teaching of scripture. I have been frustrated over the years in trying to tell Charismatic brothers that you can’t teach that Jesus was a very wealthy person who taught a money message. No matter how much proof from scripture or history you give them, they dismiss it as ‘that old tradition’. I can see why the more Reformed guys just avoid the whole deal. But to be honest to scripture we need to see and have a basic belief in a supernatural God who can communicate thru dreams and can use Prophets and does heal miraculously! Now after God appears to Abimilech and tells him ‘don’t do it, she is the mans wife’. The king is also told ‘restore her back to the man and he will pray for you and I will heal you, he is a Prophet’. So Abraham makes it right. Now, the king also gives restitution to Abraham. Lots of stuff. Does this contradict what I taught earlier about Abraham? We showed how he didn’t take free handouts. In this case this is really not a free handout, it is the biblical doctrine of restitution. Jesus taught this in the New Testament. When someone is wronged by you, do what you can to make up for it. So we leave this chapter with Abraham once again coming out on top, even though he messed up! This shows you that it is only by the mercy and favor of God that you are where you are today. You might think ‘you know, I really am a pretty talented guy. If I weren’t with the lord I probably would have succeeded in some other endeavor’ NOT! It is his grace alone that has exalted you to success. If it weren’t for the Lord you would be a big mess!

 

  • GENESIS 21- God gives Abraham a child thru Sarah in their old age. Sarah was ‘beyond the time to have kids’ and it was truly a miracle. The child grows and Abraham’s son from Hagar, Ishmael, mocks Isaac. The scripture says ‘cast out the bondwoman’s son, he shall not be heir with Isaac’. This thing grieves Abraham but God says ‘listen to Sarah’ and he sends Ishmael and Hagar out. Once again in Galatians 4 Paul says ‘these things are an allegory’ [wow, talk about presumptuously spiritualizing the word! Many preachers believe doing this is wrong. They seem to not see the heavy amount of ‘spiritualizing’ that Paul does!] Paul says these are examples of how the legalistic Jews would persecute those born of the Spirit. Paul clearly says ‘just like Ishmael made fun of Isaac, so today [the New covenant] those who are born of the Spirit are being persecuted by those born ‘after the flesh’. There simply is no other way to see this. Paul flatly applies this story to law versus grace. Not Jew versus Arab [Muslim]. Paul will even call ‘natural Jerusalem’ Ishmael, who is under bondage with her children. And call those who are born of the Spirit children of ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’ who are born from God. For a first century Jewish former Pharisee to absolutely reject any glorifying of natural Israel, and to call her ‘in bondage with her children’ shows you the strong disconnect that the modern fundamental evangelist makes with scripture when he applies such honor to natural Jerusalem! In a previous chapter Abraham circumcises his son [Ishmael] and himself the same day. Paul will also teach that this shows Abraham to be the father of ‘many nations’. The fact that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised shows you that Abraham is not only ‘the father of Jewish heritage’ but of ‘all who believe, even those who are not circumcised’. This might not mean as much to you today, but in 1st century Rome the Jews considered the uncircumcised as ‘dogs’. For Paul to say Abraham is the father of all who believe, even the uncircumcised, was a major break with ethnic tradition! Sort of like what I just showed you about the ‘natural’ versus ‘spiritual’ Jerusalem. It challenges the strong ethnic ties that believers hold to when they do not rightly interpret scripture. Paul was hated for this type of theology! So we see the Lord finally fulfill his promise to Abraham. The child has arrived! Boy is he gonna be surprised when God says ‘now, go and offer him as a sacrifice’!

 

  • GENESIS 22- The big test day! It comes to all of us. A time in your life where you choose to obey or keep playing around the danger zone of disobedience. God tells Abraham ‘you see that boy Isaac, the one you have been doubting me about thru out this journey. You thought I would fulfill the promise thru your servant at first. Then for sure you had your hopes on Ishmael. Boy don’t you remember what we went thru in order to get you to the place of promise’? I could hear Abraham saying ‘I know Lord, forgive me for being so stubborn. I had a hard time believing Sarah could really have a son. She was ‘beyond the time of child bearing’ and I doubted it would happen. But now that it did happen, well I can see Isaac truly being the father of nations, just like you said’. God ‘yeah, it’s been a wild ride son. Oh yeah, one more thing. Take the child and offer him up on an altar!’ WHAT! I am sure Abraham thought the major days of testing were over. The miracle boy has arrived. Things are going well for Ishmael, he’s on his own and enjoying some bow hunting [he became an archer!]. And Abraham wants to settle down and enjoy the rest of his life. But the Lord says ‘let’s go for another round’. In Hebrews 11 the Word says Abraham at this point simply learned how to trust. He knew in his own mind that the only way to get any where was to obey. He tried all the other angles before and they just delayed the promise. He also knows that this child is the one that the promise will be fulfilled thru. Hebrews says Abraham just figured ‘what the heck. I got the boy by way of a miracle. He was as good as dead when he was born. He came from a ‘dead womb’. If God wants me to kill him, I guess he will just raise him up again!’ Abrahams mind was trained at this point in his life to fall down on the side of ‘I will do what God says, and he will do whatever needs to be done to bring the future to pass’. [Read my commentary on Hebrews 11 on this blog!] Often times this Isaac story is taught in a way that says ‘God will ask you to give up on the promise. You must ‘lay Isaac down on the altar’. While there is some truth to this idea, it really doesn’t grasp the full picture. I just showed you how in Abraham’s mind he didn’t think he was ‘giving up on the vision/destiny’ he just learned to allow God to do it the way he said. It is really not a test of giving up the vision, it is a test of how do you think it will come to pass! Have you learned to not try and organize and strategize and be ‘motivated’ enough to make it happen? We usually create idols out of the process, the way we think it should be done
    and God doesn’t say ‘lose the vision/purpose’ he says ‘quit trying to do it in ways that are heavily dependant on your own strength’. Abraham wasn’t giving up on the vision, he was giving up on his own wisdom!

 

  • GENESIS 23- Sarah is old and dies. Abraham mourns for the loss of the ‘mother of many nations’. She was just as much a recipient of the promise as he was. Abraham offers to BUY a burial spot for Sarah and his family. He tells the people ‘sell me a place to bury my dead’. The sons of Heth say ‘you are a great and influential person. Take any spot you want for free’. Once again Abraham refuses a free gift. He did this earlier with the king of Sodom. Why is this important to see? While in today’s economy we allow for ‘churches’ to be tax free. Yet we need to be very careful about looking like we are freeloaders. I have heard unbelievers in the past say ‘these prosperity preachers are claiming God has prospered them. But they are getting tax free stuff’. While I believe it’s o.k. to use the benefits the government provides for advancing the gospel, we need to be aware of the impression this gives to the unbelieving world. Especially when we use the tax free status and at the same time amass wealth! So here we see Abraham purchase the land for the full price. He buys a field from Ephron and counts the silver in public [open books!] and lets everyone see up front that there are no secret financial dealings. I think Abraham would be a member of the financial accountability groups that oversee the ministries finances!

 

  • GENESIS 24- Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to get a wife for Isaac. The servant asks ‘what if the women doesn’t want to come back to the Promised Land, should I bring Isaac back to your original homeland’? Abraham is adamant ‘under no circumstances is my son to leave this journey and go back!’ the writer of Hebrews says ‘if they were mindful of the land they came from, they might have had opportunity to have returned’. The whole point is the idea of leaving the ‘homeland’ was a type of Israel [and you!] leaving the old ways and traditions that we are familiar with and to launch out into new things. Paul will often use this language in exhorting natural Israel to leave the old law and come into the New Covenant. We need to make sure that we don’t go back! [note: I am not saying all tradition is wrong, but sometimes we are so joined to past ancestry that this hinders the things God has planned for us]. The servant goes and finds a well and says ‘Lord, give me a sign. Let the woman who I ask to give me a drink. Let her also offer to water the camels and I will know she’s the one’. Is it wrong to ask for signs? Sometimes. But God wants us to succeed so much that he will show you beyond a shadow of a doubt what he wants! Sure enough Rebecca comes to the well and she fulfils the sign. They go back to Abrahams relatives [Labans house] and the servant tells the whole story. Rebecca goes back to the promised land with the servant and Isaac marries her. This story is often taught in Sunday school as Abraham being a type of God who sends his servant [Spirit] to get a bride [the Church] for his son [Jesus]. I think it fits. God also sends his Spirit to draw you away from the place of security into a new land. He knows that unless we leave familiar co dependant environments, we will never mature into the full functioning person that he intends for us. Often times the missing ingredient is ‘get up and get out’. We fail to launch!

 

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

 

  • GENESIS 26- There is a famine in the land and the Lord warns Isaac not to go down into Egypt. Isaac stays and dwells in Gerar and the surrounding area. He pulls the ‘this is my sister, not my wife’ thing. The king finds out she is Isaacs wife and rebukes him for lying. Isaac is really blessed in the land. Scripture says ‘he sowed and reaped a 100 fold’. Now, let’s do a little stuff. The modern church went thru a whole phase where believers were confessing and believing and doing everything [but working!] in order to get ‘the 100 fold return’. We have previously showed you how when Jesus spoke of ‘the 100 fold return’ in the parable of the sower, he in no way was speaking of money! [Read the chapter ‘twisting the parable of the sower’ the book is ‘HOUSE OF PRAYER OR DEN OF THIEVES’ on this site]. But because the Old Testament is the ‘shadow’ of things to come, and not the true riches. That’s why in this story it is speaking of natural stuff. Now the church went thru this stage of believers doing all they could to ‘reap the financial harvest’. We taught believers to think on money, confess it. Basically consume your thoughts with ‘money thoughts’ [all in violation of Jesus teaching on ‘the gentiles are always thinking about this stuff, let it not be like this with you’!] So we had a whole group of young believers violating the mandate in scripture to work and be diligent. And they often times were doing it by believing a distorted doctrine on the 100 fold return. Well Isaac reaped because HE SOWED. He planted that darn farmland! [To be nice about it]. So today we should teach the believer the responsibility of working and living diligently and being responsible. And we need to teach that the way you reap the 100 fold return is by actually planting that field! Isaac also will re open the wells that his father had dug. They were stopped up out of jealousy by the philistines. Sometimes people ‘who are not doing the work themselves’ [sowing] have a lot of free time. What do they do with this free time? Figuring out ways to stop up other peoples wells! Paul called them busy bodies in the New Testament. These brothers just make more work for those who are in the harvest field! Isaac opens up the wells and honors his fathers heritage. The church goes thru these stages every so often. A re opening of the church fathers. Studying Patristics again [1st 7 centuries of church history]. I think it’s a good thing to honor our spiritual heritage. These wells go deep and have been feeding people for centuries!

 

  • GENESIS 27- Isaac is old and ready to die. He calls Esau and tells him to go get some deer and prepare him a good meal. Isaac is going to give the blessing of the firstborn to Esau. Rebecca hears the plan and when Esau goes hunting, she tells Jacob [her momma’s boy!] ‘Quick, go get some cabrito and let’s make some carne’! They dress Jacob in Esau’s hairy clothes and he goes to dad. Dad is a little suspicious but Jacob is a great liar. When Isaac says ‘son, how did you hunt and prepare the food so fast’? Jacob not only lies, but he even invokes the Lord! ‘God was with me and he helped me prosper’ OUCH! This boy likes to fib! The plan works and Isaac blesses Jacob instead of Esau. Notice the blessing, it is the actual blessing that Jacobs’s son Joseph will dream in the future. Isaac says your brothers will come to you and bow down and serve you, I have made you preeminent among them. Years later Joseph will tell these dreams to his father Jacob and Jacob will act surprised. ‘Are we all going to bow down to you, where in the world did you ever get such an idea’? I think Jacob knew where it came from, but he was playing the stoop! Esau comes in with the venison and finds out it’s too late, Isaac already gave the blessing of the firstborn to Jacob. But Isaac musters up a cheap blessing and gives it to him. Esau plots to kill his brother. Rebecca hears and says to Isaac ‘lets send Jacob away to Labans house. God forbid that he takes a wife from this place’! She wants her boy gone to protect him from his brother. Notice this whole story. God is using this family to fulfill his purpose in the earth. These are all the great heroes of the faith for heavens sake! You would be hard pressed to find a more dysfunctional family today. We have a tendency to present leaders and ‘movers and shakers’ as stage performers. They are seen at their best. The average saint feels he cant live up to the high powered models we present to them. That’s why when a book is written from the honest standpoint of failure and struggle, it is popular. The people of God want to know that they are not alone in their struggles and sins. They want to see that many of the ‘great Christians’ struggled like them. I think this story does a good job at accomplishing this purpose. Also in the last chapter I forgot to mention something. One of the wells that Isaac digs is named ‘Rehoboth’. Which means ‘the Lord has made room for us and we will be fruitful in the land’. I have already incorporated this into my prayer time. These chapters carry many tremendous promises of God giving you the influence of a true revolutionary. God telling Abraham ‘all the land you see you will inherit’ reaffirming these promises to his seed. ‘I will multiply you exceedingly, I will make nations out of you and kings will come from you’ ‘your children will inherit this land. They will prosper in all their ways’ all these themes can be found thru out these chapters. Remember Paul teaches these promises are being fulfilled thru the people of God. Claim these promises over you and your children. Claim them over both natural and spiritual offspring. God wants to bless you with the blessing of Rehoboth ‘he will make room for you in this land and make you fruitful’!

 

  • GENESIS 28- JACOBS LADDER; Isaac sends Jacob off to Labans house. Esau sees that his father never dealt with Jacobs’s schemes and goes and TAKES A WIFE FROM ISHMAELS DAUGHTERS! A huge no no! Isaacs’s family knows this story like a family taboo. How many times has Esau heard how uncle Ishmael used to mock Isaac. And how ‘Father Abraham’ had to send Ishmael away. This story must have stuck like a thorn in the side of Ishmael and his family. Well, after all these years of family strife and division, old Esau goes and says ‘uncle Ishmael, can I have your daughters hand in marriage’? I am sure Ishmael thought ‘why what have we here, the precious heritage of beloved Isaac wants to associate himself with us. Sure I’ll help you old nephew’. Ishmael was more than glad to oblige. Isaac never really dealt with the inner strife in his family. King David and others would fall into this category as well. Esau did what he did out of spite, and it affected many others. Now on Jacobs journey he stops and sets up a bunch of stones [living stones- Peters epistle calls believers living stones] and makes a pillow for his head [a place to rest his head. Jesus is the ‘head’ of the church [authority!] and he ‘rests’ [abides] in the people of God thru his Spirit. We are the habitation of God!] As the sun sets [it got dark on Golgotha- the place where the sun went down] he falls asleep [Jesus ‘slept’ 3 days and nights in the grave]. During his sleep God appears to him and assures him that because of the journey he will become the heir and father of nations and peoples [Jesus is the actual seed of Abraham that would inherit all kindred’s and nations. He was faithful to go on a journey to earth, the incarnation. And the father made him heir of all things while he ‘slept’] Jacob wakes up [resurrection] and says ‘this is the house of God’ [Jesus made us the house of God thru his death and resurrection] and puts the stones together into a pillar. It actually calls the stones [corporate] ‘the stone’ [singular] at this point. We were all individual stones before Christ. But in him we have become one ‘stone’. The church, the Body of Christ. The pillar is made from the stones [Peter said we are the living stones who being formed together are an habitation for God- Paul said the church was the ‘pillar’ and ground of the truth] and Jacob pours oil on the pillar of stones [Jesus poured out his Spirit on all the living stones on the day of Pentecost, anointing us as his New testament pillar of stones]. Oh, by the way, the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream was a door of access from heaven to earth and earth to heaven, this is a wonderful type of the Cross. Bravo to the great victory of the Son of God!

 

  • PARABLE FROM A WATCH- Recently there has been much public debate on the origins of life. Two famous atheists, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have written books on the subject. These books have been debunked fairly well by others in the scientific community as well as believers. Ben Stein, the comedian who used to be on T.V. and other various projects has made a movie called ‘expelled’. I haven’t seen it yet but it shows the very real discrimination that is played out against professors who even think to mention the theory of intelligent design. These professors are often silenced, not on the grounds of science, but because of the stigma that comes with being a contrarian when it comes to evolution. Now the parable; Say if 2 people were walking along the highway and stumbled across a watch. They have never seen one before. The materials of the watch are foreign to them. What is this strange thing? One of them espouses the idea that many billions of years ago nothing existed. You had no matter, no life giving entity. You believe that as billions of years went buy, out of nothing came something [a scientific impossibility!] but for the sake of argument, we agree. Now this ‘material’ that came into existence from nothing still had to be formed and designed into this complex watch that we have found. The materialist espouses another billion or so years go by and you had this explosion. Where did the explosion come from? Well lets stick with the same theory of where the materials came from. It just happened! No explanation at all. No scientific fore thought, everything just went ‘boom, boom’. At this point I begin wondering if my materialistic friend is off his rocker! But from this unexplained explosion we have billions of more years [he seems to think the simple concept of billions of years can itself create matter and cause action and create design. This idea is absolutely contrary to all true science. All true science, observable facts, show us that from points of disorder you do not get design! Say an explosion of some other thing, you do not derive order and complexity from the simple act of an explosion. An explosion can never in a billion years produce a watch. It would be like using the common example of an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of keyboards for an infinite number of years and producing the complete works of Shakespeare!] Now from this viewpoint the materialist says ‘this is how the watch got here, I am a man of knowledge and science’ now as the innocent bystander, I would say ‘you my friend are a complete and total idiot’ [I like using parables, you can have the characters say things that you personally would never say as a believer!]. The bystander says ‘as far as we can tell from all other observable data that we have around us, there has never once been a time where a complex machine like a watch could have simply appeared from nowhere and nothing. You had to have had some initiator [designer] somewhere along the way to have crafted the thing. This designer, be it aliens or whatever, had to have had the ability to also have created the elements of the watch. By sheer logic, this designer himself had to have been around forever or else you would come up with the same problem of ‘something/someone coming from nothing’. The bystander deducts that although he can not explain scientifically all the ins and outs of this designer, yet he without a doubt is much more ‘scientific’ than the materialists idea that all things came from no thing! So today, we have the ‘average Joe’ who simply believes that the materialistic scientist must have the real answers. The average Joe thinks ‘surely I haven’t been believing in a total absurdity my whole life!’ He takes ‘by faith’ the materialists explanation. Most average Joes have heard the argument ‘well, the schools teach science, not religion. Therefore we must believe this absurdity’. It is a proven fact that complex things, be they watches or humans or solar systems, must have come from a designer. How is it proven? It is proven in the sense that all observable complex things have never been shown to have appeared from nothing. Science has never once witnessed the arrival of a new species from nothing. Science simply shows us the factual data that all things that we can now observe coming into existence [births of animals, humans, etc] come into existence by the actions of other things that already exist. The belief the bystander has espoused! So in reality what the average Joe thinks is true science, that all things came from nothing, is not true science at all. As a matter of fact, that which he thought was ‘silly religion’ actually has been closer to the facts all along!

 

  • GENESIS 29- Jacob goes on his journey after the Bethel experience and shows up at a well in Laban’s land. As he is talking to the brothers who are sitting there at the well he scopes out the situation. He finds out that Rachel, the daughter of Laban, will be coming to water her dads sheep. Great, he is having some success in hooking up with a possible wife. As he is talking to the shepherds he asks ‘why don’t you guys water the sheep, there thirsty and it’s as good a time as any’? Jacob is pro active. His family history is digging up wells. For heavens sake water the ‘darn’ sheep already! The guys answer ‘O heaven forbid it! Our tradition is to wait for all the other brothers who are also bringing sheep. Then someone else rolls the stone away from the wells mouth [the ordained clergy ?] and then, and only then, do we water’. Well Jacobs a newcomer and he can’t figure out what’s wrong with these Yankees from the east. He just keeps his mouth shut. Sure enough Rachel shows up, and what do you know, he goes and rolls the stone away. That unordained rebel! Doesn’t he realize that he is violating the traditions of our fathers? The water in the well is precious, who does he think he is freely watering as if the water was ‘growing on trees’. Well it is! Or better, the ground is full of it. Jesus said ‘feed my sheep, the water that I give freely is available to everyone. This water will become a river in my people. For heavens sake the stone has been removed from my grave [well] for 2 thousand years, why don’t you water the sheep’? We are like the brothers waiting for the official ‘stone roller’ to tell us when it’s OK to water. Jacob was a go getter, if these other guys feel they don’t have the authority to roll away the stone and freely give access to the river of life, then that’s their problem. But ole Jacob is gonna provide that water whether they like it or not! Jacob goes to laban’s house and they share the whole story. Laban says ‘just because you are my relative, doesn’t mean you are going to work for free. Tell me your price’. Well, I kinda like Rachel. We did smooch at the well. Sure enough Laban says work for me for 7 years and she’s yours. They sort of had a long time payment plan for stuff like this. Jacob works the full 7 years and scripture says it seemed like a few days to him. The 7 years are up, Laban says ‘your bride is waiting in the tent’. It’s late and dark, Jacob makes love to his wife, and sure enough in the morning its Leah and not Rachel! Jacob is incensed. Laban says ‘Oh, didn’t I tell you we have this custom that the older sister gets married first? But being I am such an honest broker. Just work another 7 years for Rachel’. We often see Jacob as a schemer. After all the whole reason he is at laban’s house is because of his past schemes. But in this instance, laban was the slippery character. This will be the beginning of many years of deceit. Jacob will go ahead and trick laban out of the good flocks. Eventually Jacob will leave under less than perfect circumstances and his wife, Rachel, will learn the supplanting ways of Jacob. We will read how Rachel steals laban’s idols and lies about them. But we leave this chapter with some deep-seated mistrust in Jacobs’s dealings with uncle Laban.

 

  • GENESIS 30- I forgot to mention that in the last chapter Leah gives Jacob 4 sons. Now Rachel is barren. Notice how all these mothers of the faith are barren. What’s up with this? Sarah, Rebecca and now Rachel. Paul will quote Isaiah in the book of Galatians ‘more are the children of the desolate, than of the married wife’. Paul quotes this in context of saying ‘the spiritual Israel [church] will actually have more ‘children’ than the natural Israel’. He quotes it in a way to teach the reality of God bringing forth the promises thru the promised seed as opposed to the natural law. I hope you’re following me. It is consistent with everything I showed you when we covered Isaac as the promised seed. Now here we see a theme of the promised mothers as barren. And then God miraculously giving the mothers birth [remember Sarah was past the time of having kids?] So God is doing the same here, Rachel feels hopeless as each year passes and she is barren. Especially because Leah has given Jacob kids! So in this chapter the race is on! It’s actually quite funny. Rachel says ‘Jacob, sleep with my maid’ [A Hagar type thing] and sure enough Rachel starts the competition. Leah is also popping out more kids and is trying to keep up. Then Leah stops getting pregnant and enlists her maid. Sure enough the race continues. Then Leah starts getting pregnant again and names the kid ‘Gad’ which means ‘a troop is coming’ OUCH! Old brother Jacob must have been thinking ‘am I personally going to fulfill grandpa’s dream of populating the earth?’ Then Rachel gets pregnant for the first time. She has Joseph, thru him we will see the prophetic lineage carry on. He will have future dreams and fulfill great destiny. His role will be crucial to the survival of his whole family. Now Jacob tells Laban he wants to move away. Laban wants to work out a deal to keep him as his main worker. Jacob is an excellent employee! So Jacob does a famous scheme. This chapter is one of those stories that people use to try and discredit scripture. The reason is Jacob will take all the sheep with spots and stripes and remove them from the herd. He than tells Laban ‘now, I have removed the spotted sheep. All that is left are plain ones. From now on all the new sheep will be divided like this; those born with spots/stripes are mine. Those born plain are yours’. And scripture says Jacob peeled stripes in Poplar tree branches and placed them at the watering trough. When the sheep conceived while looking at the striped branches they had striped kids! Some have had a hard time trying to explain this story. Does science teach stuff like this? Not really. Some have come up with various excuses. Let me give you my explanation. In this whole story it does say ‘when the sheep mated in front of the branches they gave birth to striped sheep’ and when the weaker sheep were there mating without the branches that they gave birth to plain ones. The scripture doesn’t actually say it was because of the branches! Its obvious Jacob thought it was because of the branches, but if you read it carefully the guy might have been fooling himself! It’s sort of like these mafia guys from New Jersey. Lots of them ran construction crews or Pizza Parlors. They actually made great Pizza! They could have made it legitimately if they wanted. But they wanted their hands in the cookie jar. It’s possible that God was simply giving Jacob favor when the stronger sheep bred! God has been known to favor his kids. But old scheming Jacob needed some angle, like the mafia guys. He very well might have thought ‘look, my scheme is working’ scripture does say ‘when the stronger sheep mated in front of the sticks, they gave birth to spotted babies’. But the lord might have been making those babies spotted regardless of the sticks! It just said the sticks were there! So without being too dogmatic on this, lets say Jacob was the type of ‘supplanter’ [this is what his name means] that was always looking for an angle. He never could fully trust God to simply meet his needs without his own devising. Jacob struggled with ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding’ he was a lot like us.

 

  • GENESIS 31- As Jacobs flocks increase and he becomes highly successful, Labans family gets jealous. Scripture says Labans countenance changed. He began listening to what the critics were saying ‘look, this guy is getting all the credit/blessings that are rightfully yours, it’s coming at your expense’. Notice, Laban probably would have been content that his son in law was prospering. He even says this later in the chapter. ‘I am happy for you son, your wives and kids are part of me’. But the incessant jealousy that he was hearing day in and day out wore him down. Be careful that you aren’t upset about stuff that you shouldn’t be upset about! Jesus gave the parable of the workers who got their agreed wages, but then felt wronged because the master gave the same amount to others who didn’t work as long. Jesus says ‘is your eye evil because I have been extra merciful to others who you deemed less worthy’? Of course this theme fits in perfectly with the Jewish context of the gospels. The Jews would be incensed that Messiah offered the same forgiveness to those who they deemed less worthy, the gentiles. So here Laban has heard it long enough, his ‘countenance changed’. Jacob sees the writing on the wall and what do you know, just in time he says ‘I had a dream and God told me to leave’. Now, I will take the brother at his word. But he has already shown a history of saying ‘God told me, or helped me do such and such’ when covering up deception! [He told pops ‘I got the venison quickly because God helped me’, the brother was lying thru his teeth!] In the dream the lord tells Jacob ‘I am the God of Bethel, it’s time to journey again. Go back to Canaan’. Why would God remind him of this milestone of Bethel? Bethel was the place where Jacob earlier learned to commit all to God. He came to Labans land with nothing, God blessed him tremendously. It’s easy to begin trusting in the success and systems around you. You see your job and career as your source of security. God is reminding Jacob that he is still the God of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob is just a fulfillment of Gods previous decree to his forefathers! When God says it’s time to journey you journey! As Jacob gets his wives and family they sneak away. Laban comes chasing him down and is mad ‘now what, you left secretly at night! I didn’t even have a chance to kiss the kids’ he must have been battling with the gossip that he’s been hearing from his men. They did say ‘watch out for this guy, we don’t trust him’. Jacob makes his defense, even though he himself is not totally innocent. ‘How dare you question my integrity! I have done this and that…and on and on’ he makes laban feel guilty. Now Laban isn’t the brightest light bulb in the chandelier. He tells Jacob ‘someone stole my images [idols!]’ and Jacob says ‘search for them, whoever has them will be guilty’. Jacob does not know that Rachel has them in her tent. Poor Laban goes rummaging thru everything and comes to Rachel’s tent. Rachel says ‘forgive me father for not standing up, but the time of women is upon me. So I can’t get up and let you search the couch I am sitting on. You don’t have a problem with that, do you’? Old brother Laban obviously wasn’t a C.S.I. watcher! So at the end of this chapter they mend relations. Jacob leaves the land where he has been blessed, and now has to deal with some past demons. He will face Esau, the last person that wanted to kill him!

 

  • GENESIS 32- Jacob makes the trek back home. He’s burned this bridge in the past, but now he has to go back thru the wreckage! He fears Esau, he thinks ‘does he still hold my trickery against me’? He sends some messengers to talk to Esau. They come back ‘what did he say’? Nothing, he’s just coming with about 400 men. O that’s all. He prays ‘God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and me!’ [Jacob- I fudged, he doesn’t say his own name] he says ‘you told me to go back to Canaan, I am just doing what you said. I trust you to save me and the kids. What in the world will happen if they all get wiped out? You promised…on and on’ Jacob is like me, an over reactor! You will see this thru out his life. He later will think all is lost when Joseph keeps one of the brothers in Egypt before he reveals his identity. He thought all was lost when his boys had those brothers circumcised that raped their sister. They tricked the pagans into circumcising themselves and when they were ‘sore’ the 2 brothers went in and slew the city! Jacob responds ‘what have you done! They will surely wipe us all out’ but instead it put the fear of God in the surrounding enemies. They all thought ‘what in the heck is up with this family. One of the guys from our area had ‘relations’ with the girl, and they go and trick them into mutilating themselves, then the next day they come and finish you off!’ It actually worked out pretty well. So here Jacob trusts the Lord and will commit it all to him, right? Not! Jacob says ‘Quick, split the women and children into 2 camps. Get some bribery packages together. Send a bunch of guys out to Esau and give him the bribes. If he doesn’t bite, and one camp gets wiped out, then the other group will go free’. Gee, I guess he thought the Lord didn’t hear him? Well Jacob finally meets up with Esau and all goes well. O, I forgot, Jacob has the meeting with the Lord. This is the chapter where he wrestled all night with the lord and receives the famous ‘Jacobs limp’. God changes his name to Israel, he will have influence with God and men and will prevail. Despite all his conniving and deal making, yet God sees him as a prince. A man who will influence nations and peoples. He has power with God himself! I guess that leaves room for the rest of us.

 

  • GENESIS 33- Jacob finally confronts an old problem. He faces Esau. He has robbed him in the past, not just from his birthright, but from his dignity! Does Esau remember? I am sure. Will we find one of these new gospels some day [the fake ones!]? Will it be called ‘Esau’s revenge’ and tell a different story? Well the biblical one says Esau hugged Jacob and was overjoyed to reunite with his long lost brother. Esau learned the power of forgiveness. Jacob might have been carrying the baggage of his wrongdoing for many years. Esau dropped it long ago. So they have this great reunion, they settle old grudges. Esau says ‘come on brother, lets go back together’. I get the feeling that even though Jacob is back home, he really wants to maintain his own level of independence. He tells Esau ‘O, that’s all right. You go back. We will catch up later’. Esau offers to leave some of his men, Jacob refuses. I get the sense that Jacob is like one of the hometown boys who has been gone for years. Even though his family and friends have also grown and become responsible adults, yet he is different. It was Jacobs willing independence to leave his natural father and journey with God that has been key to his success. He really has found God as his Father. Now Esau was a good man, but over the years as times were rough, he had his family right there to help. Jacob had only God. Jacob didn’t want to sacrifice this precious gift. He’s back home, but he realizes his true home is Bethel! [The house of God].

 

  • GENESIS 34- Jacob and the boys start settling down. Before too long one of the local men rapes the sister Dinah! Jacob hears and holds his peace. The boys come home and are livid. How dare these people disrespect us! You get the sense that Jacob is willing to let it slide. He is operating out of fear, self preservation. True courage demands a willingness to take the kingdom by violence! John the Baptist wasn’t weighing his options when he railed against the king’s sin. It cost him his life, but he knew he couldn’t let the injustice stand. So Jacobs’s sons are true warriors at heart. These are the 12 boys who are the beginnings of the heritage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These kids were like messing with the sons of Katie Elder [some old John Wayne western. To be honest I don’t think I ever watched it, but it sounded good to mention it] these boys have prophetic destiny written all over them. So here is the plan, they hear about Dinah’s rape. The father of the boy who raped her is the prince of the land. He comes and works out a deal with Israel. He says ‘my son loves the girl, lets be trading partners. We can all live together in harmony’. Jacob seems to think this is a good idea. The Boys have other ideas! They tell the father ‘sure, but we have this custom. We don’t deal with uncircumcised people. So go and circumcise all the men in your town and the deal is on’. Now, this is no small request! The father/ prince goes back to town. He gets together a city meeting. All the towns men are thinking ‘what’s it gonna be now? Another rate hike in our utility bill’. The meeting is held and he tells them the deal. ‘Oh, is that all. Just get circumcised. Doesn’t sound that bad. What does it mean I wonder? Sprinkle a little water on our heads. Some Episcopalian Baptism rite or something?’ Boy were they surprised. I can just see the look on their families faces when they got home to tell momma what the prince wants them to do. The wives must have thought ‘you gotta be kidding me, I want to move out of this county’ [and you thought Nueces county was rough!]. Poor Tommy hears the news from his dad and thinks ‘what in the heck kind of Waco cult are these people, they want me to cut what?’ So the deal is on, they go thru with it and 3 days later 2 of Jacobs sons [Simeon and Levi] get their swords and show up in the middle of the town and say ‘lets get it on’. They slew all the men. They spoiled the town and even took the women and children captive. And you think I’m an over reactor. Jacob is incensed ‘what have you boys done? You will bring the wrath of the whole area down on us. They will wipe us out’. He really was willing to do the fake deal and let his own daughter’s rape go unpunished. He believed the boys offer as much as the town’s people. The boys never intended to let their sister’s rape slide by, Jacob did. This shows you what fear can do, it clouds your thinking. Scripture says the fear of man brings a snare. Fear not the reproach of men. Jesus said don’t fear those who can kill the body only [men] but fear him who can destroy both body and soul [God! Some bad translators have said Jesus was speaking of satan, he was referencing God]. In the next chapter we will see God tell Jacob to go back to Bethel, and as they leave, the surrounding people didn’t lay a hand on them. They feared Jacobs’s boys more than Jacob feared the people of the land.

 

  • GENESIS 35- As Jacob fears what will happen to him after his boys killed Hamor and ransacked his city, God tells him ‘calm down, return to Bethel. We need to get some things settled once and for all’. Bethel is the original spot where Jacob made God his Lord. He vowed earlier in his life that if God would be his provider then he would commit his life to him. God wants Jacob to settle down [spiritually!] renew his entire purpose and get his priorities right. As Jacob and the boys leave the area scripture says ‘no one dared touch them, the terror of the Lord was upon all the surrounding people’. I could just see one of the raiding tribes saying ‘hey, look at this group. They have lots of wealth and stuff. How come no one is raiding them? Lets get them!’ and one of the other tribal families says ‘That’s the family who tricked the entire city into mutilating themselves’ Oh yeah, I never heard the story. Tell me more. Where did they cut themselves? He tells them where ‘WHAT IN THE HECK!’ He continues ‘and then 3 days later 2 of the boys with swords show up in the city and announce ‘everybody up. The cuttings not over yet!’ and they killed all the men. Took the women and children and spoiled the place. The raiding group thinks ‘you know what guys, lets pass on this family’. The terror of God was upon them for good reason! At Bethel the Lord reminds Jacob of his calling ‘you are Israel, not Jacob. Don’t forget this, you are a prince and have power with God and men’! It was hard for Jacob to act like a prince. After the Lord instructs him and reminds him of the original destiny, Jacob once again builds a ‘pillar of stone’ and anoints it with oil. I sort of see a prophetic thing here. The first pillar did represent the church, the people of God. I think this ‘second pillar’ can also speak of Gods future purpose to bring ‘another flock’ [Gospel of John] into the fold. In essence this is a type of the church also. The ‘second pillar’ to go with the ‘second covenant’. God is showing Israel his intent to gather together a future community and to ‘re anoint’ [Israel were the first people to have the Spirit. Read Hebrews and Romans] this new people at Pentecost. Also in this chapter we see the birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel, Jacobs ‘favorite’ wife. It then says ‘Rueben slept with his father’s concubine’ and in the very next verse ‘Rueben was the firstborn from Leah’. I see something here. Why did Rueben purposefully disgrace his dad? It came right after Rachel’s death. Ruben was conceived in a situation where his father was tricked into it. You remember the story of Leah. Now how many times over the years did Rueben witness the favoritism that his father showed towards Rachel’s son Joseph? How long was Rueben waiting for things to turn around? Maybe when Joseph gets older dad will pay more attention to me as the firstborn? Maybe this favoritism is a stage that dad is going thru? Well he hears of the death of Rachel, and also of another new born son! Oh my, will Jacob spend another 25 years pampering this other boy from his favorite wife? Ruben saw the writing on the wall. It was time to let dad know how he felt about this whole situation. He did.

 

  • GENESIS 37- Chapter 36 has a lot of genealogies, so let’s skip it. In this chapter we see Joseph having the dreams that his brothers and father and mother will bow down to him. He makes the mistake of telling everyone about it! Rueben is already mad about the favoritism shown towards Rachel’s sons as opposed to him being the firstborn. The other brothers clearly see the favoritism too. Jacob made Joseph the coat of many colors. To me this represents the multi ethnic diversity of Christ’s church [body]. Skins represent ‘covering’ or flesh. All the animals sacrificed in the Old Covenant were a type of Christ. The tabernacle represented a living mobile dwelling place of God, the church. They used skins as a covering. So this coat of many colors is like the body of Christ. Joseph typifying Jesus as the favored son who will eventually bring together all tribes and nations into unity as Jesus ‘wears them like a robe’ [truly we are his dwelling place, covering of flesh if you will!] Jacob sends Joseph to ‘see how his brothers are doing and bring back the report’. Just like the parable Jesus gave about the king sending the servant to check up on the vineyard. Eventually the king says ‘I will send my son’. Jesus says they take the son and kill him. Joseph’s brothers see Joseph coming and say ‘here comes Mr. big shot, the dreamer’. Understand Josephs dreams were simply the destiny of God on his life. It is important to differentiate between ‘what I want out of life’ and Gods purpose. Joseph’s dreams did speak of exaltation and fame. But these were things he did not seek! Jesus gives instruction in the New Testament to actively pursue the lowest place. The teachings on taking the seat in the back of the room and not the front. The teaching against gentile ideas [Roman] of authority. So we must not read into Joseph’s story that God wants us to ‘be all we can be. Become great’. Greatness in Gods kingdom is backwards. You seek not to be exalted and exaltation comes! Now the brothers take him and throw him into a pit [grave] ‘without water in it’. A type of death. Water and spirit are interchangeable words. A pit without water is like the grave [body] without the spirit. James says this is what death is, separation of body and spirit. Now something is happening at this point. The brothers are falling into the trap of group think. Just going along with something because others are doing it. Rueben begins seeing this deception. He also despises Joseph, but begins realizing things are getting out of hand. He says ‘lets not kill the boy, just throw him in the pit’. Judah also speaks up on his brother’s behalf. So they take Josephs coat, put blood all over it. They sell Joseph into slavery and they bring the coat to Jacob. ‘Dad, we found Josephs coat with blood on it. I wonder what happened to him?’ Now, how many options do we have? Maybe the boy got into a scrap trying to save some sheep and that’s what happened, or maybe he hurt himself and used the coat as a tourniquet? Yeah, that’s possible! But Jacob is a pessimist ‘surely some wild animals got to him’ bad enough! But wait ‘and they tore him to pieces, devoured him and he’s gone’ Yikes! Then he says ‘I will be depressed about this for the rest of my life and go to the grave never getting over it!’ Boy, who would have thought the guy was gonna take it like this? We once again see the over reaction of Jacob. It’s so easy for leaders with destiny and purpose to think all is lost. Moses and others have thought the same. Elijah was ready for the Lord to take his life because some Jezebel was giving him a hard time! I want to encourage leadership, don’t make rash or major decisions when your emotions are out of whack. We have a tendency to take reproof or correction the wrong way. We want to quit and start all over. Find someone else to ‘take over the church’ so we can get out of dodge. Jacob thought the worst, but what was actually happening was Gods pre ordained plan that would actually be for his salvation down the road. Jesus is still thought to be dead by Jacobs descendants, they only see the ‘pit without water in it’. They don’t realize that Jesus [Joseph] is actually alive and waiting for them to come and bow the knee!

 

  • GENESIS 38- Judah goes ‘down from his brothers’ [isolates himself] and sleeps with some women. He does have a history of ‘going in unto harlots’. This chapter will get graphic, just warning our younger readers! He seems to have a pattern with this. Now, one of the sons, Er, will marry a girl named Tamar. The son is wicked in the sight of the Lord and the scripture says ‘the Lord slew him’. Judah tells the other son, born from his playboy lifestyle ‘Go and have kids with your brother’s wife, and raise up children for your brothers name’. This was a custom of the time. If a brother died before his wife had children, then the other brother was supposed to do this. Now it wasn’t being Mormon! [The old time ones]. They wanted to make sure the lineage of the tribe from whom the son died continued to carry on a legacy. It was for the procreation of the children of Israel. Now Judah’s second boy, Onan, does not want to raise up seed to his brother. I see in him a sickness that plagues the Body of Christ today. Because of the way we have come to view local church as the separate 501 c3 organization, this tends to build a mindset into the clergy that says ‘are you with us [the so called ‘local church’] or with the other team down the block?’ There is a strange concept that says ‘I will spend my time, resources and energies raising up seed to my name [my 501 c 3] but I can not give of my gifts and life to build into people who I do not derive some loyalty or benefit from’ [raising up seed to your brother]. Now Onan does something; here’s the warning about graphic language! He ‘goes in unto his brother’s wife and spills it on the ground’. I don’t think I should explain this. Years ago one of the Captains at the fire dept. would say ‘well, the bible says it’s better to spill it in a prostitute, than on the ground’. And he would look at me to confirm his translation. He really thought it was in the bible! I would ‘instruct him in a way more perfectly’. I also had a friend who said ‘well, the bible says “woman, if thy husband hitteth thee [notice how he used ‘hitteth’ as opposed to ‘hit’] divorce him, for he is lower than a rattler’. I would inform him I was pretty sure this wasn’t in the bible. He was adamant! I would tell him ‘besides it being contrary to scripture, I don’t think the Lord would say ‘rattler’ he would use ‘rattlesnake’. So Onan ‘spills it on the ground’ and guess what? The Lord kills him too! Now poor Tamar is real innocent in the deaths of the 2 boys. But Judah begins to wonder. Like the show I saw on some court channel. The woman accidentally shot her husband in the head. The defense had a hard time convincing the jury, being this was the second husband that she ‘accidentally shot in the head’! So Judah tells Tamar ‘go home to your dad, when my young son is old enough I will let him marry you’ sure! He of course tells his young son ‘stay away, you don’t want to die like your brothers’ [I added this part, but it sounds likely]. So one day when Judah is on a business trip, he looks around for the town prostitute. Tamar hears Judah is in town and puts a veil on her face and goes and stands on the corner. Judah doesn’t know it’s his daughter in law and sleeps with her. Judah agrees to pay for her services with a goat. Tamar takes his ring and staff and bracelet as a down payment. A few days later Judah sends his servant with the goat and he can’t find her. He asks the men of the town ‘where’s the harlot who was working the corner’? The men say ‘who’? They tell the servant they never had a harlot working the streets. Judah hears Tamar is pregnant and says ‘she played the harlot and should be stoned’! [He was a member of the Moral Majority]. Tamar sends the staff and ring to Judah and says ‘this is the man who got me pregnant’ and Judah admits his sin. I find it interesting that Judah will be given one of the best blessings from Jacob as Jacob is on his deathbed. Jacob will say ‘The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet. His hand shall be on the neck of his enemies, unto him shall the gathering of the people be. As a young lion he shall crouch down and go up from the prey’. We will read this later on in this study. These are Messianic prophecies. Jesus is called ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’. God uses people who have done wrong. People who when confronted don’t try and cover it up. People who have made mistakes and are willing to admit them. This leaves room for the rest of us.

 

  • GENESIS 39- Joseph goes into Egypt and is bought by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. The guy puts Joseph in charge of his entire household. Joseph truly excels in everything he does. The scripture says he prospered in everything he put his hand to! Just keep this truth balanced with all the undeserved suffering and afflictions he experienced. Now Joseph is so good at everything he does, that even Potiphars wife wants to ‘try him out’. She bugs him day after day to sleep with her! Joseph refuses. She gets him alone in the house, grabs his clothes and says ‘sleep with me’. He flees the house naked as she ripped his clothes from him. She then tells her husband ‘this Hebrew mocks you, he tried to rape me’. She lied and the husband puts him in prison. Notice something here, the wife’s accusation included racial stuff. Sort of like the racist movies from the 50s-60s. They played to mans inherent racism and would show the black man as wanting the white woman. These accusations were playing to the heart of racism. Some churches today still teach separation of the races, Christians look askance at mixed marriages. My position is in Jesus Christ these divisions do not exist and we should accept all races without prejudice. Now Joseph goes to prison and he excels again. The jailer makes him trustee of the whole place! You can’t stop this guy. In the next chapter we will see how it was part of Gods plan for this to happen to him. He did not go around rebuking the devil or claiming verses to get out of unjust persecution. He responded like Peter taught in his letter to the Christians ‘if any man suffers as a believer, let him praise God’. Peter makes a distinction between suffering persecution for wrongdoing and suffering as a believer. Peter experienced both. Even though he suffered shame by denying Jesus, God still turned it around and used it for his glory. Joseph understood the simple reality of a just man suffering unjustly. Now I want to emphasize the fact that Joseph was just! Peter also teaches us that we are partakers of the divine nature. John the apostle writes in his 1st epistle ‘whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin [habitually]’ ‘I write these things unto you that ye sin not, but if any man sins we have an advocate with the father’. Though I have shown you the many failings of the great heroes of the faith, I also want to show you the great walk that some of them had. You don’t have to have had a testimony of being a drug addict or ex con or some other terrible past in order to glorify God. It’s like my first Pastor used to say, his favorite song was ‘years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified’. But his testimony was getting saved at a young age. I would kid one of my buddies and say ‘Brother Skinners favorite song is about the years he spent in vanity and pride. I guess he meant all the times he acted out in recess!’ I know this is wrong, but it was too funny to leave out. So Joseph shows us the ideal can be achieved thru the wonderful grace of God. But if any man sin, you still have the advocate.

 

  • GENESIS 40- Joseph is in prison and Pharaohs chief men get thrown in jail. His butler [the guy who tastes the wine before the king drinks it, to make sure it’s OK] and the baker. One day Joseph notices there sad faces ‘what’s wrong guys’? They tell him they both had dreams the previous night. They were troubled that they did not know what the dreams meant. Does Joseph say ‘O, you had too much pizza last night’ or ‘don’t you know we have the books of Moses completed! There are no more prophetic dreams.’ Instead he says ‘God is the one who can give the interpretation of dreams’. It is understood that some dreams have meaning and come from God. You find this all thru out scripture. I’ll be honest, I have recently had some prophetic dreams but have stopped sharing them on the site. Why? These last few years there have been so many prophecies shared and put on line and I feel the consumers of these words are not getting a steady diet of scripture and New Testament Christianity. I just read a ‘prophetic word’ that spoke of ‘why we are not getting the end time harvest of money yet’ it went into ‘targeting the demonic forces holding back the cash’ and other techniques to use to get the money. I have written and even sent some of our teachings to some of these brothers. Could it be the reason all the wealth hasn’t been released is because we are viewing the ‘end time transfer of wealth’ from an unbiblical standpoint? So I too have grown weary of all the ‘prophecies and dreams’ that seem to miss the mark. But here Joseph jumps write into the fray and interprets the dreams. He tells the butler ‘your dream means in 3 days you will be restored and hold the kings wine glass again’. The baker likes the word and asks ‘what about my dream’? ‘In three days Pharaoh will hang you on the gallows’ OUCH. Never mind Joseph, I don’t believe in prophecy any way. The dreams do have prophetic significance. The wine and bread [baker] speak of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The 3rd day speaks of the mighty resurrection of the Son of God. Jesus offered his Body [bread] as a sacrifice for all humanity. He ‘hung’ on the Cross for us, just like the baker hung on the gallows. Jesus also was ‘lifted up’ out of the ‘prison’ the 3rd day and once again was restored to his previous position at the right hand of God. He took ‘the cup of his Blood [wine] and presented it once again to his father’. I think these dreams were prophetic.

 

  • THE DELUSION OF RICHARD DAWKINS, THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE GOD DELUSION’.

I have been wanting to write a few entries but have hesitated to break into the Genesis study. Recently a noted atheist/scientist Richard Dawkins has been making the rounds to defend the non existence of God. In his comments he has unwittingly defended the existence of God! He is on record as stating that it’s possible that there had to have been a pre existent being who started the ball rolling. He states that this being would have to have great ability and tremendous understanding, very advanced in wisdom. He also acknowledged that he would have had to have either been around forever, or some other being before this being who was around first. He even surmises that this being could be some type of extra terrestrial life. An alien for crying out loud! I am not kidding. Now, what’s wrong with this picture? He seems to not realize that he is making the ancient philosophical case for the existence of God! This whole train of thought is what the ancient philosophers used to prove the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas goes on for hours using this very reasoning. He doesn’t call the being ‘an alien’ but the whole theory of a pre existing intelligent designer is the exact case that Dawkins is making. He seems to be totally out of his league by making this argument. A knowledgeable atheist would never make the drastic mistake of arguing for a pre existent being who started the ball rolling. A true atheist knows that this is basically the proof for the existence of God! I do find it funny how so many people have fallen for Dawkins and the other recent atheists who have become popular. Its funny how one of their leading advocates has actually advocated for God.

 

  • SNEAKING A JELLY DONUT- I have been updating the ‘comedy section’ and remembered something. Years ago at the fire house I had a buddy who was trying to lose a few pounds. Firefighters do have a tendency to put on weight if they don’t workout or limit their food intake. I eventually started eating once a day and have kept the habit up now for many years. So this friend stops by the bakery and picks up a dozen jelly donuts [we call them ‘sweet bread’ in south Texas. Which is also a name for a certain organ meat that people cook. It is good, I have eaten it plenty of times. I would kid my Mexican buddies and say ‘you think you guys could come up with anything more confusing than calling a meat product and a jelly donut by the same name!] So my buddy brings back the donuts to our little sub station where we are the only 2 guys working. I had a habit of sitting out in the truck stalls during lunch and reading for around an hour. I did this for 25 years. Sometimes I would sit by the ambulance or behind the fire truck. I would open the rear door and have a nice view of the yard. Well as we got back to the station my buddy would keep offering me a donut. He knew I didn’t eat during the day but was worried he would finish the whole dozen off by himself. I told him not to get the dozen but he didn’t listen! So as the morning rolls on he eats one, than another. Well in a few hours he must have eaten 6 by himself! I would kid him and say ‘brother, for someone whose trying to lose a few pounds, you sure have a strange way of doing it’. He fessed up that he knew he was blowing it. He swore ‘that’s it, no more’ after he downed number 7. So as I go into the stalls to read, about 30 minutes go by and I hear the creaking of the dorm door open into the truck stalls. I am quiet and reading. This day I am sitting behind the fire truck reading. I hear someone sneaking around the truck, trying to be quiet. He squeezes his ‘belly’ between the wall and the truck sliding his way right to where I am sitting. He thinks I am sitting by the ambulance. As he slips into the spot where I am quietly sitting, I just wait for his face to pop thru so I can ask ‘what in the heck are you doing’. As his head appears he has the 8th jelly donut jammed in his mouth and the jelly ready to explode all over. He realizes he has been caught and says ‘I thought you were sitting by the ambulance’.

 

  • GENESIS 41- Joseph is sitting in prison for 2 full years after he was promised by the ‘cup holder’ to advocate for his cause once he was released! The cup holder forgot to mention it! I think one of the most unjust things that has happened in society has been these brothers who have been falsely accused of some terrible crime and spent years in prison and then later were found to be innocent. I think this is why we need to really rethink the death penalty. Now Pharaoh has these dreams and he calls all of his wise men in and no one can interpret the dream. At this point the cup holder realizes his wrong. He tells Pharaoh that when he was in prison a guy interpreted his dream. Sure enough, after years in jail and having been persecuted by his brothers and sold into slavery, at the age of 30 he finally begins inheriting some stuff. Joseph was 17 when the problems started, he is now 30. 13 years of suffering and obscurity. Now, scripture says ‘see a man skilled in his work, he will stand before kings. He will not serve obscure men’ [Proverbs? It’s a newer version of the bible]. God was ordering things in Joseph’s life to ‘bring him before kings’ men of influence. He was ‘accidentally’ sold to an officer of pharaoh. He then gets thrown in jail and runs into the ‘chief butler and chief baker’ and now he gets a shot at pharaoh! It was the hand of God positioning him to be in a place of influence. Joseph will interpret pharaohs dreams to mean 7 years of famine will follow 7 years of plenty [read the chapter, I didn’t include the dreams in this entry]. Pharaoh says ‘great, what should we do about it?’ Joseph says ‘how about you find the wisest, smartest most impressive man in your country [gee, I wonder who this could be?] and put him in charge and have him collect a fifth of all the lands produce during the time of plenty and then he can distribute the food during the harvest’. Pharaoh says ‘sounds like a great idea! And who is wiser than you Joseph, you’re the man’. Joseph basically pulled a Dick Cheney [for those reading this in a hundred years, Cheney is the current vice president of George Bush] Bush hired Cheney to find the most qualified vice president he could recruit. Sure enough Cheney says ‘it’s me!’ So Joseph carries out the plan, Pharaoh puts him in charge of the whole country. Pharaoh says ‘only in my official title am I higher than you’. Joseph is truly running everything! He didn’t despise his day of ‘small things’. He ran Potiphars house, then the prison and now the country! Joseph is a type of Christ here. Pharaoh says ‘I give all authority to you, the nation will stand or fall on your word’. Jesus told the people in John’s gospel ‘My words will judge you in that day’. Joseph truly is a man of power and authority. He has 2 kids in this chapter. Manasseh and Ephraim. Their names mean ‘God has caused me to forget all my previous trials’ and ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’. Isaiah says ‘remember not the former things, nether consider the things of old, behold I do a new thing. Shall ye know it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Before these things happen I declare them unto you, so when they come to pass you will know I ordained it’. Also Joseph tells Pharaoh ‘God has revealed to you what he is going to do’ by giving him the dreams. Joseph understood that it was Gods purpose to reveal his plan ahead of time to Pharaoh. The coming to pass of these dreams on a national scale was proof positive of the ‘God of Joseph’ being the true God! I remember hearing a testimony of a Muslim tribe who all converted to Jesus in a single day. One morning one of the men woke up and shared a dream he had. He explained how he saw Jesus in the dream. As word spread they soon realized that every single person in the tribe all had the same dream the previous night! When God reveals himself on a wide scale like this it leads to whole nations [groups of people] converting. As Joseph stores up the food for 7 years he strategically puts the food in store house cities thru out the land. This is a type of Jesus future revolutionary movement. In Matthew 13 Jesus speaks of the kingdom as seeds. Both the people and the word are described as seed in this chapter. When Jesus sent out the disciples they were distributing seed [the message] as well as being ‘seed’ [Jesus says the good seed were the children of the kingdom planted and growing in the world]. In essence Jesus was placing garners [communities of people] filled with seed all over the region. Paul himself will target the influential cities of his day with the gospel. He knew if he could spread the fire to strategic places it would take root. So Joseph has all this ‘grain in the barn’ just waiting to bust loose during the famine. And sure enough the famine comes and everyone turns to ‘the garners of wheat in the storehouse cities’ for their sustenance. I believe the people of God, Gods ‘fine wheat’ are truly the ones with the answer to society’s ills. Jesus has planted us ‘in the world’ [not in the church building!] so when the times of famine come, people can run to us for the ‘bread of life’.

 

  • GENESIS 42- The famine in the land gets severe. Jacob tells his sons ‘what are we doing, get up and go down to Egypt and buy some food’. This begins the process of Jacob and his boys submitting to God’s higher purpose that they would be saved thru Joseph’s authority. Now of course we see Jesus all thru out this scenario, but we also see the dynamics of prophetic ministries. Jesus said ‘a prophet has honor, except in his hometown and with his own family’. Though Joseph is revered and a man of great authority and gifting, yet it will take Gods sovereign work to bring his brothers to a place where they can benefit from that which was truly meant for their benefit! Jesus says this about Jerusalem ‘O Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and those who have been sent to you for your own benefit’. Joseph’s brothers should have been the first to have bought the food from their brother, but God is revealing a greater plan. Now when the brothers go to Joseph in Egypt, Joseph recognizes them. But he speaks in the Egyptian tongue and pretends he doesn’t understand them. He recognizes them, but they do not recognize him. The bible says ‘Jesus came unto his own and his own received him not’. Now Joseph works out a plan with his brothers trying to entice them to bring Benjamin back with them. He says ‘well, you guys are spies! You came to spy out the land’. They told Joseph that Benjamin [Josephs only brother from his mom Rachel] was still home with the dad. So Joseph keeps the boys in jail a few days and says ‘lets do this, go take the food back to your families. And I will hold one brother [Simeon] and don’t come back without the other boy’. So they leave and tell Jacob about the deal. Well of course Jacob goes overboard. ‘O my God, I have already lost one son [not really!] and now Simeon is gone and you boys want me to give you Benjamin too!’ Jacob says ‘all things are against me’. Gee, would you calm down for a minute pops! Here we go again with Jacob reading the worst into the situation. I forgot to mention that when the boys were talking in front of Joseph, Joseph hears for the first time that some of his brothers were really trying to help him. Rueben says ‘see, I told you we shouldn’t have done this wrong deed against our brother’. Rueben was the oldest brother who was jealous over the favoritism that Jacob showed towards Joseph. For all those years Joseph never knew that Rueben really cared for him. Joseph heard this and had to leave the room so his brothers wouldn’t see him crying over this revelation. Sometimes we don’t realize that people are actually for us. Elijah and others went thru times of feeling like they were all alone. The enemy’s strategy is to make you think ‘yes, everyone really is against me. The whole town hates me. All the people in the church are fighting me’. Joseph was not aware that some of his brothers were actually for him. We end the chapter with Jacob and the boys back in their land, never planning to return and see Joseph again. Jacobs fear almost cost him 2 sons!

 

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

 

  • GENESIS 44- Joseph feeds his brothers and fills their bags with food and sends them off to Jacob. This time he put the food and money back in their bags, but also he put a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. After they leave Joseph sends his servant to stop them. He searches the stuff and finds the cup with Benjamin. Now, Joseph is doing all this just so he could keep Benjamin and have the boys return with Jacob. But the boy’s know how nervous pops gets! Joseph doesn’t realize what a panic button pops has become. The boys realize how bad dad is and they tell the servant ‘well, you got us! I guess we will all go back together to Egypt’. These boys had the chance to escape without Benjamin, they figured they would rather face Joseph than dad, OUCH! If you read thru the story you will see that they really don’t want to go home. Joseph actually says ‘go back, leave Benjamin and see your dad’. Finally Judah says ‘look, our dad has been distraught ever since he lost the other boy [Which is the actual guy they are talking to!] and he took it hard. If we leave without Benjamin he will die. I will stay in the place of the boy’. Once again we see Judah offer ‘substitution’ as an answer to the problem. It seems as if atonement was built into the DNA of the tribe of Judah. Also during this whole scenario the servant mentions ‘divination’. The silver cup that was found in Benjamin’s bag was for the ‘purpose of divination’ [or so the servant thought/said!] Joseph tells his brothers ‘why did you steal from me? Don’t you know a man of my stature can divine’? The art of divination, or obtaining ‘secret knowledge’ thru spiritism existed in ancient times. The pagan nations even had priests for their false gods. All of this is Babylonian in nature and forbidden by God all thru out scripture. The fact that Joseph rose to fame because of his ‘interpreting of dreams’ surely put fear in people, they assumed he was a great ‘diviner’. Now Joseph has said all along that God was giving him the interpretations, but it’s likely that the broader culture just viewed Joseph thru the already existing paradigm of ‘divination’. All people are seeking for some spiritual meaning in life. They often flock to new age teachings or eastern religions. God condemns, in no uncertain terms, all uses of the horoscope and sorcery or witchcraft to seek ‘hidden sources of wisdom’. God does have prophets in the church [no new cannon, but true spiritual direction by those filled with the Holy Spirit] and of course God regularly gives directions to his kids by his Spirit. So I just wanted to clarify, just because this chapter says Joseph used the cup ‘to divine’ in no way means that Joseph was ‘divining’ in the mystical sense.

 

  • GENESIS 45- Joseph could not restrain himself any longer and reveals himself to his brothers. His brothers are absolutely shocked. They are hearing him in his own voice [my sheep hear my voice- Jesus] for the first time, they are beginning to see the actual image of their lost brother in the face of this sovereign person who they have been coming to and bowing to and submitting to. They came late to the table, the entire gentile nation [Egypt and the surrounding nations] have already been submitting to him for a while [Christ and the church made up of gentile nations] but Israel has been slow to respond. And since they have been responding they had no idea of the actual identity of this great ruler. Sure, these gentile nations knew his name was Joseph and they heard all the great stories about his rise to power. But the brothers of Joseph were simply submitting to this governor out of necessity. They actually were learning the ropes of how to come to this sovereign and to bow before him with requests [The Jews sure know how to pray to Jehovah, they have the Wailing Wall!] but to hear this ruler say ‘I am your brother Joseph, who you betrayed’ is almost unbelievable to accept! Now Joseph sees the look on their faces. He tells them ‘come here, I am Joseph your brother’ he has to explain the enormity of this revelation. They can’t connect the ruler with their former knowledge of their own flesh! Israel [the nation] has stumbled over the reality of their home town boy actually being their Messiah. Scripture says Jesus is the actual image of the invisible God, we see God and who he is thru Christ. For the brothers to be looking at the actual lord of the land, someone who they have been ‘submitting to’ already [Jehovah] and then to hear ‘I am Joseph’ [Jesus] out of the actual lips of the ruling authority himself, is very hard to grasp. The nation of Israel has been waiting and believing for the Messiah for 2 thousand years. They pray to Jehovah. The stumbling block is in their inability to actually see the face of Jesus in their God! He truly is the image of the invisible God. Now Joseph reassures them that everything that happened to him was truly a sovereign act of God to preserve life. He holds no grudges! [Father forgive them, for they know not what they do]. Pharaoh hears about this great reunion and tells him to go get the rest of his family and bring them back [to Goshen]. Jacob hears the news of his son’s authority and is shocked. He learns that his son is alive, and Lord of the land, all in one day [Scripture says a nation will be born in a day. Referring to Israel’s national repentance and acceptance of Messiah at the second coming- Romans]. So they make preparations to come to Egypt and for all the family to settle down together. I want to stress the importance of seeing the reaction of Egypt [gentile nations] when they hear that Josephs blood relatives are coming to benefit from the lordship of Joseph. The gentile nations are happy and glad to see the reunion! Much like the reaction that Paul writes about in Romans ‘if their falling away [The Jews rejection of Messiah] was for the benefit of all the gentiles [just like Josephs rejection by his brothers was for the benefit of saving Egypt and the surrounding countries] so how much greater will it be when they are reunited with Christ’. Scripture teaches us that it was for the gentile’s salvation that the nation of Israel rejected Christ’s Lordship. So when Israel returns home to their true Messiah, the gentile church will rejoice! I also want to make a note here, you will notice that Jacob had to relocate from the promised land and move over into the region [church- made up of gentile nations] in order to benefit from Josephs rule. Make no mistake about it, at the time of Israel’s conversion she will see that her clinging on to the old culture of law and sacrifice will have to be left behind in order to benefit from the bread that Jesus [Joseph] will provide. Jacob and the boys will carry some degree of national identity with them, after all they are still ‘Israel’, but the relocation from their land speaks of the willingness to uproot and journey towards the messiah.

 

  • GENESIS 46-47- Jacob and the family pack up and head to Egypt. They bring 70 ‘souls’ with them. Remember, Jacob is always thinking ‘dynasty’. He has a track record of worrying about his family getting wiped out. He is still relatively small for a ‘nation’ but getting bigger by the day. He enters Egypt and sees Joseph for the first time. What a reunion! I guess now that Jacob realizes all of his worrying was for naught, all the times he allowed his mind to think the worst about stuff, I guess now he learned his lesson? Not. Pharaoh asks him ‘so, how old are you, aren’t you glad to see Joseph? How has life been treating you?’ Jacob responds ‘my days are 130 years, not even close to my forefathers. And they have been short and evil’. Wow, Pharaoh thinks ‘sorry I asked’. Now as Jacob settles down in Goshen, all the nations are coming to Joseph to be sustained. The years of famine that Pharaoh dreamt about are here. Notice something; all the nations spend all their money and the ‘money fails’. Did you know that the overall theme of money taught by Jesus and the apostles was ‘it will someday fail’? James says ‘the rich mans money will evaporate in the day of judgment and it will be to no avail’. Proverbs says the rich mans wealth can not deliver his soul during trouble. Jesus over and over again used examples of people putting their hopes in riches and forgetting the reality of death and judgment. In this chapter the money failed! Now, the nations sell their cattle and lands and eventually themselves to Pharaoh [Joseph]. Joseph and Jacob as well as Joseph and Pharaoh [this one] are types of Jesus and the father. In this case Joseph ‘purchases’ all the people for Pharaoh. Jesus bought us all by his blood. Now, even though I go hard on the prosperity guys, here’s some practical financial advice. Joseph tells the people ‘take the corn [grain-seed] and use it to feed your families and cattle, but plant some of it in the ground for heavens sake!’ he is teaching the mentality of ‘feed a man a fish and you feed him for the day- teach a man to fish and you feed him for life’. Joseph is trying to break the entitlement mentality. Showing the people that a portion of their increase should be invested. Don’t take all your money every month and spend it all. Give a portion to God, and put some in a savings/investment. If you spend all the money you earn [eat all the seeds] then you will be living from paycheck to paycheck. ‘Well brother, I am trusting in social security’ not if you’re a cessationist [someone who believes miracles don’t happen any more] because it would take a miracle for the government to not bankrupt the thing! So we see balance in this chapter. Good financial advice along with the reality that some day ‘your money will fail’. Good Christians maintain good balance.

 

  • GENESIS 48- Jacob is old and ready to die. He calls Joseph and his boys. Jacob reminds Joseph that God called him many years before at Luz [Bethel]. Jacob is instilling in his son the reality of him and his family being a part of the divine plan. In essence ‘God has called us to great things, he chose me for this many years ago, you my son are simply an incarnate part of his divine purpose’. Now Jacob does something interesting. Joseph’s boys, Manasseh and Ephraim, are here to see Jacob [grandpa] before he dies. Jacob gives the honor of making Josephs 2 son’s equal heirs with the other boys. Joseph’s sons share equally in the inheritance of the 12 tribes. Jacob also says the younger one [Ephraim] shall be greater than the older one. Joseph kind of says ‘dad, you have your hand of blessing on the wrong boy, your right hand should be on Manasseh’. The right hand denotes special authority and favor. Jacob says ‘don’t worry son, I know what I am doing. God will bless your oldest son, but truly the greater blessing is on the youngest’. Now, to be honest, as I study the history of these boys thru the scripture, it doesn’t seem to me that any thing ‘extra special’ happened to Ephraim. I think Jacob might have made a mistake common to people with destiny. He read his own story line into the lineage of his sons. He might have felt that because God showed him special favor by honoring him over his older brother Esau that this mode of operation was to become a long term thing. Many divisions exist in the Body of Christ today because of this reasoning. I have taught tons of stuff on the idea of local church and how many good men seem to mistake a ‘mode of operation’ that worked well for them, but to then try and read this into the up and coming generation in a way that might be wrong. Paul taught in Corinthians that though there is one Spirit, yet there are many different ‘administrations’ and out workings of the gifts. We often read that passage in a way that says ‘in the Sunday ‘local church building’ mindset, you have different ways God works’. But it is actually saying ‘the Sunday building mindset is only one of the various ways the Spirit works’. Now I know Paul wasn’t directly talking ‘Sunday church’ in the passage, but the point is when the New Testament speaks of different ‘administrations’ and ways the Spirit manifests thru the people of God, it is speaking of Gods ability to manifest himself ‘outside of the box’. Jacob experienced God thru a mode that said ‘the younger shall serve the older’ I think he might have over done it when he tried to project this ‘mode’ onto his posterity!

 

  • GENESIS 49- Jacob gathers the boys together to give them a blessing. He realizes the importance of launching them with both blessings and rebukes! Why does he mention the mistakes and failures of the boys? Rueben is unstable like water; he acted spontaneously and out of jealousy. Simeon and Levi have an anger problem. In today’s ‘church world’ we focus and confess the desired outcomes of what we seem to want. We feel it is against a life of faith to even hear or receive reproof. I watched one of the fathers of the prosperity movement the other day. He was overseas doing a convention. I watch now out of prayer and agreeing as much as possible with parts of the meeting. I see this as a function of the prophetic, a willingness to intercede and agree as much as possible with those you have disagreements with. To be honest, you could see a real sense of uneasiness in the audience. It was almost as if these believers were somewhat familiar with this man, but the teachings were really off. During the service the speaker said how people have come up to him and said ‘did you read that book about you’? People who have begun to learn of the errors of this movement. The teacher said he never reads or listens to those who try to rebuke or correct him. This was obvious as to the fact that the meeting ended in the teacher saying ‘satan, get your hands off my money’ in a very aggressive and angry voice. He was leading the people in prayer and said this. The whole thing was very sad. Now Jacob flat out tells the boys where they have done wrong and went off course, he makes no bones about it. These boys heard criticism that was needful. But he also gives some great blessings. I have already internalized and added the blessings from Judah ‘the scepter shall not depart from you’ ‘your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies’ ‘as a young lion you will crouch down and go up from the prey’. To Joseph ‘you are like a bough by a spring of water, a well. Your branches flow over the wall’ a type of regional influence, reaching beyond your ‘city borders’. The archers hated you and shot at you but did not prevail, but to the contrary your bow has prevailed. The purpose of God for Joseph and his ‘targeting’ of prophetic arrows of destiny would win. These are great promises to these boys. Jacob speaks to his sons as he prepares to die. He wants more than just a successful career during his lifetime, he wants to launch a movement [dynasty] that for generations to come would carry the torch of the original purpose. Jacob tells the boys ‘I am now going to die’ and he instructs them to bury him in the dirt of destiny! He wants to lay in the ground where he first met and learned of the fatherhood of God. He ‘slept’ before in the land and had a true ‘out of body’ experience at Bethel [Not a new age thing, but a real visitation from God]. He will reconnect with this destiny even in death. We still have one chapter left in Genesis, but we have really closed the book for the most part on this entire journey of Jacob and his boys. There is a real sense of this family living and dying with Gods destiny upon them. I want to ‘charge’ all of our readers and ‘family’ to reassess at this point in life. Bring things back into alignment with the true eternal values that count. I know we have rubbed people the wrong way because of our strong stance on a lot of issues. I have been ‘shot at by arrows’ many times, but I feel the Lord has allowed our ‘bow to prevail’ not for the targeting or hurting of people, but for the target that the Lord wants to hit. Children are like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, when they launch in the right direction they hit the target every time.

 

  • GENESIS 50- Jacob dies and Joseph buries him in the Promised Land. The cave that Abraham bought years ago as a sign that they would remain in the land of destiny, they even buried their bodies as ‘seed’ in the land! Now the mourning for Jacob is intense. All Egypt and the people of Canaan see what a great loss this is. After Jacobs’s death, the brothers fear Joseph will finally take revenge! They send a messenger to say ‘we are sorry for betraying you as a boy, please spare us’. Joseph is surprised his brothers are still afraid. He assures them all is well, as they come and BOW DOWN TO HIM. Wow, many years earlier it was this very dream ‘shall we bow down to you?’ that caused their jealousy and betrayal. Now that it is being fulfilled to the tee, they are happy to do it, and Joseph feels no glory out of it! This is how scripture is fulfilled when it says ‘you shall see your desire on you enemies’ ‘the sons of those who hated you shall bow down to you’ it is fulfilled not in a self glorying way, but in a prophetic way in order to benefit those who hated and despised you years earlier! I find it funny how some people thru the years will initially meet me at a homeless mission or some other venue where I am just hanging out with buddies. Sometimes I have been treated ‘less than honorably’ by the Christians who think I am just a homeless guy. Now I am not pretending to be homeless! It’s just these guys are really some of my best buddies who I have been around for years. Sometimes I have been yelled at ‘you idiot, get your hands off of that drink’ when I accidentally took a soda 2 minutes before the official lunch bell. Others who are Christians and treat disdainfully some guy who they hear ‘he thinks he is a preacher’ from the homeless guys. It’s a sad commentary on the way believers treat the down and out with such little respect. Now years later some of them actually become students of the ministry, at first finding it hard to associate the ‘radio preacher’ or ‘blog writer’ with the guy that they cursed out at one time. But they are glad to ‘bow down’ [submit] and receive from the ministry. Some will even give the feeling of ‘now that we realize he isn’t a homeless guy, lets get together and talk spiritual stuff’. Sort of the idea that ‘the elite class’ can now accept you, because we see you as elite too. I don’t push them away, I just treat them like any one else. Whether they are ‘elite’ or homeless. In Josephs case he wasn’t thinking ‘now I got you guys, you said you would never bow, well look at you punks now’. He acted right. Joseph also gives a prophecy that after many years God will bring them up out of Egypt and into the land of destiny. Jacob and his sons came into Egypt as a fairly small band of people, they will spend 400 years in difficulty and oppression. God will use this ‘furnace of affliction’ to bring them to a point of supernatural signs and deliverance under Moses. They will add an extra 40 years delay in the wilderness due to their rebellion, and they will once again enter into the land where years earlier Abraham bought the burial ground. The land where Isaac experienced his God, the place where Jacob dealt with his fears and inadequacy. They will come back like stromtroopers as they cross the Jordan and instill fear into the inhabitants of Canaan. God said he would give the land to their forefathers, he kept his promise!

 

 

ACTS study

 

Introduction; Yesterday I took my kids to the mall after church, I usually get lost in the book store. Even though I bought an entire shelf of books a few months back, I still can’t help from buying more books! So I picked up a few more and found a comfortable bench and started reading the History of Christianity. At the house I am almost thru with another ‘history of Christianity’ that covers the story of the church from Pentecost to the present day. I own a few complete volumes and have checked out many from the libraries over the years. I read from both the Protestant and Catholic [Orthodox] perspectives. I also read from the ‘out of the institutional church’ perspective. These are the histories of various groups of believers who never became Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. I consider all these groups Christian and appreciate the tremendous wealth of knowledge that these communities provide.

Now, as we go thru Acts, I want to stay as close as possible to both the doctrine and practices of the early church as seen in scripture. We are not the first [or last!] study that has attempted to do this. That is attempted to ‘get back to the original design’ as much as possible. Historically you have whole categories of believers who fit into this mindset. They are referred to as ‘Restorationist’ as opposed to Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. The Church of Christ, The Disciples of Christ, the Anabaptists and others fall into this class. I believe you find true believers in all of these groups.

As you read the history of Christianity as told by the other perspectives, you will find it interesting as to the way the institutional church describes these ‘out of church’ groups. Some are called heretics [Waldensians] others are simply seen as fringe groups. The strong institutional church has branded those who would reject her authority as schismatics and heretics on the grounds of their refusal to submit to the hierarchy of the institutional church.

As we go thru Acts, I want us to read carefully and see the story as told by Luke. We will not find ‘another more true group’ in the sense that I want to start some new denomination. I also don’t want to simply find proof texts to justify doctrine. Many well meaning believers can find the verses they like the most and use them to combat the other points of view. We will see verses emphasizing the importance of water baptism, or various truths on the outworkings of the Spirit. We will see prophets functioning and read texts that clearly teach Gods sovereignty [as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed]. Instead of getting lost on these side trails, I want us to read with an open mind and allow our beliefs to be shaped by ‘the story’.

I will spend time defending my own view of Local church. Not because I believe ‘my view’ is the only thing worth arguing about, but because I believe we see the intent of God for his people to be a living community of believers in this book. Right off the bat we will see giving taught in a radical way. The early church at Jerusalem will ‘continue in the Apostles doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’. They then sell their goods and distribute to all who had need. Where in the world did they get this idea from? The Apostles doctrine obviously taught the plain teachings from Jesus on sharing what you have with others. So instead of seeing an early tithe concept, you see an early ‘give to those in need idea’ straight from the teachings of Jesus. We will see this early Jerusalem group meet daily, as opposed to seeing ‘Sunday worship’ as some sort of New Testament Sabbath. Of course this group will meet at the Temple [actually an out door courtyard called Solomon’s Porch] and from ‘house to house’. But the simple realty of Christ’s Spirit being poured out on them as a community of people will be the basic understanding of what ‘church’ is.

You will find citizens of many surrounding areas going back to the their home towns after Pentecost. These believers shared the gospel with those in their regions and this is how the early church would spread. Some commentaries will show you how when Paul will eventually show up in Rome there already was an established church there. They obviously heard the gospel from these early Roman Jews who were at Jerusalem during Pentecost. So we will see ‘church planting’ from the paradigm of simple believers going to areas with the message of Christ. Those who would believe in these locations would be described as ‘the church at Corinth’ or ‘the church at Ephesus’ and so on. So we see ‘local church’ as communities of believers living in different localities.

We will see the development of leadership along the lines of ‘appoint elders in every city’. Not a top heavy idea of  ‘Bishop’ in the later sense of Catholic belief, but a simple ordaining [recognizing!] of those in the various cities who were stable enough in the basic truths of the gospel, that in Paul’s absence these elders were to be trusted as spiritual guides. Now, many of our brothers can trace the historic office of Bishop as a fairly early development in church history. Polycarp and others were considered direct disciples of the Apostles who would be seen as Bishops and even write of the importance of Bishops for the church ‘Where there is no Bishop there is no church’.

This will cause many well meaning believers to eventually become Catholic/Orthodox as they read the church fathers and see the very early development of Catholic Christianity. In many of the church fathers writings you will also see an early belief in the Eucharist as being the actual Body and Blood of Jesus.

To the consternation of many Protestants you even find Luther condemning fellow Protestants for not taking literally the words of Jesus ‘this IS my Body’. Now, I will not defend transubstantiation, but try to follow the trend lines in Acts as to the lack of this doctrine being a part of the early church. We will find Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addressing the Lords Supper, but for the most part we do not see a strong belief in the transmitting of divine grace to the soul thru the eating of Christ’s literal Body and Blood as they ‘broke bread’. We do see the sharing of the common meal and the ‘Eucharist’ as one meal called the ‘love feast’. Only later on in church history is there a division made between the full fellowship meal and the Eucharist.

So to be frank about it, I will challenge both our Catholic and Orthodox brothers on some very fundamental beliefs. Well I hope this brief introduction sets the proper tone for the rest of this study, God bless you guys and I hope you get something out of it.  John.

 

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

 

  • ACTS 2- The Apostles are gathered together in the upper room. As they continue in unity and prayer the Spirit of God comes upon them like a rushing wind. There appear ‘cloven tongues’ like fire above each of them. Why this image? Why not ‘ears’ or some other sanctified body part? God is going to give supernatural power to the words that they will speak. In a few chapters we will read how an angel will supernaturally deliver Peter from prison and say ‘go, speak the words of this life’. These tongues are a precursor to the tremendous fire that will be loosed from their lips. James says the tongue is a little member but boasteth great things, it has the ability to start fires. Jesus said he came to earth to ‘start a fire’ and how he wished it were already burning. Here he gets his wish! Now the Apostles and early believers experience the gift of tongues. They begin speaking and prophesying in the unknown languages of all those who are gathered together to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. God ordained this event to be strategically done at this time. All the surrounding regions heard the believers speak the ‘wondrous works of God’ in their native tongue. Peter stands up and delivers a scathing message! He basically tells Israel ‘this is that which the prophet Joel spoke about’ he goes on and says this outpouring is part of Gods predetermined plan to pour out his Spirit on all flesh in the last days. He speaks of divine manifestations [dreams, visions] and carries the prophecy right to the end of the age. He then speaks the gospel of Christ and tells Israel ‘this is the Jesus you killed’. Wow, these guys are bold. Peter leads them to faith in Christ, their public baptism is the immediate sign of their willingness to be identified with Jesus and 3 thousand Jews become believers this day. Now, what is the church? This corporate group of first time followers do 4 basic things. They ‘continue in the Apostles doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers and share their goods with all in need’[true fellowship]. This early community was a brotherhood who actually gave priority to the teachings of Jesus passed on to them from the Apostles. Don’t miss this! Many will develop all sorts of practices and beliefs that ‘make up church’. Some will justify extra biblical beliefs under the guise of ‘the Apostles doctrine’ as in if it were something totally contrary or not known thru the gospels or the writing of scripture. Paul will tell Timothy to stay true to the traditions he passed on to him. But I want to focus on the fact that the Apostles doctrine was not something different then the basic instructions Jesus left us in the gospels. Paul will add to this basic body of Christian doctrine thru his letters to the churches, as well as the whole New Testament. But we do not see a bunch of strange or unknown doctrines that come from this time period. The basics are mentioned above. I do want to stress the fact that this early expression of church life had no ‘Pastor’ in the sense of their gatherings being a time where a singular authority figure had oversight of the entire community. They had strong leaders to be sure, but would avoid the Protestant idea of Pastor. They had no church building or belief in a strong liturgy. The ‘breaking of bread’ was a common meal where they all shared together in a real life setting. And of course their giving was radical, it was not ‘a tithe’ and it was done to meet the real needs of the community around them. All these elements are basic to what the New Testament church is. A functioning society of people in whom Christ Spirit dwells and who see themselves as a real spiritual community of people. As we progress thru out the history of the church as seen in Acts we will never lose this basic mindset. It will be carried into the epistles of the New Testament and remain the best idea of ‘local church’ as found in the first century. There is a trend going on right now in Evangelicalism that says ‘lets return to the ancient practices of the church and see what we can find’. As an avid reader of church history I am not totally against this movement, but I do see a danger in thinking ‘the ancient practices’ are the 2nd or 3rd century development of liturgy and Eucharist and other early ideas, and by passing the ‘real ancient’ story in the book of Acts. To put it simply, some of the Protestant and Evangelical ‘practices and beliefs’ that have developed since the reformation are ‘ancient’. I believe we all have a long way to go, but the ‘low view’ of the Lords Table [low as opposed to ‘high church view’. Though I personally believe in the Lords table as a memorial, not as the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. Yet I personally don’t like referring to such an important practice as low!] seems to be the true ancient practice as seen in Acts. The absence of the Priest officiating over the altar is no where to be seen in the actual ‘church’ setting. This ancient church is really a simple brotherhood of believers having all things common and having the resurrection of the Son of God as the central organizing principle of their lives.

 

  • ACTS 3- Peter and John go up to the temple and heal the lame man. This stirs up a commotion and gives opportunity for Peter to preach Christ. I want you to see something here. The miracles of healing thru out this book testify of something specific. They do not simply prove the existence of God. These first century people were not ‘post moderns’ they had no pre enlightenment era that affected their minds. For the most part they were highly religious! Paul will tell them this later in Acts ‘you are too superstitious’ [religious]. The miracles are testifying to the fact that Jesus is alive, he really rose from the grave! Peter’s sermons are centered around the reality of Christ being the fulfillment of all that the prophets have spoken about! The church must not be ashamed of the gospel. Recently the ‘church world’ was up in arms over the Popes recent reinstating of the Tridentine Mass [the Latin Mass]. After Vatican 2 the Mass was done solely in the language of the hearers. Many old time Catholics were wanting the Latin too. So Pope Benedict said fine, you have the option to practice it either way. Now, this ancient Mass had a prayer that simply prayed for the Jewish people to come to know Jesus. Well, this upset the Jewish groups and they demanded a change in the prayer. At first the Pope re wrote it but it still asked for prayer for the Jews to come to Jesus. This still offended them. So finally the church produced some prayer less offensive. We should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ and his resurrection! Peter was preaching the reality of the resurrection and was in their face about it! Jesus has proven himself to be alive, we are not just witnesses of the existence of God, we are witnesses that Jesus is the way to him. The only way! Now Peter ends this chapter in a unique way. He invokes the ‘blessing of Abraham’ and says it means ‘the blessing of Jesus in turning you away from sin’. We just finished a study in Genesis. I emphasized how the New testament apostles viewed the Abrahamic blessing thru the lens of redemption. They did not teach it in a materialistic way. Peter also quotes Moses [as well as David] and says ‘Moses said the Lord would raise up a prophet like myself, whoever doesn’t hear him will be destroyed’. Peter sees the fulfillment of ‘the Moses type prophet’ in Christ. Peter has a great gift of taking the old testament prophets and proving Christ from them. There is a young hearer in this early church. He will eventually become one of the first Deacons. His name is Stephen, boy he must be drinking everything in. He is seeing and hearing the testimony of Jesus straight from those who walked with him. He hears Peter’s teachings on Christ. He becomes familiar with the way Peter associates the ‘Moses prophet’ with Jesus. This young man will testify in Acts 7 of the reality of Jesus being the fulfillment of the Moses prophecy. He will give the longest recorded sermon in scripture. He will brilliantly trace the roots of Israel and show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets. He will be accused of going against the law and the temple. He has the first grasp of ‘Pauline theology’ [actually Paul got it from him!] and does such a convincing job of proving Jesus to be Messiah that they stone him to death. He becomes the first martyr in the book of Acts. At his death he says ‘forgive them; don’t hold this sin against them’. A witness named Saul is sitting by. God answers Stephens’s prayer and Saul will become one of the greatest fire starters known to man.

 

  • ACTS 4- The religious leadership at Jerusalem bring the Apostles in for questioning. The reality of the lame man being healed and the fact that Peter was doing it in the name of Jesus was an offence to them. Part of the group were called Sadducees. We often think of them as simple Pharisees who disbelieved in the resurrection of the body. While this is true, we must not overlook the demonic strategy behind the rise of a religious group, just prior to the resurrection of Jesus, who would imbed doubt in the minds of people concerning resurrection. Peter and John are questioned concerning the healing of the lame man. The leaders really had no problem with the healing, they did not want them doing this stuff in Jesus name! Why? Once again we see the fact of mighty works being done in Jesus name as proof of his resurrection. If the resurrection is true then Jesus must be the Messiah. If Jesus is the Messiah then this first century group of religious leaders killed the only Messiah that they will ever have! Peter actually tells them this in the chapter ‘you rejected the chief cornerstone’. Jesus was not simply one religious figure in a religion of many religious figures. Let’s see, we have Mary the mother of Jesus, a great woman to be sure. What about old John the Baptist, man was he a firebrand! And don’t forget Moses and the prophets. But Jesus stands out because he is the cornerstone. He alone is the mediator. Peter says ‘neither is there salvation in any other, there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved’. These religious leaders killed the main person! Once again we see the church practice ‘communal giving’. They sell their lands and houses and bring the money and lay it at the apostle’s feet. The money is used 100 percent for distribution to the communities needs. Why is this so important to see? As you read all my writings you will see me teach over and again this basic Christian principle, that giving in the New Testament churches was primarily focused on meeting the needs of people. There was no sense of tithing to the storehouse as being a practice of ‘giving to the church meeting on Sunday or you are under a curse’. Now, it’s fine to give 10 percent on Sunday, it’s just we shouldn’t by pass the actual documented practice of giving as seen in the New Testament. Now, we do have the advantage of hind sight. Paul will continue to write the epistles of the New Testament and never once stray from this principle. In every single case, bar none, is New Testament giving taught as a voluntary free will offering. It is radical, taught in proportionality [as God has blessed you lay by you in store- Paul] but never once is it taught as a compulsory tithe that if not obeyed will bring the curse of the law upon the believer. Now, in the very next chapter we will see 2 people die because of lying in the area of giving. But it’s not because they didn’t tithe. Nor is it because they didn’t give all the price of the land. It was because they were lying to the Holy Spirit, they were introducing a deadly poison into the fledgling church. Jesus warned them in the gospels to avoid this cancer. He told them ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’. He wasn’t saying ‘beware of their doctrine’ in the sense of don’t listen to what they teach. He was saying ‘beware of actual hypocrisy’! The leaven of trying to present an image of yourself contrary to truth. Faking it so you look good. Now the leadership will warn the Apostles not to speak or teach in Jesus name. Peter says ‘we ought to obey God more than you’. Was he being rebellious against God ordained authority? Jesus did teach in the gospels ‘they sit in Moses seat, do what they say, not what they do’. Paul will respond later ‘I didn’t know I was speaking against the high Priest, I know he should be treated with respect’ as he defends himself before this same group. Some believe Luther and the reformers and even people like me are rebelling against authority when we question the system. To be sure Peter was ‘rebelling’ against an authority system that actually served God to a degree. This religious system [Judaism] did preserve the writings of the prophets. Peter was quoting the Psalms and prophets and utilizing the actual writings the scribes passed on to him. But there comes a point in time where ‘we ought to move on with God, rather than man’ a radical break from past well meaning systems, and a moving forward with God and the working of his Spirit. We end the chapter with the Apostles and believers rejoicing over the fact that Jesus movement is winning and Gods word is being fulfilled ‘of a truth the kings of the earth and its rulers are coming against God and his holy Son Jesus’. They knew they were in some rough waters but heck, Jesus has been raised from the dead! What can they really do to us? We will soon see. We also see another description of early church life. The term ‘church’ is referencing a corporate group of people who are meeting daily, both at the temple and from house to house. They are sharing their material things with one another. The Apostles are testifying of the resurrection of Jesus and his Messiahship every where they go. A believer named Barnabas sells some land and brings the money for distribution. Another couple will make the mistake of trying to ‘be like the Joneses’ they will pretend to do the same, Peter will judge them severely!

 

 

  • ACTS 5 – As the word spreads rapidly, all the surrounding towns bring the sick and vexed to lie in the streets. Even the possibility of Peters shadow passing over them for healing is hoped for. Notice the charismatic reality of this early church. I do realize the many reasoning’s that intelligent people use to explain the miracles as limited to the Apostolic period, but for the most part we see a supernatural church in Acts as well as thru out the epistles and well into the first few centuries of Christianity. The 20th century story of Pentecostalism and the awakenings just prior, seem to show the reality of a supernatural church existing alongside a theological one! There is much proof to the orthodoxy and giftings of the church all thru out scripture and church history. Peters shadow healed people, how can we explain this away? [p.s. Phillip, who is not an Apostle, will also perform miracles. Just thru this in for those who teach the Apostles were the only miracle workers!] Now, the immediate response of the high priest and religious leaders was ‘if we don’t do something about this, their movement will gain momentum’. They imprison Peter and the Apostles. An angel appears and frees them and tells them ‘go back to the temple and speak the words of this life’. When the authorities realize what has happened they once again warn them about using Jesus name in their ministry. They even say ‘do you intend to bring this mans blood upon us’. Basically Peter says ‘yes’. Peter has been ‘putting it in their face’ ever since Pentecost. He has blamed BOTH the nation of Israel and her leadership for the death of Christ. He does not worry about offending them! During this time some priests become believers. The majority of them do not. Why? What has happened is common among movements. When an initial movement starts up, there is always the question of ‘is it from God or not’? A few years back the church went thru a renewal movement. Some referred to it as ‘the Toronto blessing’ ‘the laughing revival’ and other names. You had those who were 100 % against it and those 100 % for it. Who was right? Well, to a degree both of them! The point is there were some things that were needing rebuke, but to throw it all out was wrong. The defenders appealed to Jonathan Edwards’s writings and how during the first great awakening he experienced many of the same manifestations as the Toronto movement. Edwards left quite a bit of room for God being present in the religious emotions of the people. The critics were offended that the revival guys were appealing to Edwards and they would appeal to other stuff Edwards wrote in concern over the religious affections. You also had the same manifestations a century later under the second great awakening. The revivals in Kentucky had laughter and ‘strange barking’ and other weird stuff. The point is you always have a response to a religious movement. Once the battle lines are drawn, it is very hard to switch sides. In this chapter we see Gamaliel, a very respected Pharisee, stand up for the Apostles and say ‘lets give them some room, others before them rose up and gained a following, they all passed on. If this work is of God you can’t stop it, if it’s of men it will fail’. There was some breaking thru to the religious mind that was taking place in the elite religious thinkers of the day. After all, Peter has been quoting Psalms and Joel in ways that were confounding the religious thinkers. Don’t forget, Peter is an uneducated fisherman. Jesus deposited some stuff in his men that was way beyond the basic understanding of the day. Some ‘thinkers’ and intellectuals were humble enough to listen, most were not!

 

  • ACTS 6- There arises the first controversy in the Jerusalem church. The fact that they were doing this daily massive food distribution led to an area of prejudice. The ‘Grecians’ [Greek speaking Jews] were being neglected. They were seen as a little lower on the scale of racial purity. They were speaking a language less pure than the Hebrew tongue. So the Apostles heard of the problem and said ‘pick out 7 men of good report, who have favor and wisdom and put them in charge of ‘this business’. In essence these were the first Deacons. The business was simply speaking of the duty of serving the food. Up until now the Apostles were involved with the distribution. But they said ‘we will devote ourselves to prayer and the Word’. This chapter is important, many well meaning church communions trace their practices of church government to this time. Are Deacons positions who ‘do the business of the 501 c 3’? Not really. Well, not at all! Are there ‘Pastors’ here in the modern idea of the office of a person who is over the flock and is the weekly speaker whom the people see every ‘Sunday’. No. Are these practices all wicked and from the devil? Of course not! But it does help to see what is actually going on. This early community saw the need for the leaders to devote time to the word and prayer. Fulltime ministry? Really more of a community adjustment allowing those with greater insight to propagate the gospel. Paul will later show us this doesn’t mean each separate community had ‘full time ministers’ who were forbidden to work secular jobs. He will continue to make tents thru out his life. But he will also teach that it is all right to meet the material needs of those who are ministering spiritual food. We also see the Apostles lay their hands on these first deacons. Is this some type of official ordination [recognition, licensing] from a seminary? Of course not. Is it wicked to attend seminary and have an ordination? Of course not. The principle of the ‘school of the prophets’ in Elijah’s day shows the possibility of God working thru these universities. It’s just we need to be careful we are not reading ideas into the story that are not faithful to the text. My reading of this chapter shows an organic community of people who were ‘the church’. They did have leadership and sought God for direction and weren’t imprisoned by any specific form of ‘church’. The main ingredient was a group of people sharing the life of Christ and living this life out as a community. All church communions have a tendency to read there own story into ‘Gods story’. That is we find isolated verses of scripture and say ‘see, this is why our church government does it this way’. It’s OK to a degree, but then when you see ‘our church government’ as the only true church government, that’s where problems arise. I think we should avoid looking for prescriptive patterns of ‘church government’ from the book of Acts. We should read the story as a community of people who are experiencing God and learning to walk out this experience as the Body of Christ. The great mystery is that God is ‘no longer dwelling in Temples made with hands’ but in a vibrant Body of people! [p.s. Stephen will quote this prophetic scripture in the next chapter as he does one of the most masterful jobs of an Old Testament survey to be found in the New Testament].

 

  • ACTS 7- At the end of chapter 6 we saw the accusation against Stephen ‘he teaches the temple will be torn down and that Jesus will change the laws and customs of Moses’. There are a few key chapters in Acts, this is one of them! Up until this point we have seen Peters message of the Messiah thru the lens of repentance and baptism. You will notice Peter is very strong on ‘you guys need to repent and show it’. Strong word indeed! Peter also introduced the scripture ‘the Lord your God will raise up a prophet like unto me [Moses speaking of Christ] whoever doesn’t listen to him will be destroyed’. But Stephen is the first one to teach publicly the passing away of the law and the temple and the new ‘house of God’ to be the people. It’s the beginnings of Pauline theology. Now I have read how this chapter was questioned and doubted as to why Stephen was teaching this. Some theologians thought the chapter was questionable as canon because of it’s seeming to be so out of context. These are the times where I do agree with the ‘seminary as being a cemetery’! This chapter is absolutely brilliant! I don’t want you to miss the main point. Stephen traces the history of Israel and uses the verse from Moses ‘the Lord will raise up a PROPHET LIKE ME’. Stephen explains that when Moses first showed up on the scene to deliver his people, that the people said ‘man, who do you think you are! Who made you the boss’? Then Stephen says ‘yet this Moses, who the people refused. He was actually the ruler and deliverer that they refused’. Stephen is showing them that the prophets actually prophesied of the first century reality of Israel rejecting Jesus because Moses said they would! Don’t miss this point. This is the main point of Stephens message. He is telling the religious leaders ‘you simply fulfilled prophecy by rejecting the Messiah’. He even compares the miracles and great works that were done by Moses to the great miracles Jesus did. Stephen ends the chapter by also tracing Jewish history to David’s son Solomon and how the future temple that he would build was simply a shadow of the New Testament house of God. He quotes David in Psalms ‘God will not dwell in temples made with hands’. Now, this has nothing to do with ‘church buildings’. This has everything to do with Stephen’s insight into the theological truths contained in Jesus teachings about the destruction of the temple. In today’s ‘church world’ we have a very unbalanced view of temple rebuilding and the significance of the passages in Matthew that prophesy of its destruction. In Stephen’s mind the future destruction [that is future from his time. A.D. 70!] showed the passing away of the old law and its entire system of worship. The first century Apostles and teachers saw the eschatological portions of scripture from a redemptive lens. Peter earlier said ‘repent and be baptized… so your sins will be blotted out at the return of the Lord’ ‘whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things’. He couched individual salvation in with Gods ‘full world’ purpose of redemption [Romans]. They saw it from a wider angle than just ‘me and Jesus’. Now Stephen is doing the same. The whole Apostolic tradition concerning the destruction of the temple showed the purpose of God in ending the old concept of law and ‘limited kingship’ [from Jerusalem’s throne] and how God raised up his Son and placed him at his right hand and made him Lord and Christ. The passing away of the temple and Stephens preaching on ‘the customs being changed’ was right on! When I taught Hebrews I tried to bring this out. I realize that some teachers say Paul didn’t write Hebrews. I attribute it to him simply because no one else had the revelation he had in these areas. But I wouldn’t argue with saying Stephen might have penned it [depending on the dates!] Now we end the chapter with Stephens’s famous martyrdom and him saying ‘lay not this sin to their charge’. Saul [Paul] is a witness to this killing, he will become the greatest advocate for grace versus law that the church will ever know. NOTE- I forgot to mention that Stephen even compares the mass killing of babies at the time of Moses with the mass killing done under Herod during Jesus time. He shows how Moses and Jesus were alike in many ways.

 

  • ACTS 8- After the death of Stephen the church scatters thru out the region. We see Phillip being used and directed by God. An angel will speak to him, he will be supernaturally translated from one place to another. We see the simple reality of all believers having Gods legitimacy to function. This is important to see! Later on we see the first gentile church at Antioch being told ‘separate me Paul and Barnabas unto the work which I have called them to’[Acts 13]. Some will develop unbiblical restrictions from this verse. The strong ‘local church’ view [the view that sees local church thru the 501c3 Sunday building mindset!] will later teach ‘see, you can’t function on your own. If you are not under a ‘local church covering’ you are an independent rebel out of Gods authority’. Here we see the simple reality of God sending and communicating to Phillip on the basis of him being a child of God. In Acts 13 the Spirit communicated his purpose to an entire group, in this chapter he communicates to an individual. The legitimacy comes from the reality of God being the one who is giving the directions! Now, we see Phillip at Samaria preaching the Kingdom and doing miracles. The sorcerer Simon gets converted. The church at Jerusalem sends Peter and John to see what’s happening and they lay hands on the Samaritan believers and they ‘receive the Holy Ghost’. This is also described as the Holy Spirit falling on them. This chapter is used as a proof text for pro Pentecostal theology and anti! The Pentecostals say ‘see, believers don’t have the Holy Spirit until a separate Baptism takes place’. The anti Charismatics say ‘this is an anomaly. God did this because he didn’t want to have a competing church in Samaria that did not have the approval of the Jerusalem church’. I will agree and disagree with both of these propositions [yes, at the same time!] Paul will teach in his epistles that it is impossible to believe without having the Spirit. He will also teach a doctrine of being filled with the Spirit. The arguments over the terms used can be confusing. The fact is we see both the experiences of believers [who have the Spirit] still experiencing greater empowerments down the road. And we see believers ‘getting it all at once’ [Acts 10]. Theologically, you can’t be born again without having the Spirit. But you can call ‘the Spirit falling on you in a fresh way’ ‘getting the Spirit’. The different expressions people use do confuse the matter. The hard and fast Charismatics will not agree with me. And the old time Calvinists might disagree with me. I believe both sides have things to add to the debate. I want all of us to be open and daily expecting God to renew us with the Spirit on a daily basis. I know one thing for sure, Paul taught we can water and plant all day. But if the Spirit doesn’t do his work we will never see any real increase! Simon the sorcerer sees that thru the laying on of hands the Spirit is given. He asks ‘Hey, I will pay you money for the gift of being able to lay hands on people and have them receive the Spirit’. Peter responds ‘you wicked sinner! How dare you think you can purchase Gods gift with money! You and your filthy money will perish together! You better pray that God forgives you for this’. Simon says ‘can you pray for me’? He didn’t want to get struck down that instant! Peter will later teach in his letters ‘take oversight of Gods flock, not for filthy lucre. But of a ready mind’. James will write in his letter ‘woe to the rich, their day is coming’. John writes in 1st John ‘love not the world neither the things in the world’. Paul will pen ‘The love of money is the root of all evil. Some went coveting after it and have left the faith’. Where in the world did all these first century Apostles get this idea from? Was it the devil tricking them out of the truth of wealth? Were they under the spell of church tradition? Lets see, Jesus said ‘the rich man dies and goes to hell. The poor man to Abrahams bosom’ ‘it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle’ ‘the rich man went away very sad because he had much riches’ [after Jesus said go sell all you have and give to the poor] ‘you can not serve God and mammon’ ‘the deceitfulness of riches choke Gods word’ ‘thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee’ [to the rich man who was planning on building more storage for his stuff!] The simple fact is the early church had imbedded in their minds a non materialistic gospel. The modern church seems to read scripture thru the lens of the prosperity promises that you do find thru out scripture. The prosperity promises are true and should be understood, but we need to also see the reality of what I just showed you. The church will eventfully coin the phrase ‘Simony’. It will refer to those who use money to gain influence and official positions in the church. Simons name does become famous, but not in the way he wanted!

 

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

 

  • ACTS 10- This is another key chapter in Acts. Peter is still in Joppa and while praying on the roof he has a vision. God shows him all the non kosher animals that Jews were forbidden to eat and says ‘rise Peter, kill and eat’. Peter refuses and tells the Lord he has never allowed himself to eat unclean stuff. The Lord reveals to him the principle of not making judgments of what is ‘clean or unclean’ according to the old standards of the law. It is important to fully see this. God wasn’t simply saying ‘now all things are clean’ he was saying ‘the old prism of law and moral standards are no longer to be used as the measuring rule of clean or unclean’. Now, was God throwing out all ‘measuring rules’? No! He will flatly show Peter that ‘all who believe in Jesus are justified from all things that you could never be justified from BY THE LAW’. In essence God is saying to Peter ‘Jesus is the new measuring rule!’ [Actually he was the original one the law always pointed to]. Well at the same time Peter has this vision, a man named Cornelius has an angel appear to him and tells him to send men to Joppa and get Peter. So as Peter is wondering about his vision of the unclean animals, the brothers knock on the door and relate the angels message to him. Peter goes to Cornelius house and preaches the gospel and the Gentiles become believers. Is this the first time we see Gentile converts in Acts? No. Phillip converted the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8. But this is seen as the Lord giving Peter the ‘keys’ of the kingdom to the Gentiles. In the gospels we read how Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. Our Catholic brothers see the office of Pope as ‘the keys’. I think a better view is to see how the Lord used Peter in Acts 2 and here to be the one to ‘introduce’ the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. Keys open things. They open doors. Jesus is the open door that Peter walked them thru by faith. Now we also see Peter preaching justification by faith for the first time in Acts. His other invitations were legitimate, but they focused on repentance and baptism. Here Peter says ‘and to him give all the prophets witness that whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins’. Now I have taught this before on this blog. I try not to make excuses for the teaching by Peter on baptism. He even says in his epistle ‘the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us, not the washing away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a pure heart towards God’ [quick quote, go find it for an exact wording!]. Now, if you do a word check on this blog, probably in the section ‘prophecies, dreams, visions part 2’ and you find the teaching on baptism from Acts 2:38, I do give an explanation on this. I believe we are seeing the natural progression of greater understanding that Peter and the brothers were attaining as they progressed on the journey. I showed you how Stephens sermon in acts 7 hit on Pauline theology for the first time in Acts. A few chapters later we see Peter quoting a scripture on ‘all who believe’ are justified. The first connection from Peter on ‘believe and be justified’. Now that Peter has opened this ‘door’ we will see Paul preach this thru out the rest of the book. We see the famous verse in acts 16 ‘believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your house’. The point is we are seeing not only the development of the Body of Christ in this book, but also the development of Christian theology. Many believers fight over these various verses and even trace the authenticity of their movements to these verses. Others try to brand you as a heretic over which scriptures you see as the ‘conversion text’. While I fully agree with the doctrine of Justification by faith as one of the foundational doctrines of scripture, I avoid calling the churches who trace their ‘altar call’ experience to water baptism as ‘Cambellites/heretics’. I also disagree with those who are strong water baptism advocates when they say those who do not believe in full submersion are not Christian. In this chapter these Gentiles were justified by passive belief! No evangelical altar call at all ‘the Spirit fell on all who heard the word’. Peter says ‘can we forbid water to those who received the Spirit like we did’? There was no altar call because Peter would have never given one! Even though God gave him the whole vision and all, yet they were shocked when God actually ‘saved them’. So we see the will of God in accepting all who believe in Jesus. The justifying of these Gentiles was passive, they had no ‘sinners prayer’ they were justified before they got in the water. So to all those Church of Christ [or even Catholic and Orthodox brothers] it is not totally wrong to trace your outward experience of becoming a Christian to the time of baptism [I will not get into infant baptism here!]. But it also is not wrong to trace it to the time of simple belief. Gods purpose is to save people. Acts is revealing to us the progressive journey of man with God. God does put down the requirement to ‘believe in Christ’. The entrance into communion with God is limited to all who believe in him! But don’t make it harder than this. NOTE- I didn’t get into all the particulars of repentance and baptism and exactly how many ‘steps’ you need to ‘get saved’. Seeing Acts this way misses the main thrust of the book. But let me add, why don’t we see Peter mention repentance here? Cornelius is called ‘one who feared God’. This description didn’t just mean ‘he prayed and fasted’ it actually described Gentile converts to Judaism. These were called ‘God Fearers’. They practiced Judaism already, except for the rite of circumcision. So this fact meant they ‘already repented’ to a degree. The law did teach repentance well. It had a system that engrained the moral concept of sin and repentance into man. Hebrews chapter 6 teaches this. So you can say Cornelius and his relatives were already aware of sin and the need to turn from it [also the basic elements of John’s baptism] so here Peter bypasses the repentance part and simply shows them the missing ingredient, which was faith in Christ.

 

  • ACTS 11- Peter recounts his vision and experience he had at Cornelius house. The Jews at Jerusalem were upset that he went and ate with non Jews. He explains that the Lord showed him not to view these gentiles as unclean. They were accepted and made clean thru Christ’s blood. The leadership at Jerusalem agree [for now!] We begin to see the tension that will play out thru the rest of the New Testament. This struggle between Jewish law and grace will become the number one issue of contention in Paul’s letters. In this chapter we see Barnabas go down to Antioch and eventually get Paul from Tarsus to help him establish the fledgling church at Antioch. After Peters experience they began preaching to gentiles and Antioch becomes the counterbalance ‘church’ [community of believers] to Jerusalem. I want you to see something important here. The church at Antioch does not have ‘Temple worship’ along side ‘home meetings’. The believers ‘assembled’ as a brotherhood. They met in homes to be sure, but ‘the church’ was simply a description of a called out group of people who continued in grace and lived as a fellowship community. The reason I emphasize this is because we grasp limited ideas of church and then we try and make others fit our ideas. The church at Antioch [and Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, etc.] will continue to maintain this basic identity all thru out the New Testament and well into the second century. The earliest archeological find of a ‘church building’ is found in the 3rd There was an inscription discovered that spoke of the ‘church’ meeting here. The ‘here’ was the home of a believer! [I think the find was ‘Europa/duropa’ or something to that effect]. The point here is I want you to see the original design of the church. Up until this point we see the early church evangelizing large regions by simply being led of the Spirit. The finances are simple, this chapter will end with the believers at Antioch pooling their resources to send relief to the church in Judea. It will be the beginnings of Paul’s ministry of relief that we read about in 1st Corinthians 16. This chapter says Prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Agabus prophesied of a famine to come, the church made arrangements to send relief to their brothers. One of the main Apostles at Jerusalem, James, will oversee a group of poor saints thru out his life. There is no early doctrine seen of rebuking the poor saints and teaching them how they were redeemed from poverty and the curse of Deuteronomy in a way that poverty was see as a sin. James will actually pen his letter and say ‘God chose the poor of this world [not just ‘poor’ in spirit] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom’ he will also rake the rich over the coals! The whole point is as we read the bible, we need to read it in context and allow the story to shape our views, not the other way around. This Antioch community received New Testament prophets, they did not view the verse in Hebrews ‘God spoke to us in the past by prophets, but in these last days by his Son’ they didn’t see this as meaning there were no more prophets. These believers were not tithing, they did not have a church building, not ordained clergy or ‘high church’ model. They were a vibrant bunch of grace believers who will be told they don’t have to keep the law to be saved! From this point forward, no New Testament church in scripture will lose this basic idea. Some will struggle [Galatians, Corinth] but the basic truth of ‘the church’ being the people of God justified freely by grace, will remain strong. They are still living a communal type of idea, and giving is still radical, done to meet the real needs of people, and is not a tithe!

 

  • ACTS 12- Herod kills James [not the brother of Jesus who is one of the lead Apostles at Jerusalem] and puts Peter in jail. The church has a prayer meeting for Peter and an angel goes into the cell and wakes Peter up. He leads him outside the city and frees him. Peter thinks it’s a vision and realizes it really is happening! Note how real their visions and dreams must have been, Peter at times can not determine fact from vision! He shows up at the prayer meeting and a girl named Rhoda hears a knock at the door. She asks ‘who is it’? He says ‘It’s me, Peter!’ She can’t believe it and leaves him standing at thee door! She tells the prayer group ‘it’s Peter’ they tell her ‘no way, maybe his angel?’ Funny, you can believe his angel showed up, but no way could the Lord deliver him from jail. At the end of this chapter we see the return of Paul and Barnabas after they brought the relief money to the saints at Jerusalem. It calls it ‘their ministry’. This early church did not see ‘the ministry’ as the actual business and the need to raise funds for the ‘church’. Now, it’s fine to pool your money for good cause’s with other believers. When I teach we are not ‘under the tithe’ this does not mean we shouldn’t support good ministries with 10 percent or more of our money. The point is, here we see Peter going back out to the field, Paul and Barnabas returning back from ‘the field’. Spontaneous prayer meetings. No set time or way to give offerings, just a true freedom of giving themselves away for the cause of Christ. Leadership does exist, but the normal function and flow of this church is not centered around ‘the Sunday Sabbath’ [EEK!] There is a real sense of this community of believers being led by the Spirit. It would be wrong to say ‘hey, Phillip went out on his own! He is not under the local church covering’! Or ‘now that we are back from Jerusalem, lets ask Pastor so and so [the supposed Pastor of the ‘church at Antioch’] what’s next’. There were no ‘Pastors’ in the sense of the fulltime Christian minister who oversees the ordinances on Sunday. Now, these developments will arise as the centuries progress. Many good Pastors and Priests will function this way for centuries. They will see the church ‘building’ as ‘the church’. Our Catholic brothers will begin to see ‘the altar’ as the actual place ‘in the church’ that Jesus Body is ‘re offered’ [presented] as a ‘bloodless sacrifice’ for the salvation of the world. All developments that are not seen in Acts. The point is, we limit the flow of Gods Spirit thru his people when we regress from ‘the true has now come’ [the whole reality of Jesus and the church being the real image of things. The law and it’s shadows were only an incomplete picture]. When we as believers go back to ‘the shadows’ thinking that form and ‘pictures of things’ [symbols] are the way we will touch the world, then we lose the reality of us being the actual people of God showing the world Christ thru our unselfish lives. Jesus said when the people of God love each other and lay their own desires and goals down for his Kingdom, then the world will see our actions and believe. Jesus did leave us memorials ‘do this in remembrance of me’ ‘as often as you do this you SHOW the Lords death till he come’. I do realize that the church does have an element of ‘presenting thru picture [art] the Lords death and resurrection’ [passion plays and so forth] but when we lose the real fellowship mentality of this first century church, we then lose the greatest picture of all. Being the actual functioning Body of Christ on earth. John writes ‘how can you say you love God, who you don’t see. When you can’t love your brother, who you do see?’ [1st John] the New Testament clearly shows us that the love we have in word and deed is the greatest ‘sacramental’ picture we can declare to the world. Our Catholic friends have a song ‘they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love’. I agree.

 

  • ACTS 13- The believers at Antioch were praying and fasting and the Holy Spirit said ‘separate me Paul and Barnabas unto the work which I have called them’. Then the whole group laid their hands on them and sent them out. Notice, there was not a singular authority figure who was the overseer of this church [community of believers]. It is important to see this, because when you share the oversight of a body of people with a plural team [Elders/Pastors- the title you use is insignificant] then there is less of a chance of one person becoming too elevated in the minds of the group. There is also a dynamic of the group coming to maturity as they see themselves as being able to ‘ordain-lay hands’ and send out. Now Paul and Barnabas begin their missionary journeys. At Paphos Paul casts blindness on a sorcerer and the chief deputy believes. At Antioch [Pisidia] they preach in the synagogue. Paul does a good Old Testament survey and mentions ‘Saul from the tribe of Benjamin’ as being part of Gods plan. I always wondered if Paul saw himself in this image [Saul from Benjamin]. Jesus did tell Ananias that Paul was a chosen vessel to bear his name. Notice also that Paul’s message saw the promise to David in Psalms ‘the sure mercies of David’ as being fulfilled thru Christ’s resurrection. The theme of the message was not ‘Jesus rule is delayed’ [dispensational teaching] but that thru Jesus the promises to the fathers have come to fruition. While it is true that the Jewish hearers will reject their Messiah as a people, yet this did not mean that the Kingdom was delayed or that the ‘church age’ was a parenthetical time until the ‘Kingdom age’ reconvenes. The whole tenor of Paul’s message is the reality that Jesus resurrection and being seated at Gods right hand is the promise being fulfilled that God made to the fathers. It is important to see his theme all thru out the Apostolic writings. The following week after Paul delivers his message, many gentiles come back to hear the word again. The leaders get jealous and Paul rebukes them. He tells them it was necessary for the Jews to have heard the word first, but then in fulfillment of the prophets, Jesus will be a light to the gentiles also. Paul and Barnabas sail off to Iconium next. An important theme in all the sermons in Acts is how the main message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Prophets. Paul tells them that they heard the readings from the prophets [Old Testament] every Sabbath day, but they also fulfilled the prophetic word by not being able to understand what the prophets were saying. So they crucified Jesus because of their blindness to the meaning of scripture. We need to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets. The ultimate end of our purpose. To become like him in every way. In today’s church world it is so easy to see the word and ‘church attendance’ as a means to self fulfillment. But we need to re focus on becoming more like him. I am sure it was a shock to Paul when he realized all the time and study he did as a Pharisee was missing the main intent of scripture. It was humiliating to find out that the simple men who became these followers of Christ were closer to the truth than the theological doctors of the day. Jesus said we must become like little children again in order to see Gods kingdom.

 

  • ACTS 14- Paul and Barnabas continue going thru different cities [Iconium, Lystra] Paul heals a man who was lame from birth and the whole city says ‘these men are gods who have come down in human form’. Paul barely stops them from offering sacrifices to them! In each city they travel to, they have a routine. They go into the synagogue and speak to the gathered. Both Jews and ‘God fearers’ [gentile followers] the pattern of some believing and others resisting becomes routine. Paul also has to deal with the Jews who were following him from past cities. They were sort of 1st century ‘apologists’ who made it their purpose to simply stop Paul. I want you to see that the ‘churches’ were the various groups of people who believed. They did gather together [Ecclesia] but they did not see ‘church’ as a place they went to for religious instruction. They did not start ‘gentile synagogues’ in competition with Judaism. Now Paul goes back thru the cities and at that point ‘ordains Elders in every church’. This is important to see. The ordaining of Elders was the simple process of seeing who had the maturity of understanding in the gospel and could be looked up to as a spiritual guide. Any questions or new converts in the towns would know ‘so and so’ is a responsible believer who Paul put his stamp of approval on. Why even do this? Remember, the enemies of Paul [Jewish law keepers] are going behind Paul’s back and trying to undo all the work that Paul was doing. Elders were gifted men who had the ability to push back against those whose ‘mouths must be stopped’ [Paul’s future language against false teachers]. These Elders were not full time Pastors in the modern sense. They were not singular authorities who ‘cover the flock’. They were not hired clergy! The reason why it is important to see this is because we want to stay as close as possible to the historic picture of the church as we read thru Act’s. These ‘local churches’ were caring communities of Christ followers who did have spiritual oversight that were to be respected and held in high esteem. Paul and Peter will teach the concept of giving honor to those who have spiritual accountability for you. But we can’t apply this to unbiblical forms of ecclesiology/hierarchy that will develop over the centuries. In Luther’s day many well meaning men felt Luther [the 16th century reformer] was rebelling against God ordained authority by going against the Pope. We need to understand that John the Apostle rebuked the rise of singular authorities who would seek to have the preeminence amongst Gods flock [Diotrephes- 3rd Jn]. Paul will warn the Ephesian church [later in Acts] that after his departure men would rise up seeking to make disciples after themselves. The point is any future use of the teaching of Elders/Pastors and the true responsibility to honor and submit to godly authority has to be seen in context with the complete story. While Luther’s [and Paul’s] critics could make the case that they were rebelling against God ordained authority, yet at the same time true revolution always carries an element of casting off old systems and restraint. Paul will confront Peter openly over his hypocrisy between treating Jewish believers different than Gentile believers. Peter was an Apostle before Paul and the argument could have been made ‘who does Paul think he is, going over the head of Peter’. So we need to see the biblical truth of God ordained leadership. The fact that many good Pastors and men of God have faithfully served Christ’s church. But we do not want to develop mindsets contrary to the freedom that we have in Christ while teaching the truth of godly leadership. Paul ordained ‘Elders’ on his way back thru Lystra and Iconium. He sails back to Antioch and recounts all the wonderful success that they had with the gentile believers. Antioch has this free flowing spirit amongst the church. They are gentiles and are not keeping the Jewish law. Paul and Barnabas were getting a reputation amongst the Jewish leadership in the cities and towns. Word gets back to Jerusalem and we will see whether Paul’s gospel will prevail before the ‘church authorities’? I believe we could describe Luther’s response before the Catholic church as fitting Paul’s spirit ‘unless I am persuaded by scripture I can not go against my conscience. Here I stand, I can do nothing else’.

 

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

 

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

 

  • ACTS 17- Paul heads to Thessalonica and preaches 3 Sabbath days in the synagogue. Once again the unbelieving Jews follow him and stir up trouble. Paul heads to Berea and speaks the word. The Bereans are said to be more noble because they heard Paul out and then searched the scriptures to see if he were telling the truth. The message he preached is that Jesus is the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke of. In 1st John, John says ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ Paul was showing them that Jesus was the Christ. Again trouble arises and Paul sails off to Athens and sends for Timothy and Silas later on. Now, Paul spent 3 weeks at Thessalonica. No huge budget, no message on ‘how can we reach Thessalonica without lots of money’ [I have heard it taught that you cant even begin to think about planting a church unless you have $250,000 dollars!] Paul believed in the power of the gospel. It took 3 weeks of simply sharing the gospel to plant this church! He will write them a few letters and give them some instruction, but the simple truth is every believer has the ability to ‘plant churches’ [speaking the gospel to people groups and those people believing and becoming ‘the church’]. At Athens Paul is troubled by all the ‘superstition’ [religion]. He runs into the philosophers. It said the people there spent all their time in either telling or hearing some new thing. An ancient form of ‘the view’ [the television show where the ladies talk about nothing all day long!] So Paul disputes with them and uses their own altar to ‘the unknown God’ and declares Christ unto them. Recently a Catholic priest made headlines because he advocated for Christians to use the name Allah instead of God. He felt the name was referring to the same God. Does Paul’s use of the ‘unknown God altar’ fall into this category? No. When any religion names their god and defines him, then this god is a false god [unless your speaking of the true God]. So in this case Paul was simply saying ‘this altar to the God you don’t know, I will show you how to come to know him’. Now, why were these philosophers in Athens? A few centuries before Christ you had the rule of Alexander the great. The Old Testament prophet Daniel speaks in detail of his rule. Alexander ruled one of the greatest empires known to man. He established the greatest library of the ancient world. He made Greek the common language. This is why the New Testament was written in Greek. Though Rome was the ruling empire of Jesus day, the culture was still Greek to a degree. This is called ‘Hellenization’. The Greeks even translated the Old Testament into Greek before the days of Christ. This translation is called the Septuagint, which means 70. This comes from the supposed number of scholars who worked on the translation. This period just prior to Christ was the time of the great philosophers. Plato, Aristotle and others. These Philosophers laid down a foundation of sorts for morality and the cultures that would develop down the road. The church fathers disagreed somewhat to the degree of mixing Christian faith with the thought of the pre Christian philosophers. Origen thought these men were Christian to the degree that God used them to instill types of thought and belief in the immortality of the soul and other concepts as a precursor to Christ. Others thought they were competing worldviews for the religion of Christianity and should be rejected. Paul himself will write the Colossians and warn them of the philosophies of men. Many thinkers were affected by the ‘new age’ concepts that came from these groups. Augustine, the great 4th-5th century Bishop from North Africa was into Manichaeism prior to his conversion to Christianity. He eventually would sit under the sound teaching of Ambrose and leave his former ideas. These groups had strange beliefs and concepts that would sound like the scientology adherents of our day. Others were not as drastic but would still be seen as on the verge of Christian truth. Marcion was sort of in this class. The point is Paul will take advantage of the philosopher’s willingness to delve into all types of ideas, and use this as an open door to preach Christ. Some breakaway groups from the more Orthodox churches will claim that the Catholic churches belief in the immortality of the soul is not scriptural. These groups teach that the ancient church picked these beliefs up from the philosophers of the day [some of the seventh day brothers say this]. You also find some Protestant brothers challenge the authenticity of various bible translations based on the Septuagint translation from ancient Greece. The church father Jerome will use the Septuagint in his popular translation of the Latin Vulgate. Some Protestants see Jerome’s version as less than pure. This is also why the Catholic bibles have the Apocrypha in them [The books between Malachi and Matthew that the Protestant bibles don’t have]. When Jerome translated his vulgate, he brought these books over from the Septuagint version. Jerome did put an asterisk next to the apocryphal books, he noted they were included from the Septuagint, but were not seen as authoritative. Simply added for historical content]. So we see the tremendous influence that Greek culture and philosophy played in the early stages of the church. Paul knew their thought, but his gospel was founded on more than some new belief system. Paul claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead!

 

  • ACTS 18- Paul goes to Corinth, he meets Aquila and Priscilla. They are all tent makers and he stays with them and does some manual labor! Poor Paul, he just didn’t understand that when we read earlier in Acts, that the Apostles at Jerusalem devoted themselves to prayer and the word, that this meant they were in ‘full time ministry’. I am being sarcastic! The point is Paul did not see his very gifted apostolic ministry as a ‘ministry’ that would be run like a modern business. He certainly did not see manual labor as some type of lack of faith. In today’s environment you can ask a brother ‘how are you supporting yourself’ and many times the answer is ‘we are a faith ministry’ kind of saying ‘I don’t work, but I ask for money’ [Ouch!]. Now, Paul will say it’s good to meet the material needs of laboring elders/pastors, but don’t develop more into it than this. At Corinth Paul teaches for a year and a half, one of the longest recorded stays at any of his ‘churches’ [cities with believers in them]. He goes to Ephesus and back to Antioch. Then makes a tour of the cities where he originally preached. Basically going back and strengthening the churches. The Lord speaks again to Paul in a vision while at Corinth, he says ‘don’t be afraid to speak, no one will lay a hand on you. I have lots of people here’. Simple encouragement by divine means. Why, or how Christians can develop doctrines that say ‘these things don’t happen any more’ is beyond me. At Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla hear a great preacher. His name is Apollos and he is very well spoken. He is also limited in his understanding of the gospel. They take him and ‘expound unto him the way of God more perfectly’. It took humility on both sides for this to happen. Over the years I have had good friends who were/are pastors. As the Body of Christ goes thru transition it is becoming very well known that the development of the full time clerical office of Pastor was really not a scriptural development. Sort of like realizing during the reformation that there were limited teachings from the church that were simply wrong. As the people of God become more aware of ‘the more perfect’ things [more mature understanding on stuff] there is a humility that needs to be present in order for the proper change to occur. In many cities across the nation [and world] there are structures of church and practice that are limited. As Gods people [both pastors and parishioners] see this, then there is a process of change that occurs. In the more limited ‘churches’ you have scenarios where well meaning men often rebuke any freedom of growth along the lines of ‘I am your pastor, your role is to come to the Sunday [they view it as some type of Sabbath] service, pay your tithe to the storehouse [which they actually see as the church building!] and any rebellion against this order is like rebelling against Moses in the wilderness!’ Now, all good pastors obviously are not like this, but there are more situations that fit this example than you realize. So like Apollos [a good public speaking ministry- Pastor] he simply had to go thru a stage of seeing things at a deeper level. Simply submitting to the gifts that exist in the Body of Christ and being humble enough to learn. After Apollos learns, he is even stronger than he was before!

 

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

 

  • ACTS 20- Paul travels with some brothers on the journey. This mode of visiting different regions and bringing brothers with him is exciting! They are truly seeing the Kingdom of God becoming established in the earth. Scripture says ‘they broke bread on the first day of the week’ we read later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that when they met on the ‘first day of the week’ he asked them to take up a collection before he arrived [so he could take the money and meet the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem]. Do we see here some type of Sunday Sabbath, that is the ‘church day to pay tithes’ so you don’t get cursed? Of course not. You are seeing the simple practical outworking of a people who are becoming the people of God. It’s fine to meet on a Sunday and to ‘break bread’. Hey, the group needs to know when to meet for the meal! But don’t develop liturgical/sacramental ideas out of this. You say ‘hooray for John [me], he is really giving it to those Catholics’ well, don’t say hooray yet. Now he calls for the Elders at Ephesus to come to Miletus so he can give them some instructions and a farewell. This address from Paul is one of the best in the New Testament. He covers the basics for leadership and church growth. Now, he tells them ‘all the time I was with you guys I was upright. I taught you publicly and from house to house. I showed you repentance toward God and faith towards Jesus Christ. I worked and did not covet your money. I did this to prove I was not there to gain financially from you. To give you an example as Elders yourselves, so you would not see the responsibility of oversight thru a covetous mindset. Beware! After I leave you there will be an attempt by the enemy to undo the work of the Cross. Some men, even from your own group will rise up and speak twisted doctrines. They will try to become eminent in the group, drawing away disciples after themselves. Don’t become sidetracked and become followers of men! Guard the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Feed them Gods good word’. Paul lays down strong guidelines here. He actually teaches the elders that he worked when he was among them to leave this example of leaders not seeing ministry as a means to get gain. In one of his future letters [Timothy or Thessalonians?] he actually says this ‘working’ that he did was a tradition for them to keep. He said this in context of those who refused to work. Very strong indeed. Peter also will teach the Elders to take oversight of Gods flock ‘not for money, but out of a pure motive’. In the wars that rage over ‘simple church’ versus the modern 501c3 model, both sides have shot at each other wrongfully at times. There are very intelligent brothers who will take this chapter and teach that the modern Pastor has fallen into the trap of ‘making disciples after themselves’. They see the development of the role of Pastor as becoming the fulfillment of this. Now, I do see some merit to this, but I see most pastors [all the ones I know and have known personally over the years] as Elders who are striving to help Gods People. I see a real need for all leadership to see that ministry is not a fulltime clergy type office that has developed over the centuries! Paul is simply addressing the Elders [more mature ones- in the gospel, not necessarily old!] and showing them that their purpose is to help the people of God grow in grace and make it to a place of self sufficiency in Christ. Paul is pretty much laying down the gauntlet that leadership is not some ticket of ‘now that I am in ministry, my income comes from the God ordained tithe’. This is never taught as a means of support for New testament ministers. These ideas have developed out of the Old Testament idea of the tithe supporting the Levitical Priests. In the New Covenant all are Priests and we don’t practice this type of thing. But Paul does teach that it’s good to support materially [financially] those who are feeding you spiritual food. He does teach ‘don’t muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn’ [he called us ox’s!] seriously, he lays down the biblical guideline of supporting those who minister the word. But it is important to see he was not establishing some type of clergy system, the fact that he was working while with these Ephesians and actually used this as an example for OTHER ELDERS as well as the believers shows you this. All in all the main point Paul is getting across is he wants the basic truth of the gospel to prevail and he does not want top heavy leadership to come in and draw away disciples after them. That is for strong gifted leaders to become the main focus of these Ephesian believers. So this chapter is important because we see Paul address these elders that he has been ‘ordaining’ in the churches [groups of believers]. We see the basic character and function of these men. We see the warning that cults will arise. In Paul’s day groups did come forth from the basic Christian communities [Gnostics and Docetists] that had a basic understanding of certain Christian things, but would deny the reality of Jesus. Paul bids them Farwell as they all embrace on the shoreline. The Elders were heartbroken over Paul’s words that he will probably see them no more. He wanted to keep the upcoming feast at Jerusalem and eventually preach at Rome. He was on this obsession to carry this gospel to the seat of the empire, even if it means his life.

 

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

 

  • ACTS 22- Paul makes his case before the Jews at Jerusalem. As he speaks in Hebrew, they give him special attention. We learned earlier [Acts 6] that Hebrew speaking Jews were looked upon as better than non Hebrew speakers. Paul tells the Jewish people that he too used to be zealous of the law and also hated the new movement of Messiah. He informs them that he was raised under Gamaliel’s school of Phariseeism! You had different schools of learning, even within the class of the Pharisees, Paul was what you would call a Harvard man. He explains that on his previous trip to Damascus he encountered Jesus. He gives his conversion testimony, which by the way contains most of the elements of all the various conversion accounts in Acts ‘arise, be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord’. Paul was such an anti Christian that the Lord made sure he would cover all the angles![and also be received amongst all the different groups of believers thru out the church who will claim strong baptism verses, or calling on the Lord verses. In essence you can find in him the varied experiences of believers thru out the centuries]. Now Paul recounts how after his conversion he had a vision in the Temple at Jerusalem. He has his audience captivated until he says how Jesus appeared to him and told him to go to the gentiles. This was too much for the elite Jewish mind to grasp. The people chant ‘away with him’ they want him killed! As the soldiers are getting ready to beat him some more, he says ‘is it lawful for you to beat a Roman citizen like this?’ Paul was quite a guy, he used any advantage he had to win the argument. The soldier’s enquire how he obtained Roman citizenship, he tells them he was ‘free born’. All people under the rule of Rome were not Roman citizens. The region of Judea and the area of Jesus and his men were considered the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ Galileans were a low class. Most scholars believe Jesus spoke Aramaic, the language from his area. Paul was the first out this bunch of radical followers who had an upper class image. His pedigree was good. He surprised his opponents by having a good education and being a Roman citizen. Paul also wrote [Corinthians] how not many noble and educated people were chosen by the Lord. It wasn’t because the lord didn’t want the upper class folk! It was the fact that education and ‘class’ can be such obstacles in the minds of those who posses it. It’s the sin of pride. Also in this chapter Paul describes his vision at the temple as ‘being in a trance’ the same language used of Peter in chapter 10. A trance is a different type of experience. St. Thomas Aquinas, considered by many to be the most intellectual apologist of the latter middle ages [scholastic period] shared experiences he had right before his death. He would call them ‘being in a state of ecstasy’. These were sort of ‘trances’ where he would experience the presence of God so mightily that he would describe it as almost unbearable. He would say that the Lord revealed so much to him during these times that all he had ever written or taught in the past seemed trivial compared to what he was ‘seeing’ during these events. Paul himself will write about being caught up into the 3rd heaven and not knowing whether he was in the body or out of it. He would say he saw things that were impossible to explain in human words. In this chapter Paul says Jesus appeared to him at the beginning of his journey, it seems as if this wasn’t the only time he saw the Lord.

 

  • ACTS 23- Paul continues his defense before the council and chief priests. He realizes that the council is divided ‘politically/religiously’ along the lines of the Pharisees versus the Sadducees. Though these were both religious groups who were Jewish, yet they had major disagreements. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or spirit or angels [why in the heck would you even want to be religious if you rejected these things? ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die’! The philosophies that rose out of the enlightenment era and the French revolution were based on ‘nihilism’ the idea of having no moral compass. The rise of Marxism and other communist expressions of Government had good intentions at times! The problem was they espoused the atheistic philosophies of the time and ultimately this leads to a total loss of purpose and meaning. Though these philosophers tried to say that religion and the ‘God delusion’ were the cause of all the ills of society, there grand scheme would ultimately lead to forms of human government that disrespected human life. Hitler of course was an extreme example. He did embrace eugenics, the idea that the stronger races will eventually win and the weaker races/classes will die off. He simply thought he was speeding up the process by exterminating Jews. Though the philosophers of the enlightenment fall into different groups. Some for example did believe in deism and they felt God could be proved from natural means. Others saw religion as the ‘opiate of the people’ and ultimately did disgrace unto the human race!] The Pharisees believed in resurrection. So good old Paul stands up and says ‘I am a Pharisee, and the very reason I am in trouble is because I believe in the hope of the resurrection’ Paul knew how to ‘triangulate’ [politically]. Well of course the Pharisees say ‘well, we see nothing wrong with this man. If an angel or spirit appeared to him, then Gods will be done’. So the group splits. Paul is put under guard and eventually appeals to the next step. The authorities send him to Governor Felix in Caesarea for the next appeal. Why is it important to see the legal maneuverings of Paul? Jesus even appears to him again and says ‘you will testify of me in Rome’. The religious leaders of the 1st century did all they could to not report the facts of the early followers of Christ. The gospels tell us that they even resorted to outright lying to cover up the fact of the resurrection. Paul’s interjection into the legal arena caused there to be a written record of these events! The historians of the day were covering the legal events of the day. The record of Jesus and his followers would be forever imbedded in the historic records of the time. God wanted Paul in this system as a sure testimony of the witness of Christ’s resurrection. We end the chapter with Paul waiting at Caesarea for the accusers to come and make their case.

 

  • ACTS 24- Paul’s accusers come down from Jerusalem. They hired a lawyer [orator] to accuse him! Tertullus gives a speech to the Governor that could be defined as the classic political ‘suck up’ speech of all time. Paul defends himself and says ‘I am not guilty of these so called accusations. But I am guilty of believing the law and the prophets. I believe that what they spoke of [the shadows] have happened! I believe in the resurrection. Jesus has fulfilled the promises of the prophets!’ I had a discussion with a good friend the other day. We have a mutual friend who is really into Messianic stuff. He has espoused the idea that the feasts and images of Israel are EXACT PICTURES that give us a detailed road map to Christ’s return. Basically the friend believes that all the shadows and images are exact descriptions of all future events. I shared with my friend that I too believe that the feasts of Israel are prophetic signs of things. Surely Passover and Pentecost have had great meaning for the people of God. Paul says ‘Christ our Passover died for us’. Some see the end time feast of the latter harvest as having future fulfillment in the ingathering of the nations to Christ. I have taught some of this on the radio before. The problem with this other stuff is it takes the feasts and shadows and tries to ‘detail’ every little thing. Paul understood the prophets and law having been fulfilled thru the present work of Christ and his resurrection. I can’t stress enough how the apostolic witness in Acts sees Jesus as the fulfillment of these things. They do not preach a heavily nationalistic [Jewish] message, though they are all Jews! [The Apostles] As Paul defends himself, the governor listens and trembles! Paul spoke of judgment and temperance and the reality of a future resurrection of the just and unjust. The basic apostolic message as seen in the classic creeds of the church. Paul will sit under house arrest for 2 years until another person takes over Felix’s position. The guy’s name is ‘Porcius festus’ [I think I would prefer the name Judas over Porcius!] We end the chapter with Paul waiting to give another witness of Jesus before another ruler. The legal problems of Paul were Gods providence to give Paul opportunity to speak the gospel all the way up the chain. The chain ends at Rome.

 

 

(765)ACT 25- Festus hears the Jews at Jerusalem, they want him to bring Paul to Jerusalem. Festus goes back to Caesarea and asks Paul ‘why don’t you go back with me’? Paul appeals to Caesar! Of course going to Rome was part of the plan. Now King Agrippa [another one of the many ruling authorities that Rome had over the people!] comes to Caesarea and Festus tells him about Paul. Agrippa will get a strong word in the next chapter. Also the Jews come down from Jerusalem and accuse Paul of many things. I want to make a note here. In the area of apologetics, which we do a lot of, you need to be careful that you don’t jump on the bandwagon of unfounded accusations. There are and have been real doctrinal heresies that needed to be dealt with, but some of the apologists really get personal. Even calling family members degrading names! In Paul’s case he had accusations that were not true. He does defend himself against the false ones, but also admitted that he believes in Christ’s resurrection and that this is considered heresy among certain Jews. Paul’s main message was Christ and the resurrection! As we get ready to close our study in a few more days, I want to recap the importance of seeing Jesus and his fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets as the main message of the Apostles. This early teaching by the Apostles needs to be the ‘tradition’ if you will, once again. We [believers] have a tendency to delve deeply into all sorts of stuff. Paul will warn his spiritual sons ‘don’t get lost in endless genealogies and debates about the law’ and Hebrews says ‘it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats [legalistic doctrines] which have been unprofitable to those who have gone that route’. Now, you guys know I believe in correct doctrine, and Paul wasn’t advocating ‘no doctrine’. But it is easy to get lost in endless debates that lead to nowhere. Ultimately our goal is to present every man perfect in Christ. Paul will stick with this message all the way to Rome!

 

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

 

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

 

  • ACTS 28- After the shipwreck they wind up on an island called Melita. Paul meets the barbarous people and they welcome him. During a bon fire type thing, Paul is collecting wood and a poisonous snake bites him. The people think ‘surely this man is a murderer and ‘vengeance’ got him!’ Notice the fact that moral/natural law was imbedded in the consciences of these savage like people. Where in the world did they come up with such an idea of right and wrong and justice? The atheists say ‘well, all people simply come up with some type of code to live by. This is really not proof for moral law’. The Christian answers ‘so how come you never find some isolated tribe who rewards murder and punishes goodness’! Now, I realize there are distant tribes who practice violent stuff. The point is in all of these societies, there is a basic right and wrong that is honored. If the tribe is violent, they still don’t reward the cowardly killing of one of their own kids! These savages had the built in conscience of moral law that Paul teaches in Romans. Now after Paul doesn’t get sick or die from the bite, they ‘change their minds’ and say he is a god! People are fickle. Paul heals the father of the chief of the island, a small healing revival breaks out. Paul demonstrates the power of the gospel in word and deed. Even today, in many 3rd world countries you see healings and miraculous signs along with the preaching of the gospel. They launch off and land in a few more spots and finally make it to Rome! Paul calls the Jewish leaders and makes his familiar defense. He lists the accusations against him and defends himself. He thought the whole Jewish world knew about the gossip! The leaders tell him ‘we haven’t heard any stuff about you, but tell us more about this sect’. Leaders, don’t make the mistake of defending yourself over personal stuff from the pulpit! Often time’s people don’t now what you are talking about. Paul does set up a day and teaches the Jews in Rome from morning till evening showing them all the scriptures that testify of Jesus in the Law of Moses and the prophets. He ‘testified of the Kingdom of God and Christ’ [they go hand in hand!] Some Jews believe, others don’t. Paul then quotes the most quoted verse from the Old Testament in the New Testament ‘Isaiah was right about you! Having eyes you can’t see, ears you can’t hear…’ Luke ends the chapter [and book] with Paul living 2 years in a rented room and preaching the kingdom of God to all who will listen. Paul finished his days infecting the capitol city of the empire with the gospel! Church history tells us that Paul [and Peter] were martyred under Nero’s persecution. John [the apostle] writes about the beast making war against the saints and killing them. No wonder why the early church called Nero ‘the beast’. Paul writes one of his best letters to the Roman saints and the church will forever have an ‘eternal witness’ in the city of Rome. Paul got his wish.

 

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

 

 

[These next 3 are out of order, I penned them during our study in Acts but wanted to separate them from the study]

 

  • ZECHARIAH 3:4 ‘I HAVE CAUSED THINE INIQUITY TO PASS FROM THEE, AND I WILL CLOTHE THEE WITH CHANGE OF RAIMENT’. SPECIAL NOTE- I have been hesitating to break into our study in Acts. But I felt the Lord wanted to do a few prophetic things. The other morning I woke up and did the usual prayer, study and writing. I basically read and meditate for an hour or so. Then I pray for an hour and teach [write/make radio stuff] for an hour or so. This usually starts at around 3:30 am and by 8:00 or so I have done all the teaching. Some days I just wait on the Lord and rest. I will spend the day just praying, more like being in the yard and not reading or doing any outward stuff. It feels like a ‘prayer day’ when this happens. I felt the Lord communicate the verse ‘in the day I deliver you from all of your iniquities I will cause you to dwell in the CITIES and the wastes shall be built’. I have memorized this years ago. At around 3:00 p.m., after sort of sensing the whole day as kind of an offshoot of this verse. Sort of just resting and not putting your hand to the ‘cart’ [trying to figure things out or make stuff happen]. I prayed ‘Lord, show me a miracle right now’ [hey, sometimes this does work!] I really didn’t expect one to be honest. But at that moment a page from some paper flew over the roof and into my yard. I immediately got up and thought ‘I bet this thing is prophetic’. Stuff like this has happened before. The paper was an old page torn out of some tourist magazine, on one side it had every city in the state of Texas just listed with no explanation. Of course I just spent the whole day praying about having an effect in all these cities! Many of the cities I was naming were right there in print. Of course stuff like this could be a coincidence, but try it yourself and see how long it takes for a page to blow in your yard? A few verses ‘THIS MAN IS LIKE A STICK [BRANCH] PLUCKED OUT OF THE FIRE’ ‘I have taken away your iniquity, I will clothe you in clean clothes’ these are references to Joshua the high priest [not the other Joshua!] in Zechariah 3. The Lord rebukes satan who was standing at his right hand to resist him. Joshua was also standing and fulfilling his priestly purpose. The Lord allows him to function initially in a state of uncleanness. He is doing it by the righteousness of God. The resistance is coming as a direct result of him fulfilling the purpose of God. The filthy clothes and the resistance of the enemy are direct results of his calling and purpose. The enemy has spent extra time trying to soil his garments. The Lord supernaturally removes his iniquity in a day. It also says the nation’s iniquity was removed at the same time. The corporate purpose of God was fulfilled thru his ministry at the same time he experienced individual cleansing [Paul Cain and others who represent the former times?] the Lord puts a turban on his head and he fulfils his purpose in God. I simply felt like the lord was speaking to many of us at this season, he is going to do a ‘sudden work of cleansing’ on many of his prophetic voices as a precursor to his corporate purpose in the earth.

 

  • ZECHARIAH 3:7 ‘IF THOU WILT WALK IN MY WAYS AND KEEP MY CHARGE, THEN THOU SHALT JUDGE MY HOUSE AND SHALL ALSO KEEP MY COURTS, AND I WILL GIVE THEE PLACES TO WALK AMONG THESE THAT STAND BY’- I felt like the Lord was saying to take advantage of this special season of change. Sort of like the Lord saying to Abraham ‘if thou will obey me’. God is saying it’s up to you to avail yourself freely of this time of grace that he is making available. The imagery of the ‘stick/branch plucked from the fire’[Zechariah 3] fits with the study we did in Genesis. Jacobs blessing on Joseph was he would ‘be like a bough planted by a well whose branches go over the wall [influence beyond the ‘wall’ group you associate with]. The archers shot at you [Joseph] but did not prevail. Yet your bow prevailed and I strengthened your arms’. Also the blessing on Judah ‘the scepter shall not depart from Judah [the authority to carry out the mission at this time] nor a lawgiver from between his feet [the means by which he communicates the message thru you] unto him shall the gathering of the people be [many will come to see this new strange work] and his hand shall be on the neck of his enemy [the evil one will lose authority] and as a young lion [the youth will play a major role!] he shall crouch down and go up from the prey’. In this chapter [Zechariah 3] Joshua is a type of Christ who is THE BRANCH. Jesus is the vine/bough [John 15] planted next to the spring/well, he ‘grows’ thru out the earth. Of course we are his body [‘ye are the branches’ Jn. 15] so the well of life giving water in us will be life to the nations. I felt like the Lord was saying this is a set time for many of us to access the flow that is going forth at this time and be a part of ‘the man whose name is the branch, he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord’. NOTE- Because I have been doing a chapter by chapter study in the book of Acts, I haven’t shared prophetic stuff in a while. I recently had a few dreams that I felt were significant. I dreamt again, for the second time, that I was laying hands on a Catholic bishop and he was being filled powerfully with the Spirit. I feel this speaks of God doing a special work amongst the Catholics. I also dreamt Billy Graham, I can’t recall everything about it. But he does represent a sort of passing of the torch from our father’s generation to the next. This could signify the younger generation that God is going to use in this next step.

 

  • ISAIAH 22:23- I took a 3 day excursion away from our study in the book of Acts, this should be it for now ‘AND I WILL FASTEN HIM AS A NAIL IN A SURE PLACE’. In our look at the ‘stick/branch’ verses in Zechariah, I felt the Lord wanted us to mention this as well. The stick plucked out of the fire [Zechariah 3] was dressed in dirty clothes and yet continued to stand and perform his function as God required. The resistance he was feeling was a direct result of his prophetic calling [priestly]. The fact that he was ‘plucked’ from the fire speaks of him having been in a place of judgment/purging. Jesus spoke of sacrifices being purged with fire. Joshua [the priest who is referred to as ‘the stick/brand’] will eventually be like ‘the nail in a secure place’ some versions say ‘tent stake/peg’ [stick!] God has allowed you to go thru a purging/burning period of your life. The fact that your ‘rod will bud’ [divine production] in itself will be a sign to others. When the rod budded as a sign under Moses leadership, it was a stick that was ‘from dry ground’. That is a plain stick without any roots. Isaiah says this about Christ ‘root out of a dry ground’. The fact that many of you have been thru this process has qualified you to be ‘a peg/stake in a secure place’. Everything that God will produce thru you at this point will obviously be a work of divine grace, there will be no other way to explain it! Also we quoted ‘if you walk in my ways AND keep my commands, then you will judge my house and keep my courts and have a place among these’. I felt like the Lord was speaking ‘process and conduct’. Some of you [us!] have had process; you knew the ways/methods of the Lord, but lacked conduct. Others had good conduct, but had no vision or purpose. God wants to tear down old methods [processes] that have hindered your walk. He wants to uproot demonic strongholds in your thought processes. Don’t be deceived! The renewing of your mind is not a legalistic work of you trying to change your own thoughts. Scripture says ‘you who were enemies and alienated IN YOUR MINDS by wicked works, now hath he reconciled thru the body of his flesh by death’ the work of redemption is what reconciles your mind. Jesus blood didn’t just ‘save your spirit’ but you now have to redeem your own mind. Jesus blood radically affected your mind! Renewing your mind means living and acting out based on this truth of grace! As you meditate on the Cross and the grace of God, then the stronghold of the enemy will be rooted out. At that point you will also have ‘good conduct’. ‘Commit your works unto the Lord and your thoughts will be established’ God will plant you like a tent stake that is secure for expansion. ‘Strengthen thy stakes and lengthen thy cords, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left… your seed will inherit the gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited’ Isaiah.

 

  • JUDGES 1-2 This part of the story of Israel’s walk with God is a stage where God ‘raised them up judges’. When God initiates divine leadership, it works. Don’t confuse the act of God with the ideas of men. There will come a time where Israel tells God ‘we want a king like the other nations’ and God says by asking this they rejected his headship over them. Being we are coming off of our study in Acts, I want you to see these judges thru the lens of God ordained Elders [leaders]. In Acts, God used men. He even allowed Paul to tell the Christians ‘ordain [recognize] elders in every city’. So it is fine to have a recognized leader in the community [actually in Acts it’s ‘leaders’ plural!] Now the children of Israel ask the Lord ‘who should go up first?’ and the Lord says ‘Judah’. Remember, Jacob blessed Judah and said ‘the scepter shall not depart from Judah’ Judah [praise] is ordained for battle! They start inheriting the land and they leave a remnant of the old ‘ites’ in the land. They basically are so excited about the amount of ground they are covering, that they fail to maintain what God is giving them! ‘Strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die’ REVELATION. An angel rebukes them in chapter 2 for failing to fully [with all their heart] follow the Lord. Caleb’s daughter asks Caleb ‘you have given me a southland, give me also springs of water’. Let’s read this thru the eyes of ‘LECTIO DIVINA’ , an ancient way of reading scripture in a devotional sense. You basically try to hear God personally speak to you thru the text. This ‘way’ of reading is not in context, you shouldn’t develop doctrines from it, but it is useful for personal stuff. I just finished praying for ‘the southland’, all the regions in South Texas that we are reaching out to. I [we] need ‘springs of water to go along with the land’. Paul said we can plant and claim and confess all day long, but if Gods Spirit doesn’t fall [water] we will never see a harvest! Israel catches a king on the run and chops off his big toes and thumbs. The king says ‘God paid me back, I too have done this to other kings’. What’s up with this? Basically the guy without thumbs and toes is simply surviving. He can fetch you some water, hold the bucket and all. Or walk around and be your ‘go- for’ guy. But don’t dare try and wield one of those heavy swords, it will come out of your hand! Or don’t try any quick foot moves, you will fall in an instant. The enemy wants to ‘immobilize you’. Give you a retirement mentality ‘sit back and worry about whether or not you have enough resources to make it to 76 and die’. Geez, get up out of that Lazy boy and act like you got some big toes and thumbs! The Israelites also catch some guy fleeing one of the cities and they make him tell them how to get into the city. They then raid the city and take it. Work smarter, not harder! Sometimes we have the mindset of ‘If we just had more money we could change the world’ they could have beat on the walls of the city all day, hired guys to bang on it with hammers! But once God shows you the entrance [key to get in] it goes much smoother. God can knock the walls down [Jericho] but seek him for the process he wants to give to you. Don’t assume the pattern that so and so used will automatically work for you. Don’t confuse the goal [taking the city] with the procedures of the past. God just might want to give you a secret entrance into the city, and you are praying for ‘more wall breakers’ [didn’t me to be crude!].

 

  • JUDGES 3- The Lord allows the enemies to remain partly in the land to ‘prove [test] the children who saw not the wars of Canaan’. God allowed the younger generation to learn what it meant to overcome some stuff. We live in a day where many believers are used to sitting in ‘church’ and being passive listeners their whole lives. They are all good people, it’s just they have never really learned how to war. To go out on their own and experience the kingdom. God taught the younger generation how to war. They cried unto the Lord during their oppression and the lord raised up Othniel. [Just a note, the way I do all our teaching (radio/blog) is I read the stuff ahead of time and when I teach I do it from memory. So sometimes you will see a misspelled name!] He is the younger brother of Caleb and he delivers the people. They soon back slide after his death and Eglon, the ‘fat king’ of Moab oppresses them. The Lord raises up Ehud. Notice the Lord is raising these judges up from the community! [Like the elders in Acts]. These judges experienced the same oppression as all the people around them. They lived with the complaints and bitterness of a people oppressed ‘geez, what does Eglon want now!’ The deliverers also didn’t carry all the weight, they simply showed the people that it’s possible to stand up for yourself and fight! Ehud goes to Eglon with ‘a present’ [tribute, the payment for being under him. But Ehud’s present doesn’t end there!] Ehud enters the king’s chamber. He says ‘I have a secret message from God for you’ and Eglon thinks he is going to get a little something extra. He does. Ehud takes his dagger out and shoves it all the way into Eglons fat belly! The handle and all. He escapes thru the porch and locks the doors behind him. He runs back to Israel and blows a trumpet and all the people descend upon Moab and slaughter 10 thousand mighty warriors. God gave them peace for 80 years. The description is graphic. The reason why Eglon is described as ‘fat’ is to show how this rule of lethargy and gluttony was suffocating God’s people. It took a risky, radical act of one man to say ‘I have had enough of this guy, I don’t care if I get killed, I am going to take him down!’ Sometimes it takes radical action to overthrow the spirit of mammon off of Gods people [you fight covetousness, not people!] After the violent [prophetic] act of Ehud, the people gained enough courage to cast the entire ruling nation of Moab off of them. Sometimes God will raise up a singular voice [John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness] to stir up the people to action. The individual can’t do it alone [he might take down an Eglon] but the people have to cast off the oppressors themselves [or at least finish the job].

 

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

 

  • PATRICKS STORY! This is a testimony from the prayer request section. Patrick is my sisters boyfriend. He is around ten years younger than me [I am 45 right now] my sister is a few years older than me. I have no other siblings. Patrick has struggled with drug addiction for many years. My sister became an addict at a young age and has been on the Methadone treatment stuff for years. Most addicts that are on Methadone [a manmade form of ‘heroin’] say it’s worse than the real thing. They often do both at the same time. Being on the ‘maintenance program’ basically means you are addicted to the drug. It eventually ruins your mind. My sister has had dramatic effects from the drug, she comes off as someone with severe mental problems. I met Patrick a few years back on one of my visits back to Jersey. He hung out with me for a week or so, we visited different churches on Sunday and just became buddies. I taught him stuff about the Lord. He is very smart, watches all the shows from the history channel and stuff. Was also aware of all the skeptics arguments against God. I basically gave him the other side. Though I never actually ‘led him to the Lord’ I realized he was affected by my visit. I really only saw him one more time after that. I spoke to him a few times over the phone, but I could tell he was like ‘one of my sons’ [referring to all the brothers that I have known over the years]. There was that ‘brotherhood connection’ that started. Well about 2 weeks ago when I was talking to my mom on the phone, I asked how Patrick was [he lives in my old house where I grew up as a boy in Jersey]. She admitted to me that he overdosed pretty bad and has been in the hospital for a few weeks. He was off of drugs for a while and was doing very good. He was attending the N.A. meetings [that’s the equivalent of A.A. for addicts] and was doing well. My mom told me how they thought he was dead when he was found, he was put on a respirator, had damage to his lungs and his kidneys quit working. I immediately knew his chances were slim. I have had friends die from overdoses before. When you are at this point your odds are not good! So I told my mom I would put him on the prayer list on this blog and we’ll see what happens. To be honest I thought he was gonna die. During this time I happened to do a study from Zechariah 3 and Isaiah 22 [you can go back 5 or so entries from here and find them]. The verses in these chapters include ‘your sons shall be as signs’ and ‘this iniquity shall not pass from you until you die’ [ouch!] I wasn’t looking for ‘signs’ so to speak, but when stuff like this happens it’s hard to ignore! Also during these few weeks I had 2 cats die and a strange appearing of a beautiful red cardinal [bird] in my yard. I have only seen a few down here over the years. I don’t think I have ever seen one in my yard before? Well I felt the bird might have represented ‘new life’ it could have meant my friend died, or maybe a second chance. I remember hearing the testimony of Joel Osteen’s mom, how before her husband died [John] she noticed this pretty bird at her window as she did the dishes. Then after a year or so it stopped coming around. When John died she felt lonely, and sure enough one day the bird showed up. She saw it as a sign from the Lord. So as I prayed for Patrick, he became part of the brotherhood of friends I regularly pray over. Also my mom had told me how when they first saw him at the hospital he was asking ‘where’s John’. My mom thought this strange, like why would someone who is on his deathbed, half conscious and half awake, ask for her son. I knew the connection thru the prayers and few visits over the years was real. Also he was in between life and death and I was doing the early morning prayers. It’s like if you are on the verge of dying and someone else is regularly interceding for you, you really can’t pass on without ‘permission’. So I didn’t call home [Jersey] in a few weeks and I really thought Patrick died. I finally told my wife ‘I better call, if he died then my sister must be really flipping out’. Before I called I prepared myself for the news. I even felt like if the Lord spared him [which would truly have been a miracle] that it would be a second chance for Pat to sell out for the Lord. Sure enough as I called and talked to my mom, she tells me ‘Patrick came home a few days ago, you wanna talk to him’. I knew it was a miracle. As my mom is telling me he made it, the red cardinal flew right into my yard [I was on the cell phone in the yard]. I had a long talk with Pat. He told me how they said ‘you will always need to be on dialysis from now on’. But after a few days they said ‘well, your kidneys are back to normal, you can go home’. When I first read the verses on ‘your sons are for signs’ and ‘this sin will not pass till you die’ [strong stuff!] I felt like the signs were saying we were going to lose Pat. During my prayers I invoked the Lord on Pats behalf, telling the Lord ‘you already lost a Son, thru that loss I reclaim Patrick’s life’. I felt the bird could have been a sign of Patrick dying, or a second chance at life. The lord gave us the better option. NOTE- I definitely credit your prayers as a direct cause of Patrick’s healing! Thank you.

 

  • JUDGES 5-6 Deborah sings a victors song in chapter 5. I only want to mention one verse, she says ‘the mountains melted before you, even Sinai’. In the beginning of Judges I skipped the part where Judah defeats Jerusalem. This wording sounds strange in a way! Jerusalem of course was inhabited by the Jebusites and Judah took it. Sinai represents the law and Moses, grace and truth come from Jesus. I simply felt these ideas to be prophetic, speaking of a time in the future [Now, the New Covenant] where these natural identities will bow before the King! ‘The law came thru Moses [Sinai] but grace and truth came from Jesus Christ’. In chapter 6 we see one of the famous stories of a judge, Gideon. At this time in Israel’s history the Midianites were coming up every year during the harvest and wiping them out. It’s not that Israel wasn’t sowing [planting] it’s just they weren’t enjoying the harvest! The enemy left them enough freedom to plant and work the fields, it was just at harvest time when he gave them a hard time. Now Gideon is threshing wheat at ‘the winepress’ which is basically a hole in the ground. You can’t really thresh wheat in a cave! You need a ‘thresingfloor’, an open area where you can throw the wheat in the air and let the wind blow the chaff away. But all the children of Israel were doing this in secret spots to hide from the Midianites. So once again the people call out to God and he does it a little different this time. He sends them a Prophet first who says to them ‘God delivered you from Egypt and bondage, yet you feared the enemy and served false gods’. They were living in fear and permitted idolatry to become part of their worship [covetousness is the New Testament equivalent to idolatry]. Then the Lord sends an angel to Gideon and he tells him ‘you mighty man of valor, God is calling you to lead the people’. Gideon says ‘I come from poverty, I am the least in my family. How can I be the one’? The Lord doesn’t say ‘don’t worry, I will make you rich’ he simply tells Gideon ‘I will go with you’. Jesus used a rag tag team of disciples to turn the world up side down. They would ask ‘how can we feed this multitude, we don’t have the cash’ Jesus was with them! Gideon does this prophetic act and destroys the altar of Baal that was in his city. At night [because he was afraid] he takes 10 guys and they tear it down and erect an altar to God right in the city square. In the morning the men of the city say ‘who in the heck did this’? They are infuriated that someone would disturb the system that they became comfortable with [ouch!] They find out it was Gideon and they go to his house and want to kill him. The dad says ‘hey, if Baal is so offended, then let him do something about it’. Gideon’s dad had a little bit of the Elijah thing going on. Elijah tells the false prophets of Baal ‘where’s Baal? How come he can’t come and consume all this wood? Maybe he’s busy with some other stuff?’ One translation actually says ‘maybe he is on the potty’ these idol destroyers seemed to have no respect for the scared cows of the day. So Baal leaves Gideon alone and Gideon blows the trumpet and sends word to the various tribes. God is raising up Gideon to ‘come upon the enemy as one man’. We will later see the enemy have a dream of Gideon and the people rolling into the enemy’s camp as a Barley loaf. These are prophetic images of the Body of Christ. We are ‘one bread’ so to speak. Notice how the people became accustomed to the altar of Baal in their midst. They were irate that someone came along and shook the apple cart. At first they wanted to kill the guy, but then they recognized [grudgingly!] that Gideon was right. Sometimes the Lord will speak a word into the church that at first seems unbelievable. ‘Who does so and so think he is?’ But if the word is from the Lord, the people will eventually get on board with it and even partake of the benefits from the word. Gideon didn’t turn the troops on the men from his city who wanted to kill him. He simply fulfilled his prophetic destiny and attacked the enemy, not his fellow citizens! He allowed them time to get on the bandwagon, they eventually did.

 

  • JUDGES 7- God calls Gideon to the battle. He rounds up the troops and is ready to storm the enemy. One thing, God says ‘you have too many resources’. What? I thought you were the God of abundance, don’t you want to multiply everything? Well he is the God of abundance, but that doesn’t always mean ‘more is better’. So God instructs Gideon to simply say ‘we have too many people, so whoever is afraid can go home’. 22 thousand walk out. Ouch! I think Gideon would have snuck out with the crowd too if he wasn’t the Pastor. So they have 10 thousand left. Gideon brings them to the water and God shrinks the group down to 300. So Gideon is supposed to defeat the Midianites and Amalekites and some others with 300 men. He feels ill. The Lord tells him to sneak into the enemy camp at night and listen to what they are saying. He sneaks in and hears one of the guys telling a dream how he saw a Barley loaf [a type of the Body of Christ- we are ‘one bread’ who partake of the bread of life] roll into the camp and flatten a tent. The other guy says ‘this is the sword of Gideon, God has delivered us into his hands’. Gideon hears this prophetic word [from the enemy! I guess Gideon didn’t have any prophets on his team?] and stirs the troops up and says ‘here’s the plan’. He lays out a strategy of splitting up into 3 groups of 100 each, and having them hold a lamp in a pot in one hand and a trumpet in the other hand. They go down into the enemy camp and surround the camp. Gideon’s group breaks the pots and blows the trumpets, the others follow. They all shout ‘the sword of the Lord and of Gideon’. This causes fear in the enemy camp. They panic and start turning on each other in order to escape. They pulled a ‘George’ from Seinfeld! George is at this kid’s birthday party and someone burns some food on the stove. They think it’s a fire and George panics and knocks the kids over in his attempt to save himself. He even pushes an old grandma out of the way in the process! So the Midianites pull a George and flee at the expense of their own people. Gideon calls the other tribes to join in on the route and they defeat the enemy. Notice that God didn’t use the 300 hundred to do all the work, they simply were the brave ones who were willing to risk everything for the cause. Ultimately the rest of the nation had to get on board with the program. There are times in church history where God will raise up radical groups who are pursuing hard after God. Initially they will be the igniters of the fire. But for the full purpose of God to prevail others will have to join in. This dynamic has a tendency to cause jealousy in the church. We will see this in the next chapter. Note- The lamps [oil-Spirit] in the clay pots [we are called earthen vessels in Corinthians] represent the Body of Christ. It was in the breaking [repentance, brokenness] of the vessels that allowed the light to shine forth. God used an army of broken light bearers who trumpeted his word to take the enemy. The same idea of the ‘fiery tongues’ on the early church. The fire from their mouths [the preaching of the gospel- Revelation says ‘fire proceeds out of their mouths and devours the enemy’] went forth like a trumpet and took over the entire roman world!

 

  • JUDGES 8- As Gideon routes the enemy, the children of Ephraim got in on it. Were they thankful that Gideon gave them a shot? No. They were mad that he didn’t let them in on it from the start! Gideon appeases their jealousy and says ‘you guys have done more than me. I take no personal glory from this’. Gideon saw his calling as one that would benefit the other ‘tribes’ [denominations]. He knew his purpose was not to start his own tribe! Now as Gideon is pursuing the 2 kings of Midian [Zeba, Zalmunna? In keeping myself honest, I did not just check the spelling] he comes thru 2 cities [Succoth, Penuel?] and asks the men ‘can you help us out? We are pursuing the kings of Midian and the troops need some food’. The men of Succoth say ‘why should we help? We don’t see them in your hands yet’. In essence, they were not sure if Gideon and his personal little ‘vendetta’ was going to prevail. We need to be careful that we don’t judge a prophetic act of God and take things personal. These cities needed to get on board when it counted. Gideon is not going to need their help after the job is done! So he tells them ‘fine, but when I’m done with the job, I will come back and whip your Elders with thorn bushes’. Gideon is treading dangerous territory. He actually is setting his judgment up against the God ordained elders of this city [Romans]. But like the Apostle Paul, his unique calling was unstoppable. They would go against elders or whoever they needed to, in order to complete the mission. So Gideon catches the 2 kings and tells his son ‘fall upon them with the sword’. His son hesitates out of fear. The 2 kings actually rebuke Gideon’s boy and tell him to have courage. Gideon takes the sword and kills the kings. A few interesting notes. The people are so overjoyed with Gideon’s authority that they say ‘Be our king, rule over us as a dynasty’. Gideon refuses and says this would be a rejection of Gods authority. Eventually Saul will become the king that fills this role. Even though God raised up strong authority figures, yet there was a distinction between over doing mans rule and recognizing Gods authority. Paul will teach the concept of God recognized elders in the New Testament church. But will also warn of men wanting to draw away disciples after themselves. Some will fall into the snare of ‘becoming kings’. Also Gideon took all the gold jewelry from the Midianites and made an Ephod [a priestly object] and it became an idol to the people. They fell into the snare of covetousness/idolatry that would become a hallmark of Israel’s rebellion.

 

  • JUDGES 9- Gideon died in the last chapter and his 70 sons were to rule as a plurality of elders. The same picture we see from Moses and the 70 elders. In Judges we see the dynamic of a plurality of leadership, along with the input of strong Apostolic/Prophetic voices. The same idea we saw in the book of Acts. Now Gideon previously refused the role of singular kingship over the people. It took both courage and humility to say ‘I will not be a king over you’. In the struggle to return back to a more biblical example of Christian leadership functioning in the ‘local church’ you need both humility and courage to resist the impulse in man to want a ‘famous leader’ to ‘rule over them’. Now Abimelech, Gideon’s son, was born from one of Gideon’s mistresses from the town of Shechem. Do you remember when we studied this town in the past? It was the town where the son of the prince raped Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. Jacobs’s boys had the towns men circumcise themselves and they went in and slew the city. Well, the boy who raped Dinah was Shechem. The town is named after him. So the history of this city is one of humiliation. Like Germany after WW1, they felt humiliated as a people. The maniac Hitler used a false ethnic nationalism to mobilize the people under him. This is what Abimelech does. He tells the men of Shechem ‘do you want the 70 sons of Gideon to rule over you [plurality] or one king?’ Here you have the temptation of power and authority seen in Abimelech. He does contrary to his father’s rejection of singular headship and thru deception takes a position that was never originally intended [he falls into the trap of singular authority over the people. A trend that the Christian church will also develop over many centuries] so the men of Shechem agree and Abimelech goes and kills the 70 sons of Gideon. But the youngest one escapes. His name is Jotham. He gives this prophetic speech from a hill [God ordained forum] and tells a parable. The parable has these trees asking the olive tree ‘come and reign over us’ and the tree says ‘should I leave my God ordained place and be promoted over other trees’. The same thing happens with the fig tree and the vine. They recognize the futility of leaving their God ordained position and trying to become a ‘ruler of other trees’. Finally the bramble [weed] rules over them. Jotham sees the rule of Abimelech as a twisted distortion of Gods authority. For three years Abimelech rules Israel and a local guy says ‘why should we have him rule over us? I can do a better job’ notice, just because Abimelech is ruling outside of Gods order, does not mean that any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ can come along and mount a successful over throw! This local stirs up the men of Shechem and turns the city against Abimelech. Another local resents this and sends word secretly to Abimelech ‘Hey, some guy is telling everybody he can do a better job than you. Come and put him in his place’. Sure enough a few days go by and Abimelech descends the hill with his troops. The rebel who is trying to displace Abimelech says ‘what’s that? I see men coming down’ the other local says ‘you must be seeing things’. Finally the rebel says ‘no, I see an army’. The secret confidant of Abimelech says ‘It’s Abimelech. Where’s you big mouth now! You talk a tough talk, let’s see some action’. Sure enough he realizes that this guy set him up. So Abimelech, even though he is operating unlawfully [outside of Gods original purpose] mounts a strong attack. He has resources and ‘supporters’ who took pride in his ruthless rule. Much like the mafia guys who would help their neighborhoods and gain the support of others, even though they were ruthless murderers! Abimelech defeats this challenge to his rule, but chases the enemy into a city and this lady from a tower drops a stone on his head from the tower and kills him. God did avenge the ruthless slaughter of Gideon’s 70 sons [Gods relational/plural plan of ruler ship] but the immature challenge to Abimelechs rule from an inexperienced local was not going to cut it. I see a lot of pictures from this story. The parable of Jotham really has some spiritual meaning to it. The idea of the trees rejecting false promotion has elements of Jesus teaching in it ‘the gentiles exercise authority by being promoted over people, this shall not be so with you’. The power struggles between those who resent all authority! Some simply challenge the present authority structures in Christianity out of an immature spirit [like the local guy in Shechem]. Over all we see the rebellion in Abimelechs rule and taking a position that his father had previously rejected. Just because someone might be in a position of promotion that God doesn’t want, this does not mean that all challenges to this authority are God ordained. As the Body of Christ struggles to get back to a more biblical idea of Christian leadership, getting away from the strong ‘I am your Pastor’ mentality and returning to a respect and honoring of spiritual elders in your midst [the term pastor is fine by the way] we need to recognize both sides of the coin. Don’t simply follow anyone who says ‘why should so and so think he can tell us what to do’. Some of these voices speak out of immaturity and rebellion. But in Gods timing the mature ‘trees’ will be wise enough to say ‘why should I go and be promoted over other trees’. Leaders will learn to blossom and produce fruit while not taking positions of promotion contrary to their nature.

 

  • JUDGES 10- The children of Israel forsake the Lord and he delivers them into the hand of the enemy. They do the usual ‘Lord, help us!’ But this time they get a different response. The Lord says ‘I am tired of helping you guys time and again. Every time I come thru for you, you eventually go back to your former ways. Go and cry unto the gods you are serving, see if they can help you!’ Wow, they never got a response like this before. They decide to clean up their act anyway, they put away their false gods and ask the Lord ‘How about helping us one last time?’ The King James Bible says ‘Just this day’. You can take it as ‘one more time’ or ‘help us in this immediate situation’. Jesus taught us in the Lords prayer to pray ‘deliver us from evil, give us this day our daily bread’. Sometimes the view gets so dark that even if you have lost faith for the ‘long term vision’ you can at least ask the Lord ‘what about intervening for the simple fact that we can’t make it today unless you move’. The daily Manna was Gods help and sustenance on a daily basis. He purposely set it up like this so they would learn to depend daily upon him. We all have a tendency to develop systems and ideas about God. The whole concept of ‘ministry’ entails a system of function that we expect God to bless. It’s easy to lose sight of the sovereignty of God and come to depend on the system. Some teach that God has done all he can do to save you, or help you in this present life. That the answer to your problem is to learn the ‘system’ he uses from the bible and implement it. In essence ‘God is continually transmitting what you need, the trick is getting your spiritual antenna in the right direction’ [I just heard it preached on radio a few days ago]. While there are some applications of truth to this idea, it can also lead to a legalistic road of thinking that the answer to your problem is found in you DOING SOMETHING. Ultimately the answer to our problem is WE NEED GOD TO ACT ON OUR BEHALF! So the children of Israel say ‘Lord, how about helping for just this day’. Well we already know the answer. He will raise up another judge in the next chapter. But he wants us to learn the lesson. He does want us to get to a stage where we don’t keep falling into the same rut [iniquity- patterns ‘ruts’ of sin]. God will come thru for you today, Jesus ‘ever lives to make intercession for us’ he will help you if you ask.

 

  • JUDGES 11- The children of Gilead [Israelites] live in an area named after their father. They have a brother who was born from ‘a harlot’. The brothers kick him out of town and tell him ‘you will have no inheritance with us’. He is seen as illegitimate. He gathers a ragtag team of ‘vain’ men around him. He is despised and rejected of men. He is a type of Jesus. He reminds me of King David and his disgruntled men. This mans name is Jephthah. In process of time the children of Ammon harass the sons of Gilead. They posses the ancient land of Ammon. The king of Ammon lets Gilead know that he is re-staking his claim on his forefather’s territory. Gilead is scared and feeling threatened by Ammon. The king of Ammon knows it, he is like the bully in school who makes his first threat and realizes that he can get away with it. Now, the Elders of Gilead have a little council meeting. They discuss the situation. Sure enough a motion is made ‘I move that we hire our brother Jephthah to become our leader’. What! We kicked him out, we judged him illegitimate. Don’t you remember his bad upbringing? They bite the bullet and send word to Jephthah. Now Jephthah will take the job, but first he makes them eat a little crow [very unkosher!]. He says ‘now you guys need me, what happened to all the talk of me being a trouble maker and some unordained rebel?’ They swallow the crow. Jephthah agrees and signs a contract [of course I am ad libbing here]. Now the king of Ammon has been getting away with his bravado for a while. Jephthah takes the job and immediately sends a response to Ammon. ‘Why are you messing with me? I am giving you fair warning to back off’ Huh? The king of Ammon thinks ‘who in the heck is this guy? Oh well, I guess someone from Gilead finally got some courage’ [I’ll be nice!]. Ammon responds and sends word back ‘I am reclaiming the land of my forefathers; you are dwelling illegally in my territory’. Now an interesting thing happens, though Jephthah is deemed ‘uneducated’ he responds with a strong historic apologetic for their right to the land. He knows the history well! He says ‘a few hundred years ago our forefathers were leaving Egypt and as they came to your father’s territory they simply asked for safe passage. They were denied. Eventually you fathers started a fight [they had the bully blood of Ammon!] and our fathers got into it with them and ‘beat the dung’ out of them. Therefore we rightfully own this land. Who in the heck do you think you are anyway buddy, are you better than the kings before you? You need to back off now!’ Well, Ammon is not used to getting a response like this. The brothers of Jephthah knew all along that he was a hothead, that’s why they hired him. So Ammon gets word from Jephthah and has a meeting on what to do next. I am sure Ammon is a little scared by now ‘who in the heck is this new comer? Who does he think he is to challenge me like this?’ Before he gets a chance to find out, someone says ‘hey look, here he comes now’. The Spirit of God came upon Jephthah and he stormed in and kicked Ammon’s butt. He did a repeat of years gone by. Don’t you just hate getting beat up by the kid who beat you up before? Jephthah repeated history. Ammon got whupped. The men of Gilead renewed the 2 year contract with their brother, even though he was the black sheep of the family.

 

  • JUDGES 12- Jephthah has a great victory over Ammon. Ephraim confronts him and says ‘why didn’t you tell us you were going to battle? Who do you guys think you are, hogging up all the glory’? Jephthah responds ‘I did ask you guys to help! You guys are always talking a big game, but you never show up when we need you!’ Ephraim does have a history of doing this. They said the same thing in an earlier chapter, I think to Gideon? There is a Psalm that says ‘Ephraim turned back in the day of battle, even though they were fully armed’. They truly were a legitimate tribe, who had the goods to war, but they seemed to be more concerned about ‘their image’ and what so and so was doing down the road, than in actually going out and winning some wars! Jephthah is the type of brother you don’t want to mess with. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11 among the great heroes of the faith. Why would he be in there? He led a tribe that was insignificant, yet he rose to the occasion and displayed great courage, at the risk of his own life, and was a true warrior. Jephthah responds to Ephraim’s big words by ‘beating the hell out of them’. He strapped it on! Ephraim was one of the big 12, a legitimate warring tribe from Israel. Jephthah made a name for himself and his people. He was like the Arturo Gatti’s [Jersey City] who were simple hometown boxers who rose to fame and put his town on the map [even though Gatti was out of his class against De Lahoya]. Or a Bret Favre from Green Bay [Packers] who in the heck ever heard of ‘Green Bay’? Jephthah put Gilead on the map of history. I just recently studied some stuff on the Jesus movement of the 60’s -70’s. One of the interesting characters was a brother by the name of Lonnie Frisbee. Someone just made a documentary on him [Life and times of a Hippie preacher] and tried to show how he had a lot of influence in the beginnings of the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements [2 of the most successful Church movements that came out of this time]. The brother who made the documentary felt like the leaders of the movement did not give him due credit because he died of Aid’s. Lonnie struggled with homosexuality for most of his life. Many of the people who were interviewed gave strong testimonies of Lonnie’s influence in their lives. While looking up some stuff on U Tube I found a few videos of him sharing his testimony, there seems to be no doubt that he was a child of God. Some apologists [Hank Hannegraff] attribute Lonnie’s ‘anointing’ to the demonic realm. They brought out the fact that Lonnie’s initial conversion took place while he was high. They showed how some of the Shamans shared the same types of things that Lonnie operated in [Jim Morrison of the doors is thought to have been a Shaman, the name ‘Lizard King’ spoke to this]. I for the most part accept Lonnie’s own testimony of believing in Jesus. I know it’s difficult to understand how the Lord could have used someone who struggled like this, but some of these judges [Like the next one we will discuss- Samson] had many struggles along with their victories. I don’t want to give people excuses for sinning, but I want to encourage you to allow God to use you right where you are at. With all the faults of Lonnie Frisbee, the Lord still used him to play a key role in the early Jesus movement.

 

  • JUDGES 13- We begin the story of Samson. While all the judges are called by God, Samson has this prophetic type calling from birth. An angel appears to his mother and foretells of his birth. She is barren and it is one of those Divine pronouncements like the birth of Jesus or John the Baptist. These types of callings have special meaning to them. You can study the callings of contemporary prophets and see many of these same characteristics. Though the critics have found faults with many of these men, yet they have had supernatural occurrences surrounding their births and destinies that cannot be explained away. When these children are growing they are surrounded by the stories of these supernatural events. They often do not realize the special signs that accompanied them. When John the Baptist was asked ‘are you the prophet that was spoken about, the ‘Elijah type prophet’ that appears before the Messiah’? John says no. But later the disciples say to Jesus ‘before the Messiah comes, the Elijah type prophet is to come first’ and Jesus says it was John. I think the Lord will allow certain prophetic people to not realize the impact of their destinies during their lives, they will see some day, but not now. So Samson’s mom has this special angelic visitation and the husband hears about it from his wife. They pray and ask the Lord to come again and give them more instructions about the boy. The Lord sends the angel back and they receive instructions about the boy. His calling is special, he will be dedicated to God from birth to death. The parents are to raise him in a way that will simply facilitate the gift. This is important to see. Often times we see ministry as ‘look what God is doing with Corpus Christi outreach ministries’ [or any other name!]. Or ‘God, please use this ministry for this purpose’ God gifts people with special callings and giftings. ‘Ministry’ is simply the parameters, the borders that help facilitate the gift. We too often confuse Gods sovereign gift with the ‘procedures’. God uses people [individuals and groups] to carry out his purposes, all ministry structures should be seen as simple instructions to properly ‘harness the gift’. Samson’s parents receive the instructions and raise him according to the angel’s directives. The Spirit of God will come on him at set times and he will begin to display the anointing at a young age. We will learn from Samson that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. God will continue to use him thru out his life even though he will stray from the guidelines of his parents. Of course there will come a day where he loses the special ability that God gave him, but his willingness to lay it all down at the end will gain him a place in the great faith hall of fame! [Hebrews 11]

 

  • JUDGES 14- Samson goes to the Philistine area and sees a woman who he likes. He tells his parents ‘get her for me’! He does seem spoiled. Now his parents have good reason to be a little intimidated by him, after all they know the miraculous events surrounding his birth. They tell him ‘look at all the great women from our own ‘ethnic background’ why do you want this stranger’? The scripture says they did not realize that this thing in Samson was FROM THE LORD. The scripture says the Lord did this so Israel could have an occasion/situation to go to war. Paul says in the New Testament ‘there must be heresies among you’. Some see this as meaning God allowed certain things to go wrong so he could create a situation where ‘war’ would occur. Then out of chaos and violence truth would be more clearly defined. Romans does say ‘all things eventually work out for the good to those who love God’. In Samson’s case his family didn’t understand why he was so adamant about this girl, but God was seeking ‘an occasion’. Now Samson and his family make a visit to the area [Timnath] and he hooks up with the woman. During one of Samson’s trips he comes upon a lion and the Spirit of God comes upon Samson and he tears it to pieces with his bare hands. I’m sure even Samson was a little surprised about this supernatural anointing. On his way back thru the area he finds that a bee hive formed in the dead lion and made a bunch of honey, he takes a scoop of the honey and gives some to his family but never reveals the source. He keeps the story to himself. At the wedding party he tells the guests ‘I have a riddle, if you figure it out I will give you the garments of 30 men. If you don’t guess it in 7 days you pay me’! He tells the riddle ‘out of the eater came forth food, out of the strong came forth sweetness’. The riddle speaks of the honey that Samson found in the dead lion. After a few days the locals can’t figure it out. They beg the wife for her to tell them the secret. She gives in and the men tell Samson the answer. He tells them ‘if you didn’t plow with my heifer, you would have never found out the answer’. This is the beginning of an area of weakness that will dog Samson thru out his life. He will experience defeat in the future on these grounds. Well Samson is furious, he goes and kills 30 men from some nearby town and pays off the bet. I see Jesus ‘the Lion from the tribe of Judah’ in the riddle. Jesus will eventually come and die on a Cross, from his ‘dead Body’ sweet honey and meat will flow to the nations. It was the death of the lion that created an environment for honey and food to come forth. Gods Word is described as honey and meat. Jesus death created ‘an environment’ for life to flow to the nations.

 

  • Let me interrupt our Judges study a little. Right now [2008] there is another renewal/revival movement taking place in Florida [Lakeland]. The brother who was used as the ‘fire starter’ is Todd Bentley. I have tried to catch the services on T.V. and appreciate the presence of the Lord. Of course you can go on line and read terrible stuff about the revival. Once again some are 100 % against it, others are a little too exaggerated in their language in defense of it. What I mean is it’s easy to see a move of God and believe ‘this is the final move that will out do all other moves in the history of the church’ the ‘latter glory’ if you will. Let’s do a little history on moves of God. The present Pentecostal movement started at the beginning of the last century [for the most part]. You had a brother by the name of Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas who had this little bible school. One day they experienced an unusual event. Gods Spirit fell on the students and they all ‘began to speak in other languages’. Now, to those who reject the modern gift of tongues as ‘gibberish’, I want you to see something. The ‘tongues’ [languages] of this experience were actually real foreign languages that the speakers never learned. They were very much like the ‘tongues’ at Pentecost! Parham took this as a modern day Pentecost and began sending these students to foreign countries, believing that they would be able to evangelize the world without having to teach the students/missionaries the foreign language of their field. Well this experiment flopped! Even the accurate Pentecostal historians will tell you this. But we are still left with the supernatural account of the kids having spoken in languages that they never learned. Parham was a strange type of fellow. He believed in the ‘seed of the serpent’ doctrine and a few other weird things. He was also very racist! He allowed a black student by the name of William Seymour to sit out in the hall and hear his teaching. He could not ‘intermingle’ with the white students in class. Seymour was a humble uneducated man who had a heart for God. Seymour would eventually find his ‘harvest field’ in Los Angeles. He began preaching at different churches and would experience strange manifestations equal to the things that Parham experienced. The churches did not appreciate this unlearned, one eyed black preacher introducing these strange ‘manifestations’ into their congregations and eventually Seymour rented a building on Azusa street. In 1906 this Azusa street mission would become ground zero for the outpouring of the modern day Pentecostal movement. Seymour was a very humble man by all accounts. He was known for sticking his head inside a box on the pulpit so the people wouldn’t see him instead of the Lord. The L.A. papers would run front page stories on ‘the strange tongues of Babel’ and stuff like that. Though Seymour was young and inexperienced at ‘running a revival’ he tried to the best of his ability to follow the Lord. He would contact Parham and ask him to come and check out the move. Parham came and totally denounced the wild meetings as spiritists run amok! Even though Parham had himself experienced the gift of tongues at his bible school, he saw the unrestrained nature of Azusa and condemned it. Seymour would never invite him back. The little mission building at Azusa would become the place of pilgrimage for 20th century Pentecostalism. Some were adamantly opposed to the outpouring, others 100 % supporters. After 100 years of seeing what the outcome would be, the historical significance is hard to refute. Some still see the worldwide spread of Pentecostalism as error. Others see it as a fulfillment of the scriptures that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh. I see Pentecostals as part of the Body of Christ and in no way reject them as heretics. This doesn’t mean I agree with them in every doctrine! [As you can see when you read this site]. I feel we need to keep things in perspective when we feel God is moving in a new way. Is it possible that ‘this move’[any move that you happen to be in at the time] will have worldwide historic results? Sure. But because the Body of Christ is so wide and diverse in our day, it is harder for a single move to have the same type of impact as the original Pentecost. Should we judge the initial outpouring at Parham’s school as demonic? I don’t think so. The fact that they mistakenly took the gift as being missionary in nature does not disqualify the gift. In Act’s chapter 2 the gift of being able to speak in a language never learned did allow the immediate hearers to hear the gospel in their distinct languages. But the actual ‘missionaries’ [the hearers who went back to their towns] spread the message in their own known language. So in all types of moves you can find real fault, as well as real truth [most of the time]. We as the people of God should ‘test the spirits, because every spirit is not of God’ [1st John] while at the same time keeping an open mind like the head leader of religion in the book of Act’s, Gamaliel. He said ‘let’s leave the disciples alone for now, if this work is of God you will not be able to stop it. If it’s not of God it will fall by itself’. I personally believe in most of the renewal and revival movements of our day. I try not to get over excited by some of the language that tends to see these moves as ‘the last and greatest move of all time’. But I also avoid the constant attacks by the apologists who seem to never find a move they can agree with. [see entry # 844]

 

 

 

  • Let’s stick with a little contemporary church history. In the last century you had what many believe to be one of the missing ‘planks’ of restoration of truth. The renewed emphasis on spiritual gifts, the idea that Apostles and Prophets were still gifts that people walked in. During the middle of the century you had the ‘Latter Rain movement’ and the rise of platform healing evangelists. The popular T.V. movie Elmer Gantry showed how the various church communions reacted to some of these evangelists. Many ‘old time’ churches were shocked at the persona and public display of these men [and women!] Some were shown to be outright hucksters! But others did have quite extraordinary gifts. The ‘most gifted’ brother was William Branham. William was a simple uneducated man who grew up in squalor conditions. The story of his birth and the supernatural signs surrounding his life are pretty interesting [look it up on Google, you will find tons of stuff on him]. Branham was gifted with the supernatural ability to know things about people, he had the singular ability to read the exact details of people’s lives. While many brand him as a false Prophet, he did seem to be a humble man that was doing his best to serve the Lord. This does not mean that I agree with all of Branham’s teachings or gifts! Other Christians who worked with Branham at the time would eventually leave his ministry out of a concern that his gifts might have been ‘mixed’ with other spiritual means of obtaining knowledge [like fortune telling and soothsaying]. Things that scripture forbids. I personally don’t know whether or not these accusations have merit to them, but it is important to see that these concerns were not coming from those who simply oppose all supernatural gifts. These concerns were voiced by some of Branham’s friends. During this time you had a few famous traveling ministers. A.A. Allen, Jack Coe and a few others became famous on the circuit. Many today testify of how the Lord used them in their lives. There were also many rumors [some true] that these men struggled with Alcohol and other vices. The Assemblies of God denomination would eventually openly rebuke a few of them who had credentials from their denomination. Brother Branham [he did believe in Jesus!] would embrace some weird doctrines. He had questions about the Trinity [well, he actually denied the doctrine] and would be impacted by the ‘Jesus only’ Pentecostal movement. He eventually felt like the death of his wife and child was a result of him not being more willing to minister among the oneness groups. As the century progressed you had the waning influence of the platform preachers. Some would still function from this paradigm, but for the most part the men and their movements passed on. You do still find a sort of cultic following of believers who remain loyal to brother Branham. Some believe he is one of the 2 witnesses spoken about in the book of Revelation. How come Branham had such influence over people’s lives? There is no doubt that this can be attributed to the actual real manifestations that took place under his ministry. Even the critics agree that there was some very unexplainable stuff going on. Some of the teachings of this period still influence believers today. The ‘Manifest Sons of God’ doctrine taught that there was coming a generation of saints who would walk in the fullness of all that God has promised, some believed that this group would even attain immortality in this life. The book of Romans does say that the whole creation is groaning and waiting for the day the Sons of God would fully manifest, but in context this is speaking of the resurrection. So the Lord used some of these brothers in a limited way. For the most part they suffered from a lack of a good education [don’t want to be demeaning] but were avid students of the Word. But as you can see this combination of knowing bible verses outside of the historic context of Church history [how others viewed these verses before them] can lead to dangerous conclusions. I for the most part do not condemn these brothers as outright fakes [some were, but not all] but I see in them a willingness to do their best in serving the Lord, but to a degree became victims of the fame and style of public platform ministry. Jesus taught the danger of our own personalities becoming too central to the people we are ministering to. Some of these brothers fell into this ditch!

 

  • Let’s end this little excursion from our study in Judges and finish our look into the 20th century as one of ‘the Spirit of Pentecost’. During the 60’s you had what was known as the Charismatic Movement. On the west coast there was an Episcopal Priest who announced to his congregation that he experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. The area Bishop forbid the Priest to introduce his experience as one accepted by the denomination. Some of his congregants disagreed with this decision and took it upon themselves to contact the media. Soon word spread like wildfire. You also had an outpouring of the Spirit at Duquesne University. Some see this as the historic beginning point of the Charismatic movement. Basically the movement speaks of the gifts of the Spirit, specifically Tongues, breaking into and across denominational lines. Eventually the Catholic Church would put her stamp of approval on the movement. Which after all would be in keeping with their official doctrine. They have always believed the gifts of the Spirit to be available to believers in all ages. During the late 60’s early 70’s the Jesus Movement would spring up on the west coast and many hippies and flower children would ‘turn on to Jesus’. Chuck Smith and John Wimber [initially Ken Guliksen] would lead 2 of the most successful church movements of the late 20th Smith would head up Calvary Chapel and Wimber would take the lead in the Vineyard churches. You had Keith Green [musician] room mating with Randy Stonehill at the time. Keith was searching for answers, Randy would recommend him to attend a Vineyard bible study led by Ken Guliksen. Keith would finally accept the Lord at the study and become this on fire musician for the Lord. Though the music industry saw him as ‘a prize’ Keith would start ‘Last Days Ministries’ and relocate to Lyndale Texas [across the road from Youth with a Mission- YWAM]. He would sadly die in a plane crash with 2 of his children on board. In 1989 you had the mixing of the Vineyard with some of the Prophets known as ‘the Kansas City Prophets’. These were the brothers out of Kansas City who were part of Mike Bickles church. Now Metro fellowship in Kansas City. Mike is no longer the lead Pastor, he heads up ‘I.H.O.P’ International House of Prayer, a great group of young people who take turns praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now Paul Cain would meet Wimber and declare that Wimber was the Apostle that the Lord was going to use for the ‘great end time revival’. Paul Cain was so accurate in his ability to know the details of people’s lives, and to predict earthquakes and supernatural signs, that many were convinced that what Paul said was 100% accurate. The ‘marriage’ between the Vineyard and the modern prophetic movement [which is usually seen to have started out of Kansas City with Mike Bickle and Bob Jones, Paul Cain and a few other Prophetic brothers] was debatable. Some Pastors in the Vineyard churches [Tom Stipe among others] would eventually feel their churches were suffering from a lack of true biblical Christianity. Many new believers were looking too much to dreams, visions and personal prophecies as the normal guides for their lives. These believers were straying from the more sure path of prayer, bible study and simple trust in God. Chuck Smith would early on disassociate from the more flamboyant signs of the movement. He would take charge and let his churches know that they were to stick with the verse by verse exposition of the word at the normal church meetings. The Vineyard would run with the ‘go with the Spirit’ type mentality. Eventually the split between the movement known as the ‘Toronto blessing’ ‘Laughing revival’ would occur when John Arnott, Pastor of Toronto airport Vineyard church [in Toronto Canada] would break away from the Vineyard oversight. John Wimber would sadly pass away and the leadership of the Vineyard would return back to a more scripture oriented church [note- John Wimber himself was going this direction before his death, it seems as if he saw too much into the words that were being spoken to him from Paul Cain. Paul is a very humble man, who has fallen on some very hard times these past few years. It was easy for Wimber to believe all the wonderful words given to him from Paul, Paul was operating at a level of gifting that was unheard of for the time. Paul was the only ‘throwback’ from the mid century latter rain movement. He was a student under William Branham and sometimes would fill in for him at his meetings. By all accounts Paul received much of the anointing that Branham operated in]. The century will close out with the Toronto movement, as well as the Brownsville revival [Florida] having a fairly large impact on the church at large, as well as having many critics of the more extreme manifestations of the revivals [Toronto- people barking like dogs and stuff]. I do find it interesting that the century began with a movement that was for the most part associated with crying and repentance and would end with one of laughter and revival. In the restoration books of the Old Testament you have a seen where the foundation is being laid for the rebuilding of the temple. You have the younger generation happy and excited over the prospects of a new temple, but the older generation is standing there and weeping because to them it doesn’t seem to live up to their memories of ‘the good old days’. You had weeping and laughing as legitimate reactions to a real work of God. I think the ‘new’ moves need to be careful that they don’t read too much into the historic aspects of their movements until history itself writes the final chapter. But the ‘old timers’ also need to be open to the possibility of God ‘rebuilding the temple’ [spiritually speaking here!] and allowing the ‘latter house to receive more glory than the former’.

 

  • JUDGES 15- Samson cools down and goes back to see his wife. As he tries to make things right her father reveals to him that she is now married to his best friend! What? Yup, the dad said they thought he was so mad that he gave up on her. Well Samson goes and ties the fox’s tails together and sets these torches on fire between their tails. He lets them run thru the fields of the Philistines and burn up the crops. The Philistines say ‘who did this’? They find out Samson did it because of the wife thing. So they blame it on the wife and her father and go ‘burn them’ [ouch!]. Samson doesn’t stop! He gets into it with a few more guys and whips them good. He escapes to this stronghold in Judah’s territory and the Philistines are looking for him. Judah finds Samson and says ‘why are you hiding among us? Don’t you realize the Philistines rule over us?’ Samson says ‘I’ll let you tie me up if you promise not to kill me yourselves’ so they promise. When the Philistines get him, the Spirit comes on Samson and he breaks the cords and ‘beats the hell out of them’. He finds this jawbone from a donkey and kills a thousand of them with the jawbone. He then gets thirsty and says ‘I need something to drink, why would you let me have such a great victory and feel like I am going to die of thirst’? God breaks a hole in the jawbone and Samson finds water from the instrument he used to defeat the enemy. Now, notice the unbelievable amount of war, division and devastation that is coming from one man! He is actually negotiating like he is an army! God knew what he was doing when he raised Samson up ‘because he wanted an occasion to deal with the Philistines’. John the Baptist was like this. A single prophetic voice who had the gall to tell Herod ‘you can’t have your brother’s wife!’ How do these guys do stuff like this? In Samson’s case he got away with it because he had the goods to back it up! He was like the other judges who knew how to strap it on. But this guy seems to be a one man steamroller. Notice that the Lord refreshed him from the same tool he used to war with. Paul tells Timothy ‘preach the word, in doing this you will save yourself and those who hear thee’. Paul says ‘woe to me if I preach not the gospel’. Over the years I will listen to our radio messages one time before I broadcast them. I am so far ahead of schedule that I will preview the message about a year or more after I make them. Yet I actually will get ‘a prophetic word’ that I never even knew I spoke! God will allow you to be refreshed from the refreshing you give others. Don’t be too self absorbed, but recognize that ‘he who waters will himself be watered’ [somewhere in the bible].

 

  • JUDGES 16- This is the famous ‘Samson and Delilah’ story. Samson once again falls for some strange woman. The philistines ask her to find out the secret to Samson’s strength. She goes thru this procedure of ‘bugging him to death’ until he spills the beans. Scripture says ‘she pressed him until his soul was vexed unto the point of death’ double ouch! Well she finds out the strength is in his dedication unto God, shown thru the act of not cutting his hair. She shaves his head and he is taken captive. Scripture says he woke up and thought ‘I will fight the enemy as usual and win’ and he didn’t realize the Lord wasn’t with him anymore. Now Samson becomes a source of entertainment for the lost world. They bring him out every now and then and parade him around as a ‘jack ass’. Do you remember how the media and late night comics just couldn’t get over the fact that Christian celeb’s have fallen? Re running the crying videos of Brother Swaggart and Bakker. Parading the ‘lover’ of Ted Haggard on all the shows. The Philistines loved using the ‘big buffoon’ as sport. So one day they take him out of his cell and have him stumble around at some party. Samson has some kid place his hands on the 2 main pillars that are holding up the building. He asks the Lord ‘Lord, please return my strength this one last time’ and he pushes on the pillars and the whole corrupt society around him comes down and they all die as one big happy family! Samson killed more of the enemy in his death than thru out his life. Just a few thoughts; right now in the present ‘media church’ there is another tragic situation of a famous celebrity couple who have divorced. Sad story, God will forgive people for their mistakes. But the problem is the wife feels like she should maintain the whole public persona. Now I like these people. I am not a fan of their teachings at all, but the wife has come a long way from a difficult life. When I first read about these things I always pray for the people. But we [the people of God] need to seriously re evaluate the whole ‘celebrity persona’ that allows good people, who seemingly represent the church to society at large, to do stuff like this. Its like the world tunes us in every now and then ‘for sport’. Also Samson used wisdom in avoiding a direct shot at a few Philistines, and placed himself in a position where he could bring down the whole corrupt group at one time. We need to avoid individual skirmishes with people. God is working in our day like he has in every other generation. There are some serious things that the previous generation wrongfully built into the church. The younger generation sees the absolute absurdity of some of these things. Prophetic voices need to ‘position themselves strategically’ and take out some of these pillars [doctrines, not people!] so we can give the next generation a fresh start.

 

 

  • I just remembered a story for the ‘comedy section’. Years ago at the fire department we had a few guys who would come in to work and the first thing they would do is read the run reports from the previous day. They would get a kick out of the misspelled words and stuff. Though all of our guys were smart guys, some of the brothers couldn’t spell well. One time one of my buddies got a hold of a report [or maybe some type of test the volunteers took?] One of the answers to a question was ‘he died from loss of blood’. The poor volunteer wrote ‘it means hims bleeds to dead’ [sic].

 

 

  • JUDGES 17- This is quite an interesting chapter. Micah steals money from his ‘mother’. He tells her ‘I took it’ [managed to gain precious riches from you] and she commends him. He then says he took it from her to give it back to her. Let’s spiritualize a little. The ‘sons of the church’ [the New Jerusalem is the corporate church, the ‘mother of us all’] some times take by violence the hidden riches that were contained ‘in the church’ [which possesses the mind of Christ!] so they can ‘give the riches back to the mother’ [feed my sheep!] and receive commendation from her. Now, all analogies eventually break down. Micah’s mom says she was going to build an idol [institution?] with the money. Micah becomes the overseer of this ‘false system of worship’. He actually ‘hires’ [hireling mentality- seeing ministry as a profession] a legitimate priest from the tribe of Levi to call ‘father- priest’ [ouch!] Micah pays him a salary [double ouch!] and says ‘now I know the Lord [God of the Christians] will bless me seeing I have a priest under my authority’. [Rome and her emperors?] Lots of imagery here. First, Micah felt like he would gain Gods blessing if he ‘hired’ and institutionalized the real priesthood. We must see that what happened during the first 4 centuries of Christianity was a type of ‘hiring’ and legitimizing the ‘priests of God’ for the purpose of favor and unity within the Roman Empire. It is no secret that the emperor Constantine looked for unity in his empire by embracing and professionalizing the ‘priest hood’. They will actually be called ‘fathers, priests’. Also, this priest that Micah hired was a real representative of God! He did come from a true tribe. It is difficult for Protestants to see that although the institutional church ‘married’ Rome, yet she still contained part of the real people of God. This is not to say all that happened in the first millennium [thousand years of Christianity] was of God, but it also means we need to understand that there are some ‘precious riches’ [1100 pieces of silver!] that are hidden within her for the purpose of ‘true sons’ to go and take these riches and re distribute them back to her for her own benefit. You would be surprised by the amount of spiritual truths contained in the writings of the Catholic [Orthodox] fathers. Many of these truths are being ‘re found’ by protestants! And some of these Protestants have given them back to the church and shown her ‘look, even your own church fathers saw such and such’. I see the whole concept of Micah hiring the Priest as a type of ‘hired clergy’ mentality that all the people of God wrongfully took hold of. We need to recognize that just because this Levite went down this road, this does not mean he was not a true Levite [person of God]. It just meant he allowed his gift/office to be used in a wrong way to bring legitimacy to a form of worship that had vestiges of idolatry contained within.

 

  • JUDGES 18- The tribe of Dan sends 5 spies to check out the land of Laish, it was supposed to be part of their inheritance. On the way they pass Mount Ephraim, where Micah and the ‘hired priest’ live. They enquire in the house of Micah about their journey. They are assured God is with them. They see Laish and return with the good report. Laish is a land where the people are ‘isolated’ they do no business with any other tribes. Too sectarian in their little community [ouch!]. So the tribe of Dan hears the report and arms 600 men for battle. As they go to get their land, they once again stop at the idolatrous house of Micah. They make a ‘job offer’ to the ‘hired priest’ and appeal to success and status among clergy ‘do you want to come and be our hired priest? Wouldn’t you rather be priest of a whole tribe instead of one household’? He takes the job promotion and on their way out Micah tries to stop them from taking his priest but doesn’t have the manpower to do it. Dan introduces this false priesthood on a large scale to the people of God. Scripture says while they were involving themselves in this false worship, the House of God was still in Shiloh. Now we have covered a lot of ground here. I want to be careful but truthful about wrong worship in the church. First, I do find it amazing that the Lord did not cut Micah off originally when he got into his stuff! The history of Israel includes a time period where they thought the high places in their land were a sign of true religion. When some of the kings institute a return to the Lord, they leave the high places alone. Although these high places were idolatrous, yet in their ignorance they really thought they were honoring God. I see a degree of this here. Now the hired priest continues to represent the mentality of the hired offices of the clergy. All good people, but often operating in systems that lend themselves to the co dependency of Gods people. It is easy to see the idea of false worship and simply use this to bash Catholics. I prefer to see the false worship of Dan as a mark of all wrong tradition and teaching that come to us from the mind of man. Jesus rebuked the traditions that made void the Word of God, but Paul will tell his spiritual sons ‘hold to the traditions you have been taught by me’. Some traditions are needful. Things that our spiritual fathers have passed down to us. Don’t despise all tradition! Don’t see ‘the ministry’ as a way to gain status and climb the ladder in the corporate world. This priest of Micah took a position based on gentile authority. Something Jesus forbid for the leaders of his church. This priest saw self advancement in moving ‘his ministry’ to oversee the tribe of Dan. This root of pride will cause the limited idolatry at Micah’s house to leaven an entire tribe. Often times well meaning people become part of ‘extending wrong ideas’ thru out the church as they seek fame and recognition. Jesus taught us that true servants will not make decisions based on ‘how will this move promote me, how will I gain a name for myself’ these motivations blind us to the idolatry that exists in the church in our day. The New Testament equivalent of idolatry is covetousness. Leadership often overlooks the blatant abuse in this area as they pursue a name and advancement for ‘their ministries’. It’s easy to not want to hear Paul’s strong words in 1st Timothy 6 concerning leaders. We want to be able to ‘seek fame and fortune’ because it does feel good to be famous! Hebrews says ‘sin does have pleasure for a season’. So I see the whole scenario of Micah’s hired priest in all of us. I see the idolatry of Dan and false worship as leaven that affects all of Gods people [Protestants and Catholics alike]. I see the fact that God still used Micah to be a voice and instrument to the people of God even though he thru ignorance allowed idolatry to be entrenched in Israel. God is merciful and he will put up with our ignorance for a season, but I think that season has already passed. [Though his mercy endures forever!]

 

  • CHICKEN BREATH- Strange place to write one for the comedy section! I just remembered a funny incident at the Fire House. When a call would come in for an ambulance run, it would come over a loudspeaker. This gave the guys time to prepare and get ready for the accident. Sometimes you could hear the caller a little differently than the guy who picked up the phone. You could also hear the firefighter talking and asking questions ‘what’s your address, give me your phone #’ and stuff like that. One time the firefighter asked the husband [who was calling for an ambulance for his wife] ‘Sir, what’s wrong with your wife’ and the poor guy says something that sounds like ‘chicken breath’ to the firefighter on the phone. He asks again ‘what!’ sure enough he hears ‘chicken breath’. So he goes thru this for a few seconds and asks the guy ‘what do you mean she has chicken breath’ and finally the guys in the station who are hearing this yell at him ‘he is saying ‘she can’t breathe’ you idiot’! [Chicken breath- shicken breath- she can’t breathe. I guess?]

 

  • HELP! One more from the Fire Dept. Over the years when new guys would get hired, they would ride the Fire Trucks and Ambulance to get a feel for the job. When they are rookies we don’t let them do any major stuff. Maybe get a stretcher or call the station for backup, simple stuff. So one day they go on an Ambulance run and take one of these rookies. Sure enough it’s a code [heart attack] and they use the rookie to get the equipment and stuff from the ambulance. They have him running back and forth doing errands. Of course he is fairly new at this. The guys tell him ‘go call for help’ [we need backup]. So he runs to the Ambulance and gets on the radio. The guys at the station are eating dinner or watching T.V.? As they are sitting there, they are getting a kick out of hearing some guy over the speaker say ‘HELP, HELP, HELP’ They are thinking it’s some inexperienced sheriffs deputy or something. As they listen for a few more ‘HELP’S’ they realize it’s one of us! Hey, they did tell the rookie ‘call for help’. [He should have said ‘unit 162 to Central, we need backup’].

 

  • JUDGES 19- We have another strange story. There is this Levite who has a concubine [servant-wife]. She plays ‘the harlot’ on him and goes back home to Judah. The Levite goes to get her. He shows up at her dad’s house and the father welcomes him [Judah- Israel loved the law- Levite]. The Levite informs him that he came to take back his wife and the dad won’t let him go! He keeps holding on and for a few days convinces him to ‘just stay for one more night’ [Israel’s mindset in the first century. They tried to hold on to the law past it’s time]. The Levite leaves and on his way back to Ephraim they need a place to spend the night. They show up at Gibeah, where the Benjamites dwell. As they are on the street all day, no one offers to take them in. This younger generation forgot all the ‘elementary’ teachings of the Law of Moses [Hebrews 5]. An old man who was from Ephraim was living there. He sees the Levite and his wife and servants on the street. He asks what’s up and the old man offers to take the Levite in. He says ‘don’t worry about the cost, I will cover it’ [The Good Samaritan]. At night the men of the city knock on the old mans door and want the Levite to come out ‘and play’ [The sin of Sodom!] the old man offers the men the women instead of the man. They take the wife of the Levite and abuse her all night long. She shows up at the door in the morning and is dead. The Levite takes her dead body home and cuts it into 12 pieces and sends them to Israel as a witness. This drastic symbol shocks the nation. There are lots of spiritual points that could be made. The law [Levite] was welcomed for a time [Galatians 4] but when it’s time t let it go don’t keep holding on. The old man in Gibeah practiced the art of hospitality to strangers/aliens that was contained in the original precepts from Moses. The younger generation forgot the true principles of their law. Paul will argue over and over again from the law to persuade Israel to come to Messiah. They forgot the basic truths of their own law and this made it harder to show them that Jesus was the fulfillment of their law. Of course the old man taking in the Levite is like the story of the Good Samaritan who took care of his neighbor at his own expense. Paul told the Corinthians that he would ‘spend and be spent’ for them. And the drastic act of the Levite cutting up the wife and sending her body parts to Israel shows the utter terror of the law. The law ultimately demands justice, it shows no mercy. Israel might have had an affinity for the law, but if you keep it around too long it can really ruin the party! [The New Covenant is one of joy and peace in the Spirit. We are at Jesus ‘wedding party’ if you will].

 

  • JUDGES 20- The nation of Israel gather together as ‘one man’ to figure out what is going on. They all received the body pieces of the concubine as a sign of judgment. Remember, the law [Levite] can not give life to that which is ‘dead in trespasses and sin’ [the dead wife!] but the law can only reveal sin and call for justice. So the tribes are gathered to meet out judgment! They decide to get an army together, 400,000 men. They go to the town of Gibeah, where Benjamin [the tribe] lives. They tell the people ‘you have done wickedly, give to us the men who have infected this whole tribe [denomination/whole groups of believers who have been affected in a wrong way by certain teachers who have ‘crept in unawares’]. Benjamin says no! There is a strange dynamic that takes place in the Body of Christ. Whenever the Lord moves in a big way to correct or reform wrong doctrine, very rarely do the victims of the wrong doctrine want to admit that they were wrongly influenced. The sin of pride says ‘are you telling me that I was duped’? Benjamin actually goes into this protection mode and defends the wicked doers in their midst! So Israel encamps against Benjamin and they fight. Sure enough Benjamin wins! Wow, they must have thought ‘see, we were correct in refusing to deal with the wrong stuff in our community’ [whole groups of believers who harbor false things]. Israel is distraught, were they wrong in going against Benjamin? You honestly have to ask yourself this question at times. God might really have raised you up to deal with some stuff. You might actually lose a battle or two! The Lord tells them ‘No, you weren’t wrong in dealing with the false stuff in the tribe of Benjamin, go back and give it another shot’. The next day Israel attacks again, and again they lose! They ask the Lord about it and he says keep trying. On day three they adjust their procedure; they set an ambush and eventually overthrow Benjamin. Now, this is no great victory, God actually called the rest of the people of God to deal with an aberrant tribe. The church goes thru reformation seasons where she needs to deal with wrong stuff on a global scale. The history of Christianity shows us the great ecumenical councils of the church. Times where the whole Body of Christ had to agree that certain things were right or wrong. It is only natural for those being rebuked to fight back and not admit their fault. This process is very difficult. Paul wrote the Galatians and told them if a brother is in a fault, that the more mature [spiritual] ones should correct it in love. Over the years I have been involved with trying to explain to sincere believers, some of them who hold positions of leadership, how we can’t keep teaching things that have been shown to be blatantly wrong. Often times the ‘tribes’ [groups] will fight back, and win a war or two! Understand, Benjamin was running their tribe as an efficient unit to a degree. Even though they had ‘bad seed’ in their group, yet the fact that they did exist as a functioning unit allowed them to successfully resist a few previous challenges to their tribe [belief system]. But ultimately there came a challenge that was too hard to resist, the rest of the nation joined as ‘one man’ to say ‘enough is enough, we love you as a brother tribe, but this stuff has gone on way too long’. It was the radical act of the Levite that brought the attention to the rest of the tribes of what was going on. It was the responsibility of the nation as a whole to deal with the ‘lost tribe’.

 

  • PARABLE OF TARES AND WHEAT- I just had a dream [about an hour ago] and I was with an old friend from New Jersey. We were both going to join the high school football team. I remember saying ‘wow, weren’t we doing this 25 years ago? Can you believe after all this time we are partnering again?’ Yesterday I spent a lot of time re reading the parables of Jesus. His mindset in the parables are so much different than ours. He says ‘The good seed that God planted grows up among the weeds that the enemy plants’ and they ask him ‘should we root out the bad tares?’ and he says ‘no, leave them alone. Let them grow together until the harvest [end of the age] and then the reapers [referring to the angels] will come forth and separate them’. Do we think like this? How many times has the ‘good wheat’ [believers] tried to root out the bad? We start movements that seem to tell the lost world ‘we don’t want you influencing our kids, we want your lifestyle as far away from us as possible’ in essence we try to ‘root them out’. Jesus said the field in this parable was the world. He told us to stop trying to pull the weeds out of society! Now, we are here as salt and light. We are supposed to have an effect on society. But the message and spirit that the lost world ‘feel’ from us should be one of reconciliation, not condemnation. We offer hope and forgiveness to the unbeliever. At the end of the day after all the sides are taken and the arguments are over. It’s up to us to be there for the unbeliever when his life and philosophy fail him. I just heard a testimony on how one of the most famous atheists of the last century, Anthony [Antony] Flew rejected his former belief and had to acknowledge the absolute scientific impossibility of all existing things having come from a point in time where no thing existed. Now, most unbelievers do not realize the total absurdity of holding on to a belief like this. Flew was considered one of the top intellectual atheists of the 20th century. He debated the best of them. But the simple reality of his false belief system finally was too much to bear. In his book explaining why he changed positions, he had to admit that the unbelievable intricacy of man. The complexity of human DNA. All of these complex systems that science has shown us over these last 25 years. They are proof of someone having to have a hand in designing the things. To believe that such unbelievable complexity could have arrived from NO THING is absolutely scientifically impossible! You can not get life and the universe and all other things from NO THING. He agreed. Jesus told us there would come a time at the end of the world where God would separate the good wheat from the bad. Until that time comes we need to let both grow together, some times what we thought were weeds turn out to be wheat.

 

  • -INTRODUCTION TO THE PARABLES- I was going to finish our study in Judges today, but I felt like sharing something else. Recently I have been reading the parables of Jesus out of my first King James Bible. Even though I give away lots of my books and stuff, yet I managed to hold on to this keepsake. Actually I did give it away and eventually got it back! That’s why I am writing this entry. If you read the first 50 or so entries [1-50!] from the section ‘Prophecies, Dreams, Visions part 1’ you will read the story of my journey to Texas as a young rebel and how after I became a believer I led one of my old buddies from Jersey to the Lord. This friend became a believer and we learned and grew as Christians. Eventually he would die of Aids. I had given him my first bible and years later got it back. As I read thru it I realized he made notes and stuff in it. Things like ‘ask John about this?’ and other interesting stuff. Of course this bible is special to me because it contains personal insights from my first convert to the Lord. So let me share a few things I recently read. He wrote ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ and ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are out of Gods will’. Hebrews says ‘though he is dead he yet speaketh’. I consider this a privilege of being part of a Christian communion that all believers belong to. We have brothers who are looking at us from heaven right now. We truly belong to a ‘communion of saints’. After all these years, for you to get something from this simple sharing of my brothers thoughts is part of the process of being in this communion. Look at the simplicity of these words ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are not in Gods will’. As I finish our study in Judges I think I am going to share a few of Jesus parables. In these parables we see Jesus ethos of the Kingdom, the things he puts value on. These things are contrary to what we value, especially as we look at ‘modern ministry’. Jesus will teach the value of not being famous or recognized! The value of becoming ‘the least of all’. Things like the mustard seed being the least of all seeds, but when it is sown it becomes the greatest. We often see faith from this. While this does apply, we also see Jesus ‘the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying’ [John’s gospel] Jesus, who Isaiah prophesied ‘I am a WORM AND NO MAN’. The Son of God who would become the least of all ‘seeds’. Who actually experienced the accumulated feelings of unworthiness and absolute condemnation that all the sins of the world could bring upon a person. He personally experienced the actual act of being forsaken and told by God ‘you are now a worm and no man’. You think ‘how could this be’ this was an aspect of bearing the sins of humanity on himself. Jesus will teach us the importance of being last, how it is of great value if in the eyes of man you look like a failure, but in the eyes of God you lived humbly. Jesus even values the words of people who lived sinful lives and failed often. He never condones sin, but he still values these ‘little ones’ [in the eyes of men] he will even use the words of one who died of aids.

 

  • JUDGES 21- We end the book of Judges with the nation of Israel mourning over the fact that they had to deal with one of their own tribes who left the true path of God. They vowed ‘not to give their daughters any more to them’. They made a determination ‘no matter how much we personally like them, the many good memories of days gone by. The good old stories of our past heritage together. The actual good things that we all shared over the years’. Yet they decided this was the generation that would make the break. By not giving their daughters unto them they were in essence saying ‘we will no longer allow your tribe to effect the whole nation’. Tough stuff, Paul does this with the Corinthians; he says ‘remove the wicked from among you’. Now, Israel does not want the total destruction of the erring tribe! [nor Paul, read 2nd Corinthians]. They work out a deal where the ‘virgins’ of the tribe that did not show up for the initial battle [Jabesh Gilead] would become the wives of the surviving Benjamites. They allowed the tribe to survive, post judgment day! I see lots of spiritual meaning to this stuff. Often times we as believers do not want to deal with ‘errant tribes’. We prefer to think ‘well, we all believe in Jesus. Lets just love each other’. Hey, I am all for love. I have come to realize many well meaning Christians really don’t like dealing with stuff because it gets rough. Jesus said ‘do you think I have come to bring peace? No, I tell you I have come to bring division. Homes will be divided. Brother against brother and family member against family member’. Now, we know Jesus is the prince of Peace. The angels would say ‘peace on earth and good will towards men’. But Jesus was speaking of the reality of having to take sides at certain times. The inevitable conflict that comes with saying ‘this is true, this is false’. Israel dealt severely with a brother tribe, it would not have been ‘love’ for them to have ignored the problem! Let’s end Judges with a brief overview. Why did we see all the problems in this book? Time after time God would deliver them and time after time they would fall back into sin. God knew all along that this would happen. The intent of the law was to reveal to man his inability to ‘self reform’. The season of judges was simply a foreshadowing of a future day [now] where there would be a ‘judge’ [Jesus] who would be able to continually save the people because he would have a rule that would not end. Israel did fine as long as the judge was alive, after his death they would fall. So today we have Jesus, the Great High Priest who is able ‘to save to the uttermost, those who come to God by him. For he ever liveth to make intercession for them’ [Hebrews].

 

  • JESUS PARABLES- Well I already covered the ‘mustard seed’ in the introduction and spoke on the Tares and Wheat. I forgot to mention that we see a simple end times teaching from Jesus in these parables. Now I realize the many varied views on the subject of the parables and end time dispensationalism. Good Christians [I find myself having to say this a lot!] at times have taught a type of scenario where many of the sayings of Jesus about the end times seem to refer only to the Jewish people and they have ways of ‘watering down’ the many plain statements of Jesus about the final judgment. But notice how he says ‘at the end of the world the angels go forth and separate the good from the bad’. The ‘tares are taken away’ and the good wheat remains. In the parables you see both the believers and unbelievers together right up until the second coming. You don’t see a time where there are ‘no good wheat’ and the tares are saying ‘hey, where did all the good wheat go? Maybe the aliens took them’? [I know this sounds silly, but many believers espouse stuff like this!] So anyway we see the idea of Jesus people being present right up until the judgment. The ‘bad seed’ are taken away first, then the righteous shine forth in their fathers Kingdom. Also we see the value that Jesus places on ‘nothingness’ that is becoming least, giving up the pursuits of glory. He is not looking for ‘great faith and men of great stature’ he is looking for ‘the mustard seed mentality’. Now in the introduction I hit on the idea that Jesus himself embodies the mustard seed. He was truly ‘the least of all seeds’ and buried himself in the ground. He has become the greatest ‘tree’ in all the earth! The Christian church [his Body!] is the biggest worldwide movement today [I know Islam is trying hard to catch up]. Jesus ‘smallness’ allowed him to attain greatness. In Philippians Paul says Jesus emptied himself and became the lowest of all, and because of this the Father gave him a name above every name. Jesus taught this to the disciples when James and John were looking for advancement. Their mother requested that they would have high positions of authority in his Kingdom. Jesus would respond that authority and influence come from servant hood and ‘being least’. Jesus would say of John the Baptist ‘he is the greatest of the prophets, nevertheless he that is least in the kingdom is greater than John’. Some have taught this to mean John was the last of the Old Testament order of prophets, and therefore even the smallest ‘born again believer’ is better than John. But you could also take it as Jesus saying ‘John, you have a great calling. You opened the way for the Messiah. You truly are one of the greatest Prophets of all time. But I, the Messiah, am the least of all seeds to ever be in the earth. I have emptied myself more than any other person. I John, am greater than you’.

 

  • PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN- I guess we need to do a little more ‘teaching’ than I planned on. I am using the parables from Matthew’s gospel. Matthew uses ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ instead of ‘Kingdom of God’. I have heard different ideas on why Matthew said ‘heaven’ instead of ‘God’. The idea that I need to correct is that Matthew was speaking of something totally different than ‘The Kingdom of God’. This belief rose up among the 19th century Dispensationalists, it basically says ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ means the world of Christendom [all religions that make up Christianity] and the Kingdom of God is that future thing that happens some day. Well, both of these are not real good. Most of all you should reject the first idea. The simple reason is that the other Gospels have these same parables with the term ‘God’ in place of ‘Heaven’. For this interpretation to be true [the Christendom one] you would have to believe that Jesus spoke about an entirely different thing, at an entirely different time and setting in Matthews gospel. When believers interpret stuff like this, it is simply not in keeping with ANY of the previous ways believers saw these verses in 1800 years. Plus it seems odd that Matthew would be the only writer who recorded the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ parables while the other writers recorded the Kingdom of God ones. So for whatever reason you think Matthew said ‘Heaven’ and not ‘God’ you should at least understand that he was not speaking of different parables. Now ‘the Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened’. Most of the brothers who believe the ‘heaven-Christendom’ idea teach that Jesus was speaking of sin and wickedness invading the world of Christendom. They get this idea from the fact that leaven does describe sin in most [if not all?] of the other pictures of leaven in scripture. First, leaven [yeast] is something that God created. In and of itself it isn’t ‘wicked’. Second, Jesus can use any physical thing he wants to use in any way he wills to use it in his teachings, he is God after all! And third, I think it fitting that Jesus would take a term used to describe sin and turn it around and ‘redeem’ its use to describe righteousness. After all ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’. Now to the meaning. Jesus values ‘least ness’ in his teachings. He absolutely challenges the present idea of Christianity in many of the American churches. He time and again lets his followers know that they must die to their own agendas and ideas. They must put priority on eternal versus material riches. They must seek to become small and last in order to be first. In all of these teachings he also rewards those who follow his ideals with great influence. The things they do ‘will go far’. Their children will impact society [Genesis 12 and 15- Abrahams seed touching nations]. Jesus calls for carrying our cross daily, dying to our own desires and dreams so his purpose thru us can reach all nations. The ‘hiddeness’ of the yeast speaks of this aspect of kingdom living. You don’t take yeast and ‘spread it all over the outside of everything’ [modern ideas of ministry- ‘get our name out, have everyone know about us’. Hire an image consultant!] Jesus says ‘hide the yeast inside of stuff’ package the gift and talents in such a way that they will ‘secretly’ be in many places. You will hardly even know its there, it’s hidden! Then after a while the effect of the yeast will be so hard to stop you will have a revolution on your hands! ‘Who in the heck started this ball rolling?’ The effect will be great, the fame and recognition will be minimal. Now Jesus taught in all of the parables that his kingdom would be like this. It would be silly to apply the yeast here as wickedness taking over Christendom, he doesn’t use these explosive images to describe sin in his other parables. They speak of small things becoming large in righteous ways [note- the tares are an exception, they are the full harvest of unbelievers along with believers. But the kingdom images [seed and stuff] speak of the radical explosive nature of the kingdom of God in the earth]. So lets look for ways to ‘hide the leaven’ in stuff. Is the most effective way to either write a book? Start a blog? What do you think it is for you? I feel many talented Pastors limit their voice by spending the majority of their teaching efforts on preaching to a room full of people and never even recording [in writing or by voice] the teaching. Make it available in various forms. If you saw some great insights from your study time, why have it taught in a forum where only a limited amount of people will hear it one time? We read of Jesus and Paul and think that they taught a form of ‘local church’ that says ‘give priority to the Sunday pulpit’. Now Paul did say ‘how can they hear without a preacher’ [Romans]. But this applies to hearing Paul’s letters as they were ‘re read’ in the churches. We are right now reading the recorded parables of Jesus that millions upon millions of people read every year! Be wise in putting leaven [good leaven!] in places where it can multiply good things. NOTE- leaven represented sin during the Passover feast. That’s why they couldn’t have it in their meals. But it was permitted during Pentecost. Why? Pentecost would come to represent the outpouring of the Spirit and the intended growth of Christianity, at Pentecost God wanted a massive explosion. Leaven was allowed!

 

  • TREASURE IN A FIELD- Jesus said the Kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man finds it, he hides it and goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. One of the main values of the kingdom is having a willingness to ‘sell all that you have’ make sacrifices and give priority to God’s purpose. In the history of Christianity you have had famous stories of people who felt like the Lord was requiring them to actually do this. They would take vows of poverty and forsake a life filled with the pursuits of things and self, and would make Gods calling number one. We need to be more in tune with this mindset than we are presently at. It is common to read all the statements from Jesus on forsaking all to follow him, and to say ‘well, in so and so’s case [rich man stories and stuff] money was his idol. But Jesus really isn’t talking about money, he is showing us that you can’t put other things ahead of God’. I think we are missing stuff when we do this. In many of these stories the reason Jesus says ‘he sells what he has’ or ‘leave your nets and follow me’ was because he was showing the natural tension that arises between living ‘our dream’ or fulfilling his purpose. A big part of ‘our dream’ is imbedded with ‘stuff’ ‘more stuff’ ‘more stuff than you could ever imagine’! Jesus taught a mindset that said ‘give and it will be given to you, pressed down shaken together and running over’ but along with this he teaches ‘the world is pre occupied with stuff [what should you wear and eat] and I don’t want my followers to be pre occupied with stuff’. The value of the Kingdom is so great, that Jesus said this man sold all that he had to purchase the true riches. Sometimes it is our unwillingness to ‘sell all that we have’ that keeps us from the true riches.

 

  • F.O.’S AND THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT! Hey, I needed to get your attention! A few years back I took a few weeks off from the Fire Dept and drove to New Jersey [or Florida?]. I didn’t keep up with the news and all, but I would catch glimpses every so often. The movie ‘Blair Witch Project’ had come out during my trip. I heard that it was supposed to have been a real documentary film that some kids found, but I wasn’t sure of the whole story. When I got back to work some of the guys were discussing it and I naively said ‘I heard that it was real’ [note to self, don’t blurt stuff like this out]. Sure enough I experienced the portion of scripture that says ‘he was despised more than any man’. I wasn’t alone in this mockery, one of my other buddies at the station said ‘yeah, I heard that too!’ For full disclosure I am going to have to share his first name. It was Sammy! [Sorry Sam, but I need to use your first name for a reason]. So after a few weeks of ridicule we repented of our false belief and accepted the fact that the movie was fake. Then the guys rented ‘The Jersey devil’ and sure enough the talk was ‘this one is real’. As a joke I told Sam ‘Yeah, this is the one we meant. This one is real! Right Sam?’ he wanted nothing to do with it. I remembered a funny story while writing this. The reason I had to use Sam’s name was he had an Anglo sounding first and last name. He was light complexioned and would easily pass for a white guy. One day it slips out and Sam says at some class he told the instructor he was Mexican. Me and my other buddy [a Mexican] said ‘what do you mean you’re Mexican’? And he fessed up, although he looked white and had a white last name, he was 100% Mexican. He admitted that when he was in school some of his friends didn’t know he was Mexican until years later. So I tell Sammy ‘you know I also had that problem growing up’ [he looks at me real seriously! He was still fairly new to the fire Dept. at this point] I said ‘many of my buddies didn’t realize I was black’ [P.S. I am Italian, could pass for Mexican, darker skin than most whites. But it would be a stretch to pass for Black!] Now to the U.F.O.’S. Do I believe in them? No. Do I believe people have seen things in the sky that are unexplainable? Yes. You have had reputable people see things that were unidentified. So I believe in the fact that there are unidentifiable things people have seen. I also do not totally discount the possibility of increased angelic activity as the Second Coming of Christ nears. Now, over these last five years I had a ‘sign’ that kept reoccurring. I would often notice the digital clock time of ‘8:44’. It was so noticeable that I have even written before on this blog about it. Thinking of verses that are ‘8:44’ and stuff like that. It never dawned on me that it might actually be a sign about the time ‘8:44’. So a few nights ago I am watching Larry King on CNN. He was doing a show on the most witnessed UFO event since the famous ‘Phoenix Lights’ where many witnesses saw lights in the sky. Now the one Larry king is showing is the event in Texas. I think the date was 1-2008. As I am watching they have real clear video of these multicolor lights. It simply looks like a glorious light show. There were parts of the video where I thought ‘there is no reason why this couldn’t be an angel’. Sure enough the UFO guys got the government to release the radar from that night. It showed lots of points where something was in the air. Things that were unidentifiable. Now the interesting part was, the radar showed all these things flying towards Crawford Texas where President Bush lives. The many witnesses, along with the actual video, do seem to show real activity. The most prayed for person in the world today is very likely to be the President. God does send angels in scripture to help people who are praying. Is it possible that a bunch of angels were sent on assignment that night? Wouldn’t the Lord give some kind of sign or warning if he were to send an angel? The thing that really caught my attention was as I am watching the repeat of the video during the program; it has the time the video was taken- at exactly 8:44 P.M.

 

  • Let’s throw in one on Evolution. The dating of the earth and universe and when man appeared in modern form vary somewhat depending on who you listen to. But for the most part you have these brothers who think the earth is under 10 billion years old while the universe is over that [around 13 billion or so, give or take a few billion!]. Now, these brothers also espouse the idea that man in his present form evolved around 150 thousand years ago. At least this is the official stuff you’re taught in high school. Now, according to the atheistic scientist [There are tons of Christian scientists by the way, who reject Evolution as a theory that has been unproven!] man showed up 150 thousand years ago. At the present population growth rate of a little less than one half percent growth annually, do you know how many people would be on the planet by now? A number way over the present population [around 6.5 billion is the present population of our planet]. The number you would get by estimating the 150 thousand date would be so great that you wouldn’t be able to fit all the people on the planet [this of course includes the death rate as well]. Well say if you lowered the evolutionary number and said man showed up around 100 thousand years ago? Still too high. What about 50? Nope. 25 thousand years ago? Still too high. Well let’s see what these silly ‘bible Christians’ believe. The bible gives the date of mans appearance on the planet to be around 6 thousand years ago. But wait, these silly Christians also believe the story of Noah and some huge ark that held all these animals and stuff, along with eight people. The date for Noah’s ark is around 4,500 years ago. Lets say we used the present growth rate for the human population [a little under 1 half percent annually] and ran the numbers from 8 people who left the ark 4500 year ago. I wonder what the number would be. Between 6.4 and 6.5 billion! Wow, for a bunch of people who believe these silly stories in the bible, they keep ‘getting lucky’ when it comes to the facts. NOTE- In keeping myself honest, I am not necessarily a ‘young earth creationist’. I believe it’s possible for the earth to be a lot older than 6 thousand years old. Now, you have varying views among Christians on this. You have ‘young earth creationists’ ‘old earth creationists’ [which I lean towards] and ‘Theistic Evolutionists’. The Theistic Evolutionists basically believe the naturalists timeline on man evolving from primitive life forms. The main problem with this theory is most of the recent [last 50-75 years] discoveries in Paleontology, Biology and Physics absolutely prove otherwise. The ‘Cambrian explosion’ is the earliest fossil ‘level’ [some say 540 million years ago]. This level contains multiple life forms and structures appearing in complete form. This fact is an admitted problem among evolutionists. They know this does not line up with their theory. In the world of Cosmology [Cosmos!] we have discovered an unbelievable amount of ‘fine tuning’ in the universe and solar system. Our Solar system contains 9 Planets [well, I think they dropped Pluto off the list?] In this system you have a Planet, Jupiter, that is larger than all the other planets combined. We now realize that this creates an effect that cause’s meteors to either be deflected by the strong gravity of Jupiter, or to be drawn in to it. This formerly unknown reason for the size of Jupiter now has a reason. In the past you had one basic scientific theory on the universe. It was the ‘static theory’. All scientists held this theory for thousands of years. You had Greek thinkers who espoused this before Christ. The only people who had a theory that the universe had a beginning were the Christians, Jews and Muslims. Basically all who believed in the Old Testament. You were considered ‘loony’ to have believed this. In the last century [1900’s] science came to the conclusion that this silly ‘religious belief’ was correct. You have a very small number of scientists who deny that the universe had a beginning [Stephen Hawking has a ‘multi-verse’ idea. He believes that our universe is part of a series of never ending big bangs. That from all time there have been big bangs that have birthed universes and then this kept repeating from eternity past. It should be noted that very few, if any, other scientists believe this. Some hold to the old steady state theory and deny the big bang]. So anyway after all these year’s science has got it right again! Sort of like Jack Blacks wrestling partner in the movie ‘Nacho Libre’. Black asks him why he never got baptized and the brother says ‘ I believe in science’. Then Black [Libre] forces his head into a pan of water. Hey, they were going up against ‘satan’s kids’ that night! [In the ring]. So we now have the young versus the old earth creationists. Let me say even though I lean towards a possible older earth, I do not see a gap theory [a belief that between ‘in the beginning God created’ and ‘the earth was without form’ that you had a pre adamic civilization]. I believe it’s possible to simply have an extended time from ‘in the beginning’ [Gen 1] and the 6 days of creation. I do not see a race of men that had ‘no souls’ and then later another human race. Some old earth brothers espouse this idea. The young earth brothers simply see the 6 days of creation literally [as I do!] but leave no room for any time period for an older earth. To be honest they have some very good proof that has come out to defend this argument. And some of the proof for an old earth is not as strong as you might think! But I want to stress that all the proof shows that there was a beginning to our universe, and that fact alone is one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time. This fact also backs up what the Christians were teaching all along.

 

  • A BUNCH OF PEARL HUNTERS! As long as I can remember I have been a ‘pearl hunter’. You too! I don’t mean literal pearls, but things that we fixate on. I would venture to say that all you male readers [most all] have been on the B.B. gun hunt at one time. I still remember seeing my buddies at grade school with the cherished pearl! [actually the pearl handles were nice] I eventually persuaded my dad to convince my mom that I would not shoot my eye out. It was not too longer after that I possessed the precious object. [To me it was like getting that special thing, even though hundreds of thousands of other boys were presently shooting birds, windows and all sorts of things on a daily global scale]. Then came the go-cart. I learned from this experience that if you can’t get your own hands on the coveted material object, that the next best thing is to become friends with the kid who has it! I made lots of new friends. I must have bought and sold 8-10 dirt bikes before the age of 16. I loved them. I also noticed something with these toys, the moment you fixate on a ‘new toy’ you lose interest in the old one. There seems to be a thing in man that says ‘I must acquire that special object that is so coveted, that it deserves to be on a pedestal by itself’. How dare that go–cart take up all that room in the garage, I need that space for the dirt bike! Jesus said ‘The Kingdom is like a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, when he finds one of great price, he sells everything [get that go cart out!] so he can purchase that one pearl’. There is just something that takes place when you stumble across the kingdom. It offers eternal life for free to everyone who believes. As you journey along the road you learn that the actual choice that you thought you made to ‘purchase the pearl’ was really pre ordained of God! In essence it is so secure that you didn’t even have the option of not purchasing it! How do you know when you have found it? Easy, you see all the other ‘toys’ as being not worthy to compete with it. You sell out because of its significance. I thank God that as men [40-60 years old] we grow out of that childish stage of wanting silly toys. Or do we? A few years back I was shopping at our local flea market [it’s named ‘the trade center’] and as I hit all the ‘men’ booths, Knives, Guns, Etc. [toy guns] I saw the booth that had the blow guns and crossbows. I of course had to stop there. You never know, maybe there was some responsible purchase to be made? They did have every imaginable blow gun to fit any future scenario. As I am asking the lady ‘how strong is this one’ [a small hand held crossbow] she says ‘well, my husband shoots the arrows thru a steel shed in our yard’. The lady had to be nearing 65 years old!

 

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

 

  • WHY A ‘MULTI-VERSE’ THEORY IS FALSE. Jumping back to apologetics. Some atheists have espoused the ‘multi-verse’ idea to try to explain away the unbelievable complexity of the universe and our galaxy and solar system. The further along we advance in the study of Physics and Cosmology, we find a degree of ‘fine tuning’ in the universe that is incomprehensible. We have learned things about our universe that were previously thought of as mere chance. Even though we theorize that there may be millions or billions of planets in the universe, as far as we know the only one that has the unbelievable delicate balance of air and atmosphere to support life is ours. Our unique placement in our galaxy [Milky Way] allows our solar system to be in a position where we can ‘see’ our actual location in space [thru telescopes of course!] there are many other ‘spots’ that we could have been placed in that would not have allowed our own viewing of our position. Did God realize [did!] that there would come a time in human history as man advanced in wisdom where he would figure out the absolute need for a designer to have done these things? Richard Dawkins and other atheists realize what a losing game they are playing. They see how it is impossible for all of this complexity and design to be in our universe and for all of this to have happened from no thing! So in sheer fantasy they have come up with a solution. A ‘multi-verse’. That is if the probabilities of our existence in our own universe are so complex, then instead of admitting the astronomical odds [impossibility!] of all this happening by chance, they just ‘changed the odds’. How so? If you flipped a coin and it landed on heads, all day every day for the rest of your life. What conclusion would you come to? You would check out the coin to make sure it doesn’t have 2 heads! Or in other words the first reasonable, logical conclusion would be ‘someone designed the coin to make this happen’. Now say if you had someone who said ‘I don’t believe that someone designed this to happen’. I would ask ‘than how else can you explain, that by pure chance this unbelievable result has occurred’ he could then say ‘well, say if right now as you were flipping the coin, at the same time there are an untold number of other people all over the world right now flipping coins. Let’s say the whole population of 6.5 billion people on the planet are flipping coins!’. Well, I would have to admit that the odds of one person getting heads every time just went up. Even though it would still be highly unlikely that out of all 6.5 billion people you would still have one who hit heads non stop for 25 years in a row, yet the fact is the odds have changed in favor of my friend who does not believe in ‘an intelligent designer who caused the unbelievable odds to happen’. This in a nutshell is what the ‘multi verse’ brothers believe. They have simply changed the odds by saying ‘there are an infinite number of universes’. Now, what evidence do we have that there are multiple universes existing outside of our present universe? None! No wait ‘absolutely none’. ‘Well John, do you mean to tell me that these geniuses of intellect are trying to pass off something as ridiculous as this without any evidence’? Yes. The fact is by definition there can be no evidence. Our universe is described as all that is presently existing in our space/time continuum. Anything that we could ever learn or see is by definition ‘in our universe’. This is why science has proven that for all things [space and time included] to have had a beginning [which is scientific fact!] then there must have been an outside causal agent, who himself was not limited by time or space [our universe!] who acted upon his own purpose and will to bring into existence all things. For Dawkins or Hawking to simply say ‘well, we believe there are untold numbers of infinite big bangs and infinite universes’ is as ridiculous as saying ‘everyone else on the planet are flipping coins’! NOTE- the ‘multi-verse’ idea is gaining ground as an answer to the intelligent design problem seen in our universe. The increased complexity and fine tuning that science is discovering in our universe poses a tremendous threat to the old ‘it just happened’ theory. The obvious ‘silliness’ of the multi- verse theory is its absolute contradiction. In essence it says ‘we have been saying for years that the high improbability of our universe coming into existence from a ‘big bang’ which has no prior cause, is next to impossible’. But this ‘impossible’ supposition is now explained by saying ‘there have been an infinite number of big bangs and an infinite number of universes’. If the odds on all of this coming into existence from ‘nothing’ are small [impossible] what are the odds that this next to impossible phenomena has been going on for ever?

 

  • THE WEDDING SEAT- Jesus said when someone invites you to a wedding, don’t sit in the place of promotion/honor. But sit in a low place. If you seek power and position the man who invited you will come and say ‘please give up your place for this man’ and you will be humbled and lose significance. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he that humbles himself will be exalted. Once again Jesus contrasts the idea of ‘being all you can be’ ‘being the most motivated person in the room’. All natural tendencies that well meaning people fall into when they fail to follow the actual precepts that Jesus gave us for the Christian life. It’s only natural for up and coming ‘ministers’ or believers who feel called to ministry to begin to seek position and prominence. Now most of the time we don’t realize this is happening, it can be a tricky balance to keep. Sometimes it happens, not out of pride but insecurity. People want to be affirmed. If I feel like my position and success are indicators of God being pleased with me, or outward signs of Gods vindication ‘wow, wait until my enemies see me now!’ This can become a trap. The fundamental truth of our acceptance with God is proven by the death and resurrection of his Son. ‘God loved us and he gave his Son to prove this’. Now Jesus showed us the process of being a child of God. His ultimate act of emptying himself [Kenosis] would seem to be contrary to completing his mission. If you possessed all the attributes of God and were given a task of supreme importance [redeeming man] the last thing you would want to do is give up the position and power that you have. It seems contrary to fulfilling the mission! Jesus would ask ‘father, if this is the path to completing the mission, then so be it. But if there is any other way possible, besides me drinking the cup, show me’. It’s only natural for us to want to hold on to power and prestige, to go for ‘the chief seat’. Now in the parable Jesus said the man who invited you will come and say ‘give this man place’ [position]. When the Father exalted the Son and seated him at his right hand, it was after extreme humility. The man who Jesus takes by the hand and says ‘come, sit here in the front’ isn’t jumping up and down and saying ‘I was waiting for this my whole life. I knew if I waited my turn I would be exalted’. He is simply fulfilling the course that was his destiny. He already has learned the futility of trying to gain acceptance and honor from other men. He simply allows the master to move him from a place of insignificance to one of influence. This process is played out time and again in God’s kingdom. We rarely see the practical aspect of truly being Christ like. We think things like ‘God has great plans for me. I am the head and not the tail’ while these things are true, we often mistake the values of the world while seeking ‘headship’. Being the ‘head and not the tail’ means growing up into ‘him’ who is the head! [Jesus]. It is using his own kingdom values as a measuring rod. It means facing the most important decision of your life and saying ‘if you want me Father to give up my position and glory, if you tell me that this path is the one to fulfilling ‘my dreams’. Then even though it seems contrary to all that I see and understand, yet I will do it. Father, your will, not mine be done’.

 

  • PLANT THOSE SEEDS! – Jesus uses the idea of seeds again. The kingdom is like casting seed into the ground. You plant it and go to bed and get up and live a consistent life, before you know it the seed grows. The earth brings forth fruit OF ITSELF. You ‘knoweth not how’ this is happening. Much of kingdom living is simply trusting in God to produce after you obey. Our natural minds say ‘well, it will take so much money and resource to do this. How in the world can we expect the ‘seed to grow’ unless we all become millionaires’ there goes that ‘stinkin thinkin’ again! Hey, the thing will grow while you are sleeping! Our natural talents and abilities [even to raise funds!] has nothing to do with it. Now, after the process of natural [supernatural] growth takes place, you then can harvest it. The seed goes thru growth stages. The blade, ear and ‘full corn’. Here in South Texas we have these beautiful wild flowers that grow every year. In the wild they grow great, but it’s hard to get them going in your yard! The reason is the flowers need to make it to ‘full growth stage’ and then the seedlings die and fall. If you mow them down before full seed stage they don’t reproduce. There are things in your life that God wants to bring to ‘full harvest stage’ [or dying stage!] A place where you don’t know or even care how the thing will grow, you simply cast the seed because you have learned if you ‘don’t cast it, you will be miserable’ in essence you are obeying out of sheer experience! [Paul- woe is me if I preach not the gospel]. Jesus said ‘I have given them the words that you gave me’ [John 17]. There are so many ‘seeds’ that you have been entrusted with. Some have more than others [30,60,100 fold]. God is not holding you accountable for the ‘size of the harvest’ he is holding you accountable for what you did with the handful of seeds he gave you. When Jesus returns he asks ‘what did you do with the talent I gave you’? Some times we fail to plant out of fear ‘I need the land, then some equipment. How much money will it take to plant the first field?’ Just simply plant what you have right now! Jesus said ‘he knoweth not how it is growing, the earth brings forth fruit of itself’. Once you reach the ‘full harvest stage’ the thing looks like its dead [it is] but what do you know, next year you have a yard full of the stuff!

 

  • GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? Jesus said when you have a feast, don’t invite your friends, neighbors or rich people. For they can benefit you in some way, you can get ‘repaid’. But instead invite the down and out, because they can’t repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection and return of Christ. Once again Jesus precepts are so contrary to the engrained mindset of ‘getting a reward’. We have an endemic problem in the American church. We do most everything with ‘repayment in mind’. We want it, we want it now and we want an overabundance of it! Heck, didn’t Jesus teach this? Well yes he did ‘give and it will be given unto you….’ Hebrews says ‘those who come after God must believe that he is and that he rewards us’. The point is a great body of Jesus teachings show us that this life and all it can afford are temporary riches. Paul said in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 1 that God will repay us at the appearing of Jesus. We need to re- tool our motivations for ‘ministry’ [service] and understand that our real reward is at the end [or beginning!]. Do we really live like this? Do we give and serve with the expectation of getting our rewards soon? Do we ‘sow seed’ [give money] with this very understanding as the primary motive for giving? Jesus said ‘when you do charitable deeds [note- he is not addressing this responsibility to the mission outreach of ‘the church’ or the barrio ministry!] do it with the mindset of not receiving a reward until I return’. Well brother, what’s the use of doing good stuff then? Well its service to our King, its part of counting the cost. It’s part of taking up our cross daily. Make no bones about it, there is an aspect of service to Jesus that says ‘we do not live for present rewards, but our lives show thru word and deed that there is an afterlife. We fully expect to be rewarded then’. I realize that we have focused and gone way overboard on the reality of God blessing us in this life. I understand why people do not like to hear this stuff. But the time has come for the American church to repent of our idolatry and get on board with the rest of the Body of Christ. Our brothers and sisters worldwide have learned to live [and die!] for the cause of Christ, and we can’t even hold a free B.B.Q!

 

  • WHY SO MANY THEORIES? I know I jump around a lot! Recently I have been reading some stuff on all the recent [50 years] evidence of God coming from the study of the Cosmos. I have mentioned that the accepted science for the existence of our current universe is ‘the big bang theory’. Now, the reason this theory is ‘accepted’ by well over 90 percent of the scientific community is because as time progressed after it’s initial discovery, all the evidence kept pointing to an initial event [big bang] that was the beginning point of all matter, time, energy and space. For many thousands of years thinkers and scientists did not believe this. It was considered ‘ignorant’ to hold to an idea that said ‘there was a beginning point to time and space’. To many of you this sounds strange even now! But be assured, science has proven this to be true. One of the great intellects of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, who came up with the ‘theory of relativity’ introduced new concepts of time and space that were revolutionary breakthroughs in thought. After a multiple of new discoveries [Hubble- the expanding universe] the century progressed to a point where that which was seen as ignorant in days gone by [that time and space actually had a beginning point] was now accepted mainstream science. Now, all scientists were not so willing to give in to the accepted theory. Many of them openly said ‘if this theory [big bang] is true, then God is a necessary being’. Many realized that for all things to have had a starting point, especially time and space, that the only reasonable explanation for the existence of all things is ‘God’. I know it’s hard to grasp the concept that God exists outside of the parameters of time and space. We often see God as this being who was ‘floating around’ in eternity in some empty void, who one day said ‘Let there be light’ and he began creating things. But in all actuality God wasn’t ‘floating in space for all time’, he simply WAS. That is there was no time or space for him to have been floating in! His omniscience and omnipresence was all there was! Now, as hard as it is for us to grasp this concept, I want you to see that the only people who held to this idea of a transcendent being [someone who transcends time and space] were people who believed in God! It seemed humorous and ignorant to believe in a pre existent being who was self existent and lived outside of time and space. But be assured, this ‘silly’ belief in Gods characteristics, as revealed thru scripture, is now absolutely proven to be the most feasible solution to the existence of our universe! That’s why Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins and others have tried very hard to introduce other views of the existence of our universe [multi- verse, oscillating, steady state, ‘vacuum’] all attempts at trying to undo the majority accepted view. The problem is at this point they are not fighting the Christians as much as their fellow colleagues! After a hundred years of true science, we now know that all things [except God] had a beginning point. The atheist knows if this is true he will have to admit God. They should listen to one of the great thinkers of all time who when trying to come up with an overriding answer that would ‘unify’ [explain] all the various fields of science, said ‘God doesn’t roll dice’. Einstein was too smart to leave God out of the equation.

 

  • HE SPENT HIS MONEY ON PROSTITUTES AND GOD THREW HIM A PARTY! In Luke 15 we have the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. The chapter begins with the religious leaders becoming offended that Jesus was receiving sinners. This is the backdrop to why Jesus gives the story. He starts with 2 other brief parables of lost sheep and coins. The themes of these are ‘just like a man rejoices over finding something that was lost, so likewise God rejoices ‘throws a party’ when a sinner comes home’. This begins the story. Jesus says a man had 2 sons [Jew/Gentile] and one son said ‘Father, give me the inheritance that is rightfully mine’ [the immature son learned the truth of ‘requesting his inheritance’ –money, and getting it rightfully. This did not mean that he was mature or correct in doing what he did. Even though the father had prepared it for him, the son was preoccupied with getting it NOW!] The father divides the inheritance to both boys. The young son goes off and lives it up. He spends all his money and ends up eating pig food. He comes to his senses and says ‘I will return home, my father has servants living better than this! I will request a job from dad’. As the boy nears the house the father runs and grabs the boy. He tells his servants ‘go, kill the calf and let’s have a party!’ He puts a robe on him and gives him a ring. Now the older son [Israel- she has been struggling for centuries to try and please God. Sure she has failed, but heck these other nations weren’t even trying!] hears the uproar and says ‘what’s going on?’ They tell him ‘your brother returned and your father has thrown him a party’. He sulks in his room. The father asks what’s wrong and the older son says ‘I have tried my best to live up to your standards [Law] and yet my younger brother spent all his money rebelling against you. Where was he when things got rough? I was here to give you a hand, not him! And as soon as he shows up you are overjoyed about it. What about me?’ Remember, Jesus is giving this story in response to the offence that the Jewish leaders had at the beginning of this chapter. The father says ‘son, you have always been with me [God made his covenant available to Israel for many years. Just because he was opening it up to the ‘sinning nations’ didn’t mean that he cared less about them]. The father tells the son ‘you have always had access to my covenant, this other son [gentile nations] went astray for many years. Don’t take it wrong that I am happy over his return. He was lost and now he’s home’. Jesus challenged the mindset of Israel in this parable. It was only natural for the nation of Israel to have been offended. Jesus even taught ‘offenses must happen’. But they were going to reject their Messiah because of this offense. They couldn’t believe how Jesus treated the outcasts ‘they wasted your money on harlots’! was the corporate cry of Israel. ‘How could you even think of eating with them’. Often times we get offended because God is merciful. Jesus gives other parables along these lines. The hired workers who worked all day felt like they got cheated when the master paid them all the same. In that parable Jesus has the master saying ‘are you mad because I did what I wanted with what was mine? I didn’t cheat you , I gave you what I agreed to pay you’ once again they were offended that Jesus was offering equal access to those who were deemed ‘less worthy’. Jesus did tell the older son ‘all that I have ever had has been made available, don’t let your offense keep you from enjoying the party’.

 

  • NEW WINE NEEDS NEW BOTTLES- Jesus said no man takes a piece of new cloth and sews it onto old clothes. Or no one takes new wine and puts in into old wineskins. If you do the wineskins will break and the wine is lost. Jesus was a radical revolutionary, his message and Kingdom were one of tremendous change and transition. The New Testament calls this ‘the time of reformation’. In John chapter 3 he told Nicodemus ‘unless a man is born again he cant even see or begin to perceive this new thing’. We often seek for new understanding, trying to improve our lives and callings. Sincere people who are looking for innovation and trying to be on the ‘cutting edge’. One of the common mistakes we as believers make is we often approach ‘new ideas’ with ‘old structures’ in mind. Much of the stuff I have written on ‘local church’ fits into this category. Jesus is primarily teaching the reality of his New Covenant being one of complete transition and change. He knew that the old mindset of law and legalism would not be able to contain the New Covenant. The Spirit of God needs ‘new’ [born again] vessels to be poured into. Jesus also said those who have been ‘drinking the old wine’ have a natural tendency to resist change. They are comfortable with the traditions and form that have surrounded them for most of their lives. There is ‘special value’ on ‘wine that is old’. Jesus told the disciples ‘I have many things to teach you, but you are not able to hear them right now’ in essence ‘their old wine skin mentality’ couldn’t handle the new things. In all growth and maturing there also needs to be a basic understanding that it does no good whatsoever to change or introduce reformation to the degree that both the wine and the wineskins are lost. Jesus realized there were certain things that the disciples just couldn’t handle, and it would have been pointless to have ‘cast the pearls’ at that time. I want to challenge you, God often holds back the answer to a question or problem because he realizes we need to be re-positioned before we can receive it. He doesn’t simply communicate ‘new and deep revelation’ for the sake of making us smarter! He wants the people of God to come to maturity so he can be glorified in all the nations. New wine is good, in fact it is a necessity! But it does absolutely no good if it’s spilled all over the ground.

 

  • I was going to do the parable [some say story! – I explain it later] of the rich man and Lazarus, but felt we should go another way. Yesterday I was reading some stuff on line and learned of the book Frank Viola wrote ‘Pagan Christianity’. I have not read it, but I have read other books from Frank and I think he is an excellent teacher. As I was ‘perusing’ the comments from Pastors and others who read the book, I realized that it stirred up a controversy in many circles. I thought it interesting that a big part of our teaching has been debated recently and I wasn’t even aware of it. Let me make some comments about ‘the comments’. The title might be a little strong, I understand the actual fact of many modern Christian practices arising from ‘pagan’ sources. But this in itself was no secret to the believers who willingly did this at the time! I remember reading one of my ‘history of Christianity’ books and hearing a Catholic author explain why the 4th century church did embrace, to a degree, certain pagan things. Some Protestants seem to think that the fact that Christmas and Easter have obviously pagan histories is a secret known only to them [them being protestants]. But the Catholic author explained that ‘changing’ pagan holidays into ‘Christian ones’ was done on purpose. The intent was to allow the pagans to keep their special days, though the institutional purpose of those days was changed, as the Emperor Constantine was legitimizing Christianity [his brand of it]. Now was this ‘compromising’? Sure. But was this a secret pagan take over of Christianity? Probably not. So when we see ‘pagan’ things [cultural changes] being mixed in with Christianity, sometimes it doesn’t mean what we think. Paul teaches in Timothy to give honor to Elders and respect those in authority. Paul says ‘I am writing these things so believers will know how to behave in the House of God’. In context, the elders and the ‘House of God’ are simply speaking about the mature saints who were living and dedicating their lives for the propagation of the gospel and spending extra time ‘building Gods House’ [the actual community of believers in their midst]. But later on as Christianity developed the ‘House of God’ would be seen as the ‘church building’. The hired positions of clergy were seen as ‘Bishops, Pastors, and Priests’. So when you would have a reformer rise up [Luther] it was easy to initially brand him as a heretic who was ‘going against Gods House’. Who was ‘not honoring’ the Elders [Pope and Bishop]. The mistake was reading the New Testament and simply applying the names [House of God- church building. Bishop [of Rome] – Catholic apostolic succession from Peter] of things to the present understanding. So the Protestants would have their Reformation and only go so far. For all practical purposes the ‘House of God’ was still seen as ‘the church building’. And the Protestant Pastor was still seen as the office of someone who ‘oversees the church’. There really was no reformation of ‘church practices’ or the way ‘we do church’. Now, are all of these practices inherently wicked? No. Do they hinder growth and maturity among believers? To a degree, yes. Paul’s words to Timothy on honoring Elders, giving them ‘double honor’. This speaks about actually sharing your material goods with those in the community who were dedicating themselves to learning and teaching this ‘new way’. All believers did not have access to scripture like we have today. The scrolls of the Old Testament and the letters of Paul were circulating, but some of the new believers couldn’t even read! So in these communities of people, which Paul describes as ‘The House of God’ you had ‘spiritual parents’. More mature Elders who had a stable grasp of doctrine. They would help keep the believers on course in a day where there was no internet, libraries [available to the general public at large] no radio or T.V. [this one could be a blessing!]. In essence these Elders, Bishops [overseers] were simple believers who were worthy of ‘double honor’ [feed them, help them out materially, they are meeting a real need and for all practical purposes they are needed!]. But as Constantine would ‘marry’ the Empire and institutionalize the church, the ‘double honor’ portions of scripture were used to justify a ‘tithe system’ that would support ‘the church’. Priests and Bishops took on a different meaning than the way Paul would use the term. The development of hired clergy and the overall institutionalizing of the church used common New Testament terms, but for the most part these terms were taken out of context. The Protestant Reformation dealt with important doctrinal issues, but this basic ‘way of seeing church’ did not change. While I haven’t read Franks book yet, I plan on reading it in the future. Understand I am not commenting on what frank Viola means when he says ‘Pagan Christianity’. I am simply sharing my thoughts on the development of Christianity.

 

  • OUR WE A BUFFET OR A PARK? I guess we need to do some more on ‘the house church movement’. First, the New Testament addresses ‘the church’ as the corporate people of God. The great mystery is that Christ is dwelling in our hearts by faith. That all believers are walking around as ‘the mobile dwelling place of God, THE HOUSE OF GOD!’ Now, from this standpoint we live and function as the people of God. As we learn and grow we realize that ‘along the way’ we have grasped on to limited ideas about who we are and what the church is. Many of these concepts are shared by both Catholic and Protestant believers. Some who have been helpful in showing us the limited perspective of ‘church at/as the building’ as being silly, seem to have grasped on to the idea that ‘church at the house’ is the basic organic nature of ‘church’. I disagree. In society today you have all sorts of family units. Kids are being born and leaving home and going out into this ‘brave new world’ and imprinting their name on the world. All over the earth you have parents who are writing and keeping in touch with their offspring as they learn and grow as people. These kids are doing all sorts of things [shopping, eating, going to movies, going to the buffet on Sunday]. Now say if you as a parent changed the way you wrote your letters; ‘Dear Johnnie and family’ turned into ‘dear kids who meet and eat every Sunday at the buffet’. The kids would be wondering ‘what’s up with dad, why does he see us only thru the lens of us eating on Sunday’ [or whatever day you eat]. The basic mistake that dad is making is he is seeing one of the functions of his kids [meeting for the purpose of eating] and mistaking that function for ‘the kids’. That is he is beginning to identify his kids in a limited way by viewing them only thru this lens. Now say if dad does some research and finds out that the first century ‘kids’ were having their meals in the park. It was only as time progressed that they built ‘buffets’ and places to go on Sunday to eat. And as time progressed all the kids from future generations starting viewing themselves thru the lens of ‘we are families, we are people who eat at buffets on Sunday’. Now say if the researcher who has discovered that the early families really never ate at buffets [met in buildings!] begins to teach that ‘true family’ are those who meet at parks. The fundamental mistake, in my mind, would be defining ‘the people’ [church] as the kids who eat/meet at the park. While in reality, these first century ‘kids’ were defined as being ‘real kids, who were living and ‘eating’ and functioning as real people as a result of really being born by real parents’. That is the real definition of ‘being kids’ is neither ‘meeting at the 4th century church building’ [or calling the actual building ‘the kids’!] nor is it ‘meeting at the first century park’ [home meetings]. The researcher, as helpful as he has been in showing us the limited model of 4th century ‘buffet eating’ has also been limited in his replacing of ‘the church’ as building based versus home based. Would you address your kids as ‘buffet based’ or ‘park based’? That is would you define them by using the measuring rod of ‘where they met to eat’? Of course not! They are ‘kids’ [children of God] because they have been born into human [spiritual] families. Their fundamental nature as ‘children of humans’ [of God] is what makes them ‘kids’. So today I wanted to re focus our attention on what the ‘church’ actually is. The church are all the people of God [both those in buildings, parks and any where else they happen to be] who are alive because they have been actually born from God the father. Our identity is not based on 4th or 1st  century ‘ways of meeting’. Our identity is based on being ‘born from above’.

 

  • It seems as if every time I take an excursion from a ‘study’ I do 3 or so posts. So let’s see if I can close here. There are obviously major hurdles and feelings at stake when any body says ‘look, I have found some great stuff in the bible. Lots of it has to do with the fact that what you thought was ‘church’ is not ‘church’. What you thought was a fulltime position of ‘Pastor’ is no where in scripture. And what you have been doing for the past 20 years is off track’. Any job description [Prophet!] that carries this type of function is not going to be well received! [I am not talking about me]. So as we examine and learn about the church and the role of leadership, we must realize that feelings are going to get hurt ‘who does he think he is! Man that guy is threatening my livelihood!’ Well, yes it is possible that the fact that there were no 1st century ‘Pastors’ in the context of what that word means today, can be threatening. So do we never address the issue because it is threatening? But do we go around and teach all the believers that they should abandon all present structures? I appreciate all the good teachers I have learned from over the years. Real insights into things that I would have never seen without their help. Some of these teachers have been excellent on revealing the fact that the 1st century church did not have the office of Pastor as the weekly speaker to the ‘local church’. This was not the normal way believers met. The 1st century gatherings were corporate ‘body life’ experiences. People learn and grow in a conversation with others. They stagnate by sitting in an audience [both the pastors and the spectators]. Now, some have argued that Elders, Pastors and Overseers in general had a very limited, if not non existent, role in the first century churches. This can be debated somewhat. I don’t want to argue the point, but simply say that there is enough evidence in scripture to believe that Elders [basic oversight] existed as a regular part of the communities of Jesus in the first century. These leaders were simply more mature men who gave direction and oversight to the flock as God ordained. They were not ‘Pastors’ in the sense of today’s Pastoral office. But they did exist in scripture. So in all of the well meaning efforts of returning back to a more biblical form of church life, I think we need to leave room for leadership to exist and function to some degree. Some of the brothers seem to have gone a little too ideological in the area of ‘no human headship’. They teach that the 1st century churches declared the headship of Jesus by having no human ‘control’ at all in the meetings [communities]. I kind of see their effort as noble, but a little too impractical. Some of this teaching goes along the line of ‘the biggest hindrance to the Body of Christ are the Pastors/Elders’. While I do see a negative result from believers overly depending on the present pastoral office. Yet I do not see a type of New Testament ecclesiology that was absent all human leadership. Leadership is there, it is plural [obey THEM that have the ‘rule’ over you- by the way ‘rule’ here is different than ‘rule’ when referring to human govt. and kings. Jesus did teach that Kingdom leadership would be thru care and oversight] and it is communal. It exercises itself thru leaders [Apostles, Prophets, Elders, etc.] as they live together as a community of people. So the basic reason I am bringing this up is I feel some have drawn a little too idealistic picture of ‘the local meetings’ in the first century. Sort of like the meetings were very spiritual because of a total lack of oversight. I don’t see this description at all. I see Paul writing the Corinthians and rebuking them strongly for having terrible meetings! Now his solution isn’t ‘have everyone one shut up and listen to the Pastor’ [there was no ‘Pastor’!] but there certainly wasn’t some type of purposeful ‘leaderless’ church that had no recognized leaders. To the contrary Paul will give specific instructions in his pastoral epistles [Timothy, Titus] to make sure the local saints knew who were recognized Elders. Paul was not afraid of saying ‘these guys are leaders, if you have problems and situations that arise in my absence, don’t be afraid to go to them. They are stable in the faith’. So while it is true that the first century churches did not have the office of Pastor as we have come to define it today. Yet they weren’t a bunch of ‘leaderless’ people. Elders existed and Paul seemed to have no problem with everyone knowing who the Elders were.

 

  • Okay, I lied! Just to clarify, these last few entries are dealing with years of studying and dealing with ‘organic church’. Many fine authors; Austin Sparks, Gene Edwards, Watchman Nee, Robert Banks, etc. There are varying themes and ideas that arose out of the ‘Rethinking the Wineskin’ mentality. One of the other areas of concern has to do with the understanding of ‘Apostles’ [itinerant workers] as it relates to the ‘Ecclesia’. I am grateful over the amount of believers in general who have recently come to grips with the fact that Apostles do exist today according to the plain reading of the New Testament. The ‘older idea’ of dividing up the portions of scripture that say ‘after Jesus ascended he gave gifts to men, Apostles, Prophets, etc.’ it is fairly obvious that these ‘Apostles’ were made after Christ’s ascension [Ephesians] and that they exist alongside the other gifts. Now, with all the recent dialogue on Apostles and ‘church planting’, do you know how many times the command is given in the New Testament to ‘start churches’? Zero! That’s right, no where in the New Testament are we [or Apostles] commanded to ‘go and plant a church’ Huh? All Christians [Apostles too!] are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It is obvious that in the New Testament the Apostles did have a strong gifting to present the gospel and the gospel taking root in the people [which is what ‘church planting’ is!] But there is no reason to believe that as we challenge the idea of ‘hired clergy’ and the average believer’s dependence on them, that at the same time we should teach a concept that says ‘it is impossible to have a true ecclesia without the extra local worker’. This has been taught many times over the years as I have studied this movement. I feel the mistake is in seeing the power of ‘church planting’ residing in a specific role, and ONLY that role, while at the same time trying to free Gods people from the un biblical role of ‘full time Pastor’. As far as I can tell the church at Rome was ‘started’ by the Diaspora who were scattered sometime after Pentecost. Paul wrote them a letter [Romans] but did not arrive there until later. The point I want to make is this, as we challenge the present ideas and limitations that the ‘institutional church’ has put on the people of God, we don’t want to make the mistake of telling them that ‘the Apostle’ is now the ‘office’ that is indispensable to your healthy existence! The power of the gospel is what makes ‘healthy churches’ [communities]. Sure Apostles are important, but it is the power of the Spirit in the work of regeneration that ‘plants churches’. Now, someone does have to get the message to them! But whether that’s an Evangelist, Prophet or little old grandma! Once the gospel is proclaimed to a group of people, all the essential elements of life are present.

 

  • ARE CHURCH BUILDINGS, PAID LEADERS AND PUBLIC SCRIPTURE READING PAGAN PRACTICES? There are a few reasons why I avoid ‘going too deep’ on this site. The obvious one being I can’t do it very well! Plus it has its ups and downs. I turned 46 the other day. I like taking the kids to the beach and all, growing up in Jersey it was cool to ‘show off’ and ‘go deep’. I have this inner temptation to ‘go deep’ in the Gulf. But there is also a restraining factor; It works like this- I can risk looking cool at the age of 46 and swim out real far, it might be over my head, but heck the kids will think ‘wow, he is really deep’! Then this nagging fear pops up in my mind. I see my self being pulled to shore by some 18 year old lifeguard. I am strung out on the beach with a group of spring breakers hovering over me with Budweiser cans. The local news channel has their cameras in my face as the lifeguard explains how they ‘brought me back with C.P.R.’ and the college kids are saying ‘are you all right old man’? As you can see ‘going deep’ has its risks! Now, what does the bible teach about ‘church [sacred] buildings’ ‘paid clergy [leaders]’ ‘the public reading of scripture’ ‘meeting on Sunday’ and all the other practices associated with ‘the institutional church’? Well actually these things are not as ‘Pagan’ as you might think! In fact the public reading of scripture is commanded in scripture. The ‘paying money’ to Elders is taught. Christians meeting in ‘sacred buildings’ actually did happen to a degree in scripture! Both the Temple and the Synagogue continued to be places where early Jewish [and some Gentile- ‘God- fearers’] believers ‘met’. The point is these actual practices are not necessarily ‘Pagan in origin’. Am I defending the later development of ‘the church being the church building’ along with the clergy system and all that it entails? No. I believe Christians have been confused on what the ‘church is’ and how we as the people of God should function in society. But I also believe that a strong case could be made that the present ‘ideas’ about church that are unbiblical could be traced to ‘Judaism’ instead of ‘Paganism’. The development of the church [sacred] building along with the Altar and officiating Priest can be seen as Legalistic [law mentality] as opposed to Pagan. Now I see both of these developments as bad, but the basic idea of believers having recognized leaders [Elders] who are supported financially [free will –no tithe or ‘salary’] is in scripture. The fact that Paul rented a building in the book of Acts [hall of Tyrannus- Acts 19:9] to teach in a public forum is not pagan! The whole point being we as the Ecclesia are the actual dwelling place of God. As we learn and grow as believers we have tremendous freedom to have public places dedicated to God, scenarios where leaders speak to us in a public forum. Actual ways of supporting leaders who are dedicating their time to teaching and preaching. These things are permitted and at times commanded in scripture! Where we need to re examine our beliefs is when we see the ‘church building’ and the ‘Sunday message’ and all of the things associated with ‘Sunday church’ as actually being ‘the local church’. It is the limited mindset that hinders us. Now, to simply replace the ‘Sunday church building mindset’ with ‘the house church mindset’ doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. Some teach the idea that the ‘natural habitat’ of the believer is the ‘open meeting’. That when you remove the believer from the open meeting format, that in essence you have taken him out of his natural setting and therefore he cant develop right. If you read the teachings of Jesus on how the believer is to ‘act’ and function in society. If you follow the ministry of Jesus and imitate as much as possible his life and precepts. If you do the things Jesus said to do, then you are ‘living in the designed natural habitat’ of the believer! The idea that the ‘open house meeting’ versus the ‘Sunday public meeting’ is the answer for the modern believer is very limited. The problem with most of us is not how or where we are meeting, it is our natural instinct to not want to carry our cross. To live an unselfish life. To give ourselves away for a higher purpose. The main body of the New Testament has very little to say about ‘how to meet’. Sure we have a few well-known scriptures that we are all familiar with ‘forsake not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some’ [Hebrews]. In context this is speaking of the ‘open meeting’ idea. It speaks of exhorting one another. More like Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. But the point I want to make [without the risk of getting pulled to shore!] is that the answer to the present day dilemma of ‘non functioning’ believers is not going to be found in changing the way we meet. Our natural habitat is not sitting in someone’s living room! It is going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. It is being an example of living a sacrificial life as much as possible. Trying to follow the admonition of James on pure religion ‘to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping yourself unspotted from the world’ [not how you meet!]. In a nutshell the problem is most of us are falling short in actually living the life! So I don’t want to contradict all the writings that I have done on this site about the need to change our mindset on ‘what is Local church’. But I feel some have tried to replace the way believers meet, thinking that this in itself is the main problem with modern Christianity. I see it a little differently.

 

  • The recent discussion over ‘pagan church practices’ and the organic versus the ‘church building’ model have been good. It might have surprised some of you to see me ‘defend’ to a degree the ‘church building’- let me explain. Some teach a type of ecclesiology [church govt.] that says ‘you have the institutional church’ [church building, denominational, organized] and the ‘organic’ church. The distinction they seem to be making is ‘although there are Christians in the institutional model, the ‘out of church’ brothers are really the ‘truest form of church’. Sort of like trying to trace ‘your roots’ thru out church history. I covered this concept in the study we did on the book of Acts [read the intro and conclusion]. The problem I have with this is it seems to trace the ‘truer church’ as to a specific historical group of believers, who thru out the centuries resisted the ‘intuitional church’ and these ‘out of church’ believers have really carried the torch for the Gospel. I see this idea fundamentally flawed. It seems to not take into account that many of these groups were outright heretics! It also seems to miss the fact that many believers who were in the ‘organized church’ were actually part of the ‘organic church’ in the sense that they were a living, breathing functioning part of Christ’s church! So you might very well have had a true believer in the ‘organized church’ and an unbeliever in the ‘unorganized church’! That is you really can’t trace ‘the true church’ along these lines. Now, I believe there is a fundamental fault line that does run thru the collective mind of many Christians. Too many of us seem to not make the functional distinction between ‘Ecclesia’ versus ‘church’. We do need to be challenged in the way we read the New Testament and apply current miss-concepts of ‘the local church’ to the text. It is a fact that as far as we [we being those who try their best at studying the history of the 1st century church] can tell, the idea of the modern Pastoral office, along with the strong ‘go to church’ idea was absent in the 1st century church. Some scholars have made a noble effort to present the other side [institutional] but the weight of historical evidence falls on the ‘organic church’ model. As we struggle to become ‘the church’ in a more biblical way in the 21st century, we need to be careful that we don’t give Christians the idea that all ‘church building’ churches are outright pagan! The fact that many true believers worship according to this model shows us that the ‘organic Body of Christ’ is truly being represented in them. I thank God for all the recent discussion over these issues. It was a much needed ongoing conversation. We need to have this conversation with much grace!

 

  • THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS- Let’s try to get a few more parables in before we start the book of Romans. In Luke 16 we have the Rich Man and Lazarus. First, some say this is not a parable, but a true story. Why? Well in all the parables Jesus never uses proper names, here he uses the name ‘Lazarus’ so this cant be a parable! Let’s see, if this is a parable [which I believe it is] then Jesus does use proper names in parables! I realize that many well meaning believers hear things thru out their lives, we all want to do our best in life. We grasp on to certain things out of good intentions, it’s just we need to allow our minds to be ‘molded’ by Gods Word. Now Jesus says there was a rich man who had it made, he ‘fared sumptuously every day’ [he had more than enough all the time!] and a poor man at his gate [border]. The poor man begged for help and was desperate. The rich man, by law, had no responsibility to help. He didn’t! The poor man dies and goes to ‘Abrahams Bosom’ [I really don’t want to do the whole thing to be honest. I believe this is simply a figure of speech. He is in ‘Paradise- Heaven’ I know some have really built some doctrines from this parable]. The rich man dies and ends up in Hell. The rich man asks Father Abraham if he can send Lazarus to give him some water. Abraham replies he can’t, there is an impassible gulf between them. Plus the rich man was rewarded in life and now he is suffering. Lazarus suffered in life and is now rewarded. The rich man asks ‘well, at least send Lazarus back [raise him! –note, I do find it interesting that Jesus is the one ‘making up the names’ in this story. He picks the name ‘Lazarus’ a real name of one of his friends, Mary and Martha’s brother. Jesus also chooses to speak about him being ‘sent back’ [raised from the dead] in this story. Of course Jesus actually does raise Lazarus from the dead, and some Jews- i.e.; the rich mans ‘5 brothers’ still don’t believe!]. Jesus says let the 5 brothers hear Moses and the Prophets [the law for Jews, Jesus showed here that eternal judgment was a foundation of the Old Testament law -Hebrews 6]. The rich man says ‘no, they will believe if one comes back from the dead’. Jesus says ‘if they don’t believe the testimony from scripture, they will not believe even if one comes back from the dead’! This could be one of the most prophetic statements Jesus ever made in a parable. This chapter [Luke 16] also has Jesus famous saying ‘you cannot serve God and Money’ and right after he says it the next verse says the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard him. Jesus once again is dealing with the responsibility that ‘wealthy people, nations’ have towards ‘poor neighbors’ [at your gate- border]. This was one of the fundamental violations of the religious development of Judaism. The Pharisees loved the technicality of scripture and religion, but they found ways to justify not ‘caring for their neighbors’ [or families- Corban!]. This parable warns the rich not to allow himself to become arrogant and uncompassionate. Even though Lazarus [Mexico- illegal aliens] did not have the legal right or power to get the food from the rich man, yet this did not excuse the rich man from the fundamental ‘take care of your neighbor’ ethos. He should have still treated his neighbor with respect and compassion. Though legally it was not required, yet ethically it was. And Jesus once again portrays material wealth in a negative light. Now, I didn’t say he condemned the rich man because he was rich! But he was held to a higher standard because ‘to whom much is given, much is required’. Paul and James will use this same mindset in their letters [Timothy and James]. They will warn the rich to not be ‘high minded’ but to be willing to ‘communicate’ [distribute what they have] to help others. You never see a teaching from the Apostles that says ‘seek to become wealthy so you can use your wealth to advance the Kingdom’. Sorry, it just isn’t there! The principle of God using wealth is found in scripture ‘The Lord gives you the power to get wealth so he can establish his covenant in the earth’ [Deuteronomy]. In context God is speaking to Israel as a nation and is telling them he is going to economically bless them for his purposes. But Paul will actually teach that ‘they that desire to become rich will fall into a snare’ 1st Timothy 6. The point is Jesus often used wealth in a negative way in his parables. His teachings affected the writings of the Apostles. They never praised wealth! [Also the earliest ‘Apostolic’ writings apart from scripture are called the Didache, if you want a real negative view of ‘filthy lucre’ read this!]

 

  • ROMANS 1: 1-16 many believe this letter to be Paul’s best, I wouldn’t disagree. The letters of the New Testament do not appear in chronological order, some feel this to be a huge obstacle in understanding scripture. I think it helps to know the times when Paul wrote the letters, but this in itself doesn’t prevent us from learning scripture. Romans is addressed to the church at Rome and is significant in that Paul did not ‘plant this church’. Unlike the other letters of Paul, he is writing to the believers with whom he had no strong prior relationship. He roots his gospel in the historical facts of history and scripture. ‘The gospel of God that the prophets foretold- Jesus of the seed of David who was proved to be the Son of God by the resurrection’. Make no bones about it, Paul is coming down strong on the gospel of Jesus Christ and he positions himself well right at the start. There were ‘other gospels’ [Galatians] that were circulating and at times might have even outnumbered Paul’s message! The Jewish sect from Jerusalem who embraced both Jesus and the law were very influential in Paul’s day. When Paul combats a legalistic gospel, at times he is running ‘neck and neck’ with the Judaizers. Paul will make a foundational statement that will run true thru out the rest of the New Testament. ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the power of God unto Salvation to everyone who believes. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed’. Now, I have hit on this theme before, but it is so fundamental to the rest of this study that we need to spend some time with it. I always wondered why so many Evangelicals, and scholars, could not ‘rightly divide’ this biblical doctrine. I am speaking of ‘Righteousness by faith’ as being the root of all other ‘Salvation’. What I mean is many have confused the doctrine of ‘the salvation of the righteous’ with the salvation of the sinner. The reason why the gospel is one of salvation, is because this is the tool that God has ordained to administer ‘righteousness- justification’ to the believer. When God ‘saves- delivers’ a sinner from an ‘unjust state of being’ this act can be called ‘being saved’ [Ephesians 2]. Also thru out the scriptures you have people who are ‘just- righteous’ who experience ‘continual salvation’ because of the fact that they are righteous. This doctrine can be called ‘the salvation of the righteous’. David in Psalms says ‘the righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles’ ‘The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord’. Peter speaks of God delivering the ‘just- righteous’ from wrath. Both Lot and Noah are said to have been ‘saved’ because they were righteous. The whole point here is as we progress thru Romans Paul will use the term ‘salvation’ and ‘righteousness’. Whenever [chapter 10] you have a combining of the righteous [believers] calling, crying out to God for ‘salvation’ it needs to be understood that this does not mean ‘salvation’ in the sense of the initial act of justification. While the two are closely related, the testimony from scripture does make a distinction. So Paul shows us that the reason the gospel is Gods power ‘unto salvation’ is because this is the way God chose to ‘make people just’. Paul will spend a few chapters [3 and 4] laying the foundation of righteousness by faith. But first he will argue his case for why all men need to have this righteousness. [ see entry # 704 for more comments on ‘the salvation of the righteous’]

 

  • ROMANS 1:17-21 ‘for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness’. Now, we have already established the ‘mode’ by which the gospel ‘saves’ us. Once we believe in the gospel, it immediately, and progressively ‘saves’ us. The immediate act of justification can be described as ‘getting saved’. But there is also a large amount of scripture that speaks of ‘continual and future salvation’. Now Paul begins showing us how this salvation works. He says ‘the wrath of God is revealed against unrighteousness’ the previous verses showed how the believer is made righteous. So we are ‘delivered from the wrath to come’ [Thessalonians] ‘saved by wrath thru his life’ [Romans 5:9] ‘he will appear from heaven the second time to bring salvation to those who look for him’ [Hebrews] and many other verses testify of this theme. Paul is showing us one aspect of this ‘ongoing, future’ salvation by saying ‘see, since Gods wrath is promised to come upon the unrighteous, once you believe with the heart unto righteousness, you then become someone who is off the radar screen from wrath’ [John 3- the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever, but the believer is in a state of ‘no condemnation’]. This understanding will be important as we get to the later chapters in Romans. Now I also want to share a somewhat ‘unique’ interpretation of the following verses ‘that which may be known of God is manifest IN THEM [some say ‘to them]; for God hath showed it unto them [not necessarily meaning ‘showed it to them from created things’!] For the invisible things of him [his attributes! Invisible stuff] from the creation of the world [since the beginning of time, that is since God created all things he has imbedded a witness of himself into all creation; ‘all creation groans and travails’ Paul will attribute ‘human like’ characteristics to all creation. In essence all creation has this testimony and yearning for God in it] are clearly seen [not with the natural eye, but thru this ‘imbedded testimony of Gods attributes that he has placed in all creation’] being understood by the things that are made [not understood by ‘looking at the things that are made’; creation. But actually being understood ‘by them’] so that they are without excuse’. The normal way of seeing these verses says ‘God has left a witness of himself thru his creation. All people are without excuse because they can see his creation and know he is’. Now, is this concept true? Of course! David says ‘the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament SHOWETH his handiwork’. The only problem is ‘all men can’t see!’ I don’t mean to be trivial here; I want to show you that if you read this passage like I just taught it, that it basically is saying ‘since the beginning of Gods creation he has left man without excuse. He has always revealed his inner attributes to man. The witness of moral law and conscience is imbedded in the creation. All men ‘hold’ [possess] the ‘truth’ [this inner moral witness] in unrighteousness, therefore they are without excuse’. I don’t want to be a contrarian simply for the sake of being one. But if you see what I just told you, this fits in with Paul’s understanding of salvation. God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness, yet those who say ‘that’s not fair, God made us this way!’ have no excuse, because God gave all men [and creation] an inner witness that they could have acted on- ‘when they knew God, they glorified him not as God but became vain in their imaginations’. All men have at one time ‘known God’ even those who have never seen Gods testimony from creation! Therefore they are without excuse.

 

  • ROMANS 1:21-32 the scripture says that all creation ‘knew God’. The indictment is ‘there is no excuse’. The previous verses proved that God not only made man, but that because man was made in Gods image, he therefore had an ‘inner imprint’ of his maker inside him. Now man chose to ‘change the image of God into that of animals’. Man could not escape this inert desire to worship, this thing in him that said ‘there’s more to life than simple flesh’. So he didn’t just become an atheist [though that’s what they would have you believe] but they became ‘changers of Gods image’. They came up with an alternative ‘religion’. Scripture says they changed God’s image into that of an animal [idolatry] and worshipped and served the creature more than the creator. Evolution was Darwin’s feeble attempt at ‘changing the image of God into that of animals’. How so? Modern man was too enlightened [after all we had the enlightenment!] to actually go out and make an image of an animal and bow to it. Instead he bought into the idea that he evolved from animals. Scripture says we are made in Gods image, evolution says ‘we are made in the image of an animal’. Men did not ‘like to retain God in their knowledge’. They had to have some controlling worldview, they came up with one. Now Romans says God gave them up to become like that which they chose to worship. Man was designed to worship God, in seeking and going after God they would become more like him. When man chooses to empty his mind from the creator, God allows him to fill it with what he wants. He receives a ‘reprobate mind’. He fixates on the animal instincts that are a natural result of ‘worshipping four footed beasts’. Now man has no choice but to be formed into the thing that he worships. Paul is here telling us that man became immoral as a result of his own choice to eradicate God from his thoughts. Man received the just recompense of his choice. At the end of the chapter Paul closes with ‘they know that those who do these things are worthy of death’. Once again the idea of judgment ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’. Paul’s summary; Man is unrighteous. God is righteous in punishing man. Man chose to become like this. The only way to escape an inevitable meeting with wrath is to ‘become righteous’. This is accomplished thru believing the gospel. When you believe you become righteous and are no longer on Gods radar screen for judgment.

 

  • ROMANS 2:1-13 ‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, o man, whosoever thou art that judgest’. Now, this chapter will run with the theme ‘who do you think you are to judge, you do the things that you say are wrong’. Yikes, this type of preaching convicts us all. But we need to understand that Paul is saying a little more [well, a lot more!] than this. Here’s where we need to do some history. This letter is addressed to believers in Rome, those ‘called to be saints’. Paul is also giving one of his strongest defenses of his theology, he realizes that a large Jewish population are also at Rome [Acts 28]. By the time of this letter the lines are being drawn between ‘Paul’s gospel’ [the true gospel] and the ‘Jewish law gospel’ coming from the Judaizers out of Jerusalem. The main fight is over whether or not Gentile believers need to be circumcised and come under the law in order to ‘be saved’ [Acts 15]. Now the mentality of the Jewish mind was ‘we have been given Gods precepts [true] and because we are the inheritors of the law and moral standards of God, this puts us in a better class than the Gentiles’ [false]. In essence the law was supposed to reveal mans sin to himself, it was to show us our need for a Savior. But in the legalistic mind it created enmity between Jew and Gentile. This is what it means when Paul writes the Ephesian letter and says ‘the middle wall of partition has been removed in Christ’ this ‘middle wall’ is referring to the law and how it divided Jew and Gentile. So here Paul is saying ‘you Jews who are trusting in the fact that you were the recipients of the law, who use the law as a measuring rod to justify yourselves. This measuring rod was actually given to show you your sin. Did it never occur to you that the very fact that the ‘rod’ says “don’t commit adultery, don’t steal” that these things are actually sins that you yourselves do [the legalistic Jews]. And yet the very rule [law] of God that you are using to justify yourselves, this law you actually break!’ Now you are beginning to see the context. And not only were they breaking the law, but at the same time they were saying to Paul’s Gentile churches ‘unless you get circumcised, you are not accepted with God’. The Gentile believers were actually born of God and stopped doing the things that the law commanded them not to do. They were ‘fulfilling the law by nature’. So Paul is really rebuking this hypocritical mindset that said to the Gentile believers that they weren’t saved. And at the same time the ‘judgers of the law’ were actually breaking the law, while the Gentle converts were keeping it by nature! In this context verse one means a lot. Now to an important verse ‘for not the hearers of the law are just before God, BUT THE DOERS OF THE LAW SHALL BE JUSTIFIED’. Just the fact that this statement is made by Paul in this letter is amazing. Paul will spend lots of time in this letter saying ‘those who try and become justified by keeping the law are missing it’. He will go over and over again stating that trying to become righteous by works and law keeping are futile. Yet here he says ‘the doers of the law SHALL BE JUSTIFIED, not the hearers’. Keep in context what I just showed in the beginning of the chapter. The New Testament has a theme that I have hit on before [read the Hebrews 11 commentary on this site]. The theme is ‘men are justified’ [declared legally righteous] by faith. This faith also ‘sanctifies’ [which can also be called ‘justified’ a sort of progressive justification. James uses this in his letter. Paul says in Galatians ‘having begun in the Spirit [legal justification] are you now made perfect by the flesh’ [law keeping]. Now the New Testament teaches that God wants people to actually ‘be righteous’. Johns 1st epistle uses this as the marker of whether or not you are a child of God ‘by this we know… those that do what is righteous are born of God, those that do evil are not’. In Jesus judgment scenarios ‘those that have DONE good are raised to life, those that have done evil to damnation’. So Paul in essence is saying ‘God ‘justifies’ [using the term in a ongoing- futuristic sense] the righteous, not the ones who only hear the law [the Jewish legalists] but those who by nature do it’ [Paul’s gentile converts]. Got it? This distinction is very important. One of the historic reasons why the Protestant and Catholic churches are divided is over this issue. The Catholic Pope [Leo] who initially condemned Luther did so on grounds like this. The Pope who succeeded Leo re-read all of Luther’s documents, in an honest effort to bridge the schism, and came to the same conclusion. Now I like Luther and side with him more so than the Pope, but one of the problems was some of Luther’s writings seemed to say ‘Justification is solely by faith [true] therefore sin hardily’ [false]. Now Luther didn’t intend to come off this way, but that’s the way it sounded. So the Catholic doctrine fell more on the side of ‘Gods grace makes you righteous, God cant declare people actually righteous until they actually are righteous’ this is called the ‘Legal fiction’ argument. They said Luther’s idea was a ‘legal fiction’. In essence some of what the Catholic scholars were saying was correct. Now God does declare us righteous at the moment of belief, before we actually ‘become totally righteous in practice’. But the error of the Catholic argument saying ‘God cant declare you righteous until you are’ was missing the point. When God says ‘you are righteous’ then you are! God doesn’t lie. But I understand the Catholic point. I think Paul understood it too. In this chapter Paul says ‘not the hearers of the law, but the doers shall be justified’.

 

  • ROMANS 2:14- 3:18- Paul says ‘you are called a Jew and are confident that you are a teacher and an instructor of the law’. Read my Hebrews commentary, chapters 5 and 6. It is interesting that Paul understood the teaching role that the Jewish nation was to play among the Gentile nations. In Jesus parables he also hits on these themes. Hebrews says ‘when the time has come [the appointed time of Messiah- Galatians 4] that you ought to be teachers, you have need to be taught the first principles again’. Here Paul tells them they are proud to be the ‘possessors’ of the Old Testament, yet thru their disobedience to it the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles [ouch!] Paul fully acknowledges the privileged role that Israel had, he himself was brought up with this ‘elitist/intellectual’ mindset. But here Paul rebukes them for not fully living up to the law. ‘Well brother, how could they live up to it? Paul himself says that this is impossible.’ If they carried thru with the receiving of Messiah, which their law spoke and testified of, then truly they would have been fulfilling the law as new creatures in Christ. In essence their indictment is ‘you never fully followed thru with your own law’! Now Paul will flatly say that circumcision and being the guardians of the law profit nothing. That the ‘circumcision of the heart’ is what matters. He says if the gentiles, who have no historical attachment to the law, if they do by nature the things in the law then they are ‘spiritually circumcised’ [set apart unto God]. But if the circumcised do not obey the law and character of God [thru the new birth] then it profits nothing. I want to note the strong disconnect between the way Paul speaks about natural Israel and her heritage, and how some in the American church present her. Paul, who himself is a Jew, makes it very clear that Israel is in a state of ‘danger’ by not receiving Messiah. Though he will admit their special place and role in history, yet he refuses to exalt her in her natural ‘state’ [of being]. Now Israel’s response to Paul [which by the way Paul interjects himself. I want to make a note here. Paul will give ‘both sides’ of the argument in his letters. He will say things like ‘and you will say to me such and such’. He actually try’s to add both sides of the conversation in his letters. Recently there has been some discussion on whether or not we can really understand the New Testament without fully knowing all the background and history of the letters. Some have said just knowing the letters are like hearing only one side of a phone conversation. To be honest this isn’t really true. The writers of the letters and the gospels lived in an ‘oral culture’. This is why Paul himself gives instructions on his letters being read- as opposed to saying ‘pass the letters around for everyone to personally read’. The point is we can understand a whole bunch of scripture just by reading it!] Now Israel asks ‘what good is the whole thing, why even have Jews or circumcision or any history with God at all’? Paul realizes that his whole argument for law and circumcision meaning nothing without a changed heart, that some would respond back like this. He in turn says ‘the law and all the history of Israel with God were very important! It was Gods way of getting his prophetic word [oracles] to man’. In essence God chose to ‘start a conversation’ with Abraham and extend it forward to his children. Over a long history of God interacting with Israel, God would speak thru prophets and ‘wise men’ and these prophetic words were being recorded [meticulously by the way!]. God would reveal himself and his purpose of Messiah thru these writings that came from this relationship [though rocky!] that he had with Israel. Now Paul will say ‘does their unbelief negate Gods promise’? No! Let God be true and every man be a liar. The fact that Israel as a nation were ‘not believing’ in their Messiah, didn’t effect the actual power of the Messiah to be believed on among the Gentile nations. A couple of things here; dispensational theology teaches that the Kingdom of God has been postponed until Christ’s return. I think this contradicts Paul’s argument. Paul said Israel’s unbelief could not negate the full purpose of God. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead and is presently seated at God’s right hand proves this. Also Paul will teach later in this letter that the actual reason why salvation has gone out to the gentiles is because Israel rejected Messiah. In essence Israel’s unbelief could not negate what God purposed to do all along.

 

  • ROMANS 3:19-31 ‘Now we know that what things the law says, it says to those who are under the law… that every mouth may be stopped and all the world becomes guilty before God’. One of the questions that arise as a response to Paul’s gospel is ‘if the law cannot make us righteous, then why even have it’? Paul will consistently teach the concept that Gods intention for the law was simply to reveal mans sin to him. Man would have this ‘form’ of the law written on stone tablets and as he tried to live up to God’s standards he would come to the proper diagnosis that all men are sinners. This diagnosis would then lead him to a place of faith in Jesus. After he believes in Jesus he then fulfills the law naturally, out of having a new nature ‘yea, we establish the law’ [3:31]. I have found it interesting over the years to teach people this. To explain to sincere people, church goers. To say ‘did you know the bible says that no man can be saved by trying to obey Gods Ten Commandments’? I will always explain that this doesn’t mean that God wants us to break them! But when we come to the Cross we by nature keep them. These verses lay down the foundation of ‘justification by faith’. He that believes is righteous. To declare Jesus righteousness for the remission of sins that are past. Having faith ‘in His Blood’. Both Jews and Gentiles need to be made righteous thru faith/belief in Jesus. I want to establish this fact in your mind. Paul without a doubt describes this experience as being ‘justified by faith’. This is the same as saying ‘believing with the heart unto righteousness’. Later on [chapter 10] this needs to be understood when parsing the verses that say ‘with the heart a man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ many are confused about this, to get it right you need to see that Paul spends much time early on establishing the fact that ‘those who believe unto righteousness’ are justified by faith already!

 

 

  • ROMANS 4: 1-12 Now, Paul will use one of his most frequent arguments to prove that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, need to be justified by faith and not ‘by works’. The most famous singular figure that natural Israel looked to as the ‘identifier’ of them being a special people was ‘Father Abraham’. Paul does a masterful job at showing how Abraham was indeed justified by faith and not by works. The ‘work’ of circumcision came before the law. It would later become synonymous with law keeping [Ten Commandments] and Paul can certainly use it here as implying ‘the whole law’. But to be accurate this work of circumcision was a national identifying factor that Israel looked to as saying ‘we are better than you [Gentiles]’. Paul is showing Israel that God in fact ‘made Abraham righteous’ before he circumcised him! [Gen. 15] And the sign of this righteousness was circumcision. This meaning that Abrahams faith in Gods promise [a purely ‘passive’ act! This is very important to see. Later on as we deal with the famous ‘conversion texts’ we need to keep this in mind] justified him without respect to the law. God simply took Abraham outside and said ‘look at the stars, your children will be this abundant’ and Abraham simply believed this promise to be true. Much like the passive belief of Cornelius house at their conversion [Acts 10]. The simple belief in the promise of Jesus justifies the sinner! Now this fact of Abraham believing and being made righteous, before being circumcised, is proof [according to Paul] that Abraham is the father of ‘many nations’ not just natural Israel. All ethnic groups who HAVE THE SAME FAITH AS ABRAHAM are qualified to be ‘sons of Abraham/ heirs of God’. The fact that Abraham carried this justification along with him as he became circumcised, shows that all Jewish people as well can partake of this ‘righteousness by faith’ if they have the same faith as Abraham had. Jesus did say ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my day’[ John’s gospel]. In Gods promise to Abraham of a future dynasty of children, this included the promised Messiah. So indirectly Abraham’s belief in the promise of being the father of ‘many nations’ included belief in the coming Messiah. So according to Paul, all ethnic groups who have faith in Jesus are justified/made righteous. The very example Israel used to justify ‘ethnic/national pride’ [Father Abraham] was taught in a way that showed the truth of the gospel and how God is no respecter of persons.

 

  • ROMANS 4:13-14 ‘Now the promise that Abraham would become the inheritor of the world was not going to be fulfilled thru the law [natural Israel] but thru faith [all who believe, both Jew and Gentile]’. I have spoken on this before [see note at bottom] and will hit on it a little now. The historic church can be defined for the most part as ‘a-millennial’, that is they interpreted the parables on the Kingdom of God and the promise of ‘inheriting the world [which includes the Promised Land]’ as being fulfilled thru the church. That Jesus established Gods kingdom and the church basically fulfills these promises by expanding Christ’s ‘rule’ thru the earth. Some historians saw the 4th century ‘marriage’ of Rome and Christianity as a fulfillment of this. During the 19th and 20th century you had the rise of Dispensationalism, a ‘new/different’ way of interpreting these land promises. Many good men showed the reality of Christ’s literal coming and pointed to a future time where Jesus literally sits on a throne in Jerusalem and rules all nations. These brothers are called ‘Pre-millennial’, they believe that Jesus comes back first [pre] and then establishes his ‘millennial rule’ on earth. The Premillennialists would see the Amillennialists as ‘replacement theologians’. They said that these brothers were taking the actual promises that God made to Israel and ‘replacing’ Israel with the church. In essence they accused the Amillennialists of spiritualizing the promises to Israel and saying the church would be the recipients of the promises. Now, both sides have truth to them, I personally believe the Amillennialists have a lot more truth! But I do see some of the good points that the Premillenialists made. I want you to simply read these verses [Romans 4:13-14, Galatians 3:18] and see for yourself how Paul does teach the reality that the promises to Abraham are to be fulfilled thru the church [spiritual Israel]. This does not mean that there is no future physical return of Jesus. But the body of scripture leans heavily on the Amillinnialists side. [see entry 703] NOTE- To be fair, some historic thinkers held to the Premillennial position. The majority were Amillennial.

 

  • ROMANS 4:15-25 ‘For the law worketh wrath, for where there is no law there is no transgression’. I simply want to touch on the concept of ‘wrath’ being a very real part of judgment. One of the ways the gospel ‘saves us’ is by promising a future [and present!] deliverance from wrath. While death ‘reigned’ before the law was given, it wasn’t until the law where you had a clear picture of transgression and atonement. We will deal with this later in Romans. Now Paul once again hits on the theme of Abraham being the ‘spiritual father’ of many nations [all who believe] and how the promises of God to Abraham were to be fulfilled thru this ‘new race of people’ [the church]. Paul is careful to not demean Israel; he couches his terms in a way that says ‘God will fulfill these things thru the circumcision who believes [Jews] and the un-circumcision who believe’ [Gentiles]. I want to stress the very plain language Paul uses to show us that we should not be seeing Gods ‘covenant promises’ thru a natural lens. Christians need to be careful when they support [exalt!] natural Israel in a way that the New Testament doesn’t do. ‘To the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is the faith of Abraham’. Now Paul tells us that when God made promises to Abraham that Abraham believed against hope. When all things looked really bad, he still believed. When he was 100 years old and Sarah around 90, he held to the promise [read my commentaries on Genesis 15-18 and Hebrews 11] and therefore God imputed righteousness to him. How closely are you paying attention to Paul’s free use of Abraham and Genesis? If you carefully read this chapter you see Paul ‘intermingle’ the story of Abraham being ‘made righteous upon initial belief’ [Gen. 15] and the later story of Sarah having Isaac [Gen. 17]. I think Paul was simply using the description of Abrahams faith, as seen in the Gen. 17 [and 22!] accounts of his life, to show the type of faith he initially ‘exercised’ [I don’t like using this term to be honest. God actually imputes faith to the believer at the initial act of regeneration]. The important chapters from Genesis that we all need to have a ‘working knowledge’ of are Chapters 12 [the initial promise], 15 [the oft mentioned ‘imputed righteousness’ verse], 17 [the receiving of the promised seed- Isaac], and 22 [the ultimate act of obedience that Abraham showed in offering up Isaac. This will be described in James epistle as ‘righteousness being fulfilled’. James, who is concerned about ‘works’, will say that when Abraham offered Isaac he was fulfilling the ‘imputed righteousness’ that God gave him earlier. James actually describes this as ‘being justified by works’ {James 2:21} and James says ‘the scripture was fulfilled that saith Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness’… ‘see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only’. The classic view taken by many confuses the ‘justified’ part with the initial act of justification that Paul centers on. James uses ‘see how he was justified by works’ in a future ‘judicial decree’ sense; that is God having the ongoing ‘freedom’ to continually say ‘good job son, you did well’. The word justification is used in a fluid sense much like salvation. Christians need to be more ‘secure’ in their own assurance to be able to see these truths. When we approach all these seemingly ‘difficult passages’ in a defensive mode, then we never arrive at the actual meaning]. When we see the overall work of God in Abraham’s life we see the purpose of God in ‘declaring people just’ [initially ‘getting saved’]. The purpose is for them to eventually ‘act just’ [obey!] ‘Jesus was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification’ thank God that this process is dependant on the work of the Cross! [see entry # 758]

 

  • Romans 5:1-9 ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God thru out Lord Jesus Christ’. There are certain benefits ‘results’ of being ‘made righteous by faith’, peace being one of them. Paul goes on and says we glory in hope and also trials, because we realize that thru the difficulties we gain experience and patience. Things that are needed for the journey, we can’t substitute talent and motivation and ‘success principles’ for them. We need maturity and God produces it this way. Those who teach otherwise have a ‘self inflicted wound’ their teachings are very immature! That is there was a ‘strain’ of teaching in the church that said ‘we don’t learn thru difficulty and suffering, we learn only thru Gods word!’ [that is reading it]. Those who grasped onto this false idea have produced some of the most unbalanced teaching in the church, stuff that even the younger generation is saying ‘what in the heck are these guys preaching’? If you by pass the difficult road, you will be shallow. Now Paul says ‘God commended his love toward us, that when we were sinners Christ died for us’ ‘being now justified by his death, we shall be saved thru his life’ [saved from wrath thru him]. Once again this theme pops up; ‘since we are justified, made righteous by believing with the heart, we shall be saved [continual, future deliverance] from wrath thru him’. I don’t know if you ever realized what a major theme this is in Romans? The ongoing, future ‘being saved’ is a result of ‘being made righteous’. Later on in chapter 10, when we read that the righteous call for salvation, we need to understand this context. Remember, when the two are linked together in the same verse, it is not saying ‘saved’ in the sense of some sinner’s prayer. It is speaking of the ongoing, promised deliverance [from many things, not just wrath!] to the ‘justified caller’. We have access ‘by faith into this grace wherein we stand’. Wow! That’s some good stuff, Jesus ever lives so that those who come to him are ‘being saved’ to the uttermost. This grace we are in is available to us all of the time, are we availing ourselves of it?

 

  • ROMANS 5:10-21 ‘For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son… much more we shall be saved by his life’. Now, some have ‘divided’ the role of Jesus death and resurrection in salvation. I heard a radio preacher teach that all the people who think they are ‘saved’ because Jesus died for them were deceived. He used this verse to say they need to believe in his ‘life’ [resurrection] to ‘be saved by his life’. Well I get the point, but he was missing the meaning of the verse. Why? Because once again we see ‘saved’ as initially ‘getting saved’ while here it is in a continual sense. Paul is saying ‘if God reconciled us [justification] while we were deadly enemies, how much more shall the actual ministry and life of Jesus at Gods right hand do for us!’ The New Testament teachers that we have actually entered into an eternal covenant with God thru his Son. Jesus ‘ever lives’ to make intercession for us [Hebrews]. Therefore he is able to ‘save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him’. The bible teaches an ongoing ‘saving’ relationship that believers have with the Messiah. This ‘relationship’ would not be possible if he were dead. Now we ‘joy in God thru Jesus Christ from whom we have received the atonement’ good stuff! Isaiah says God will meet with those who ‘rejoice and do what is right’. We have both of these ‘abilities’ because of the atonement. The rest of the chapter teaches the Pauline doctrine of original sin. That because Adam sinned, death and sin passed to all men. So likewise the ‘righteousness’ of one man [Jesus- the last Adam] has passed upon all men [those who receive of the abundance of grace and the gift of life]. This is an interesting angle that Paul uses to teach redemption. He shows the reality that there are only 2 ‘federal heads’ of mankind. You are either in the first or last Adam. The ‘righteous act’ is speaking of the Cross [Philippians says Jesus was ‘obedient unto death’. The singular act of obedience that allows this righteousness to pass to all who believe is the Cross. Some have misunderstood this chapter to teach that the obedient life of Christ, his sinless life, saves us. I feel this is a wrong reading of the chapter. The sinless life of Jesus, pre Cross, made him the true candidate to be the substitute for man. He was able to die in our place [obedience unto death] because he was the sinless Son of God. We are now ‘saved by his life’ because he ever lives to make intercession for us]. All who believe in Jesus can now trace their lineage to the ‘last Adam’ [Jesus] and be free from ‘original sin’.

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 6: 1-11 ‘shall we continue to sin, so grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?’ Now begins the ‘actual part’ the result, if you will, of being ‘made righteous by faith’. One of the main accusations against Paul, by the Jewish believers, was that he taught ‘sin a lot, because you are no longer under the law’. Paul spends time defending himself against this accusation thru out the New Testament. Here Paul teaches that the believer has been joined unto Christ [baptized, immersed into him] and this ‘joining’ identifies him with Christ’s death. So how can ‘we, who are dead to sin, live any longer in sin’? Paul’s argument for righteous living comes from the fact that we have died with Christ unto sin. ‘We have died with him, and we have also been raised with him to new life’. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul says we who were dead in sins have been made alive in Christ. Now, we live a new life, free from sin [practically speaking- not absolute sinless-ness!] because we are identified with Jesus in his new life, we are ‘alive with and in him’. ‘Since we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection’! Jesus died once, and now he lives forever unto God ‘likewise count yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God thru Jesus Christ our Lord’. Paul’s basis for the transformed life is Grace and being ‘in him’. Paul does not appeal to the law to try and effect holiness in the believer, he appeals to Christ ‘in him you have died to legalistic practices, trying to earn salvation and acceptance; and now because of this new position [placement] you too have died to the old man [lifestyle] and are alive unto God’. Paul obviously did not teach ‘sin hardily’ to the contrary he taught ‘live unto God’.

 

  • EVOLUTION- I hate to interrupt Romans, but I needed to share some stuff while it’s fresh. I also finished Frank Violas book, Pagan Christianity, and have put off commenting on that as well. For all my Atheist and Agnostic readers, it absolutely astounds me to read the research and evidence coming from the scientific community against evolution. Many hold to very outdated theories and ‘religiously’ will not let them go! One of the most famous experiments that has been touted for years as evidence for evolution was the ‘Stanley Miller experiment’ [1953]. This experiment used the supposed atmosphere of the early earth and created a scenario using electrical sparks, to simulate the possible environment of lightning causing human cell life. During the experiment, Miller was able to produce a ‘goo’ that contained Amino acids [basic building blocks of life]. Now, don’t get too excited. Even if this were possible, it’s quite a leap to start with an ‘atmosphere and lightning’ as well as an unexplained earth! The experiment would only prove the possibility of naturalistic life, it would not be able to explain the intricate design of the planet and universe that Miller assumed were ‘just there’ [besides the fact that Miller spent hours technically designing this ‘atmosphere’ in the laboratory- this is what we call ‘intelligent design’!]. But for years this experiment was used to ‘prove’ evolution in the classroom. Now as time has passed since Stanley’s experiment, science has discovered that the atmosphere that Stanley used could not have been the atmosphere of the early earth. While there still is disagreement on the exact atmosphere, there is agreement that Stanley’s model got it wrong. If you used the current accepted model, do you know what you would get? You get Formaldehyde and Cyanide. Hum, what do they do? They make it impossible for actual cellular life to co exist! The real experiment would prove contrary to evolution. We use these chemicals today, they are called ‘Embalming Fluid’. God does have a sense of humor.

 

  • Romans 6:12-23 ‘Let not sin therefore rule in your mortal body’ if we have died with Jesus, we are ‘dead with him to sin’. If we are risen with Jesus ‘we are alive unto God thru him’ for this reason don’t sin! Paul makes sure his readers understand him, he in no way was teaching a sinful gospel. He encourages the believers to renew their minds to this truth. ‘For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace’ Paul clearly saw the dangers of legalism [living under strict ‘do this, don’t do this’ guidelines] he saw that the law actually quickens the fleshly nature and brings to the surface mans sin. Now, because we are under grace, does this mean we get to keep on sinning? ‘God forbid!’ Paul launches into the explanation of sin and bondage. Remember, sin was in the world before the law. Men were dying ever since Adam sinned. So for Paul, this means even though we are not under the restraints of law, yet the reality of sin, bondage and punishment still exist. Paul says ‘if you yield to sin and allow it to rule you, you will become its slave’. There will be a penalty and price to pay ‘the wages of sin is death’. But because you are identified with Jesus ‘sin shall not have dominion over you… you have been made free from sin’. Paul teaches the victorious Christian life. He does not deny the struggle [next chapter!] but he shows the reality of redemption. He obviously never taught the concept of ‘sin more, so grace can abound’. He understood the dangers of preaching ‘we are not under the law’ but he also understood the reality of ‘being under grace’ he figured it was worth the risk of being misunderstood if he could truly imbed the gospel into the believing community.

 

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

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 7:14-25 Paul now shows us the reality of Gods law and its effect on man. ‘When I do something that I DON’T WANT TO DO, then I consent unto the law that it is good’. Did you ever think of this? The fact that you [or even the atheist!] have done things that ‘you don’t want to do’ proves the existence of God and natural law [which the 10 commandments were only a glimpse, they reveal a small part of Gods character and nature]. So if you, or anybody else, have ever struggled with ‘I am doing something that I hate’. Then why do it? Or better, why hate it? You yourself are an actual living testimony of ‘the law of God’. Your own conscience testifies that there are ‘good things’ and ‘bad things’. You also testify of the fact of sin ‘why do you keep doing the bad things’? Alas, that thing called ‘sin’ does exist! Paul shows us that the experience of every human member on the planet testifies to both the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man. Freud [the father of modern Psychology] saw this war rage in the psyche of man, he came up with an idea that we need to ‘free man’ from this inner moral struggle. He espoused the idea that in mans ‘head’ he has this preconceived image of ‘God’ and right or wrong. Being Freud was a child of the Enlightenment, as well as a student of Existentialism [though the Father of Existentialism was a Christian, the Danish theologian/ philosopher Soren Kierkegaard] he taught that if we could just eliminate this ‘God idea’ and ‘church moral code’ from mans mind, then all would be well! Geez, I could hardly think of a more destructive thing than to tell man ‘if it feels right, do it’! Paul taught ‘if you can’t stop doing something that ‘feels right’ then you are sinning!’[if that which ‘feels right’ is making you miserable!] And the very fact that you can’t escape the guilt, proves that God exists and that his law is this unstoppable force that invades all human consciences. Paul knew the struggle, he testifies thru out scripture that he tried to become right with God over and over again, but the ‘law of sin’ [the sinful nature. Here ‘law’ is speaking of the ‘principle of sin’ and the fleshly nature] prevented him from keeping the ‘law of God’ [doing what’s right], he then found the ‘righteousness of God that comes thru faith in Christ’. Paul ends the chapter ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death’? ‘I thank God thru Jesus Christ my Lord’. Paul found the answer, his name was Jesus.

 

  • FINE TUNING IN THE UNIVERSE- Over the last 20 years or so, science has discovered such overwhelming evidence for an ‘intelligent designer’ that even the naturalistic scientists have said ‘the level of fine tuning in our universe cant be explained in any other way, except for the fact that some one has been messing around with the controls’! What exactly is fine tuning? In the field of Physics [which can get complicated!] scientists have discovered these unbelievable ‘measurements’ that exist in the universe, that previously were unknown. One of these is called the ‘Cosmological Constant’ [the measure of energy density in empty space]. This measurement has to be so finely tuned, that if it were just off a tiny bit, life could not exist in the universe. It has been explained like this; if you took a ruler [12 inch kind] and extended it lengthwise thru out the whole universe, and then had a random penny fall from space. If the penny did not land exactly on a specific ‘inch measurement’ on the ruler, life could not exist! Now, what are the odds that a ‘random penny’ would hit this spot? The odds of this happening by pure chance are next to impossible. But you say ‘well, it might have been an accident’. The problem is this isn’t the only measurement you need to get ‘right on target’ in order for life to exist. You have the same problem with Gravity. Science has also discovered the same unbelievable measurement with Gravity. A small degree off of the present measurement would crush everything. It would prevent the actual ‘combining’ of mass and material where you couldn’t even have a universe! This measurement has been found to simply be exactly correct. There are no laws of nature that make this measurement exact. In fact, logic would dictate that if everything is random, that the measurement would be at the higher end of the spectrum, but instead it is very low on the scale. Now, putting these 2 unbelievably precise things together [both the Cosmological Constant and Gravity] would make the odds next to impossible that this just ‘happened’. It would be like you walking into a Museum and finding a pre built enclosed ‘world’. As you entered the model you saw all types of very technical gauges on this control panel. Say around 30 gauges. These were precise settings that all had to be exact, set to the smallest possible place on each dial. Now, if before you left the room, little Johnnie went over and messed up each dial, he spun them around and screwed up the entire display. You would quickly tell Johnnie ‘let’s go see the Dinosaur exhibit’. You got out of there as soon as possible! Now say if little Johnnie insisted that he left one of his favorite toys in the ‘fake world’. You finally take the risk of getting caught and go back to the model world. Surprise! All of the very technical gauges have been set and put back in order. Did this just happen by mere happenstance? Of course not. Obviously some knowledgeable person [an intelligent designer] found out about the problem and put the gauges back in their proper setting. This is basically what Physics has found out over the recent years. And the finely tuned measurements that need to be set just right keep going up! That is we keep finding more things that need to be ‘just right’ in order for life to exist. Many in the field of Physics realize that these discoveries are a huge ‘smoking gun’ that backs up the argument for intelligent design. They realize that if this knowledge ever becomes public, to the degree where the average person grasps and understands this truth, that the reality of an intelligent designer being behind it all is the only explanation for it. Contrary to public opinion, science is getting closer and closer to proving the existence of God [though ultimately he can’t be totally proved by science, he exists outside of the physical realm]. I just wish the Atheists would quit trying to convince everybody that they are the ones who are on the side of true science!

 

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

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 8: 14-18 ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God’. Many of us are familiar with this verse [I hope!]. We often see it as saying ‘Gods direction in our lives is proof that we are Christians’ true enough. But in context ‘being led by Gods Spirit’ means living the new life thru Christ. The putting to death of the old man and being ‘made alive’ thru Christ is what this is saying. Paul agrees with John [1st John] ‘those that do what is right [led by the Spirit] are of God’. Paul says ‘we have received the Spirit and a natural result of this is crying “Abba, Father”. I don’t want to do too much here, but Paul sees the ‘confession’ and heart cry of the believer as proof, a result of being ‘a habitation of the Spirit’. A sign, if you will, of being born of God is confessing/ praying to the Father. Paul quoted David in chapter 4 ‘for this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found’ [Psalms 32- actually Paul quotes a different section from the Psalm, but this theme is consistent with Paul’s view]. Paul knew the reality of ‘the godly calling upon God’ they have an inner cry of ‘Abba, father’. ‘We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ’. For many years this has been a popular verse among many believers, often times it is used to say ‘God owns the cattle on a thousand hills’ [which he does] therefore if we are heirs ‘give me some cattle’! [stuff]. Here Paul uses this term in speaking of our identification with Christ’s sufferings. ‘If we suffer with him, we too shall share [joint heir!] in his glory’ [future glorification at the resurrection- we shall see him and be changed in a moment, at the twinkling of an eye. This mortal shall put on immortality]. It’s a symptom of modern American Christianity to view all these scriptures thru a materialistic lens, Paul held to the promise of a future reward [at the resurrection] that enabled him to go thru great difficulty and suffering in this present life. He counted the suffering as a privilege that he shared with Christ.

 

  • PROOF FROM DNA- One of the other fields of science that has radically identified ‘intelligent design’ in creation is the study of human DNA. Scientists have discovered [to the dismay of the Atheist!] an unbelievable amount of ‘data’ that has been stored in DNA. They have found a code consisting of four basic parts [referenced by 4 letters] that is much like the computer programs of our day. This information that is stored in DNA has no rational [or scientific] explanation of how it got there! Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection can not explain how this massive amount of information has been stored in DNA. As scientists have racked their brains in trying to come up with an explanation, some have simply said ‘all evidence points to an intelligent being who had to have had a hand in this’. Even those who are not believers in God have said stuff like this. The point is that as science advances, there is more evidence of a designer, not less! To add this information to the other fields of science is no doubt causing great consternation to the atheistic scientist. He can no longer reject the proof of intelligent design as seen in science. God is proving himself a better ‘chess player’ than they thought.

 

  • ROMANS 8: 19-25 ‘the sufferings of this present time [are you ‘presently’ suffering?] are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us’. Paul compares the difficulty to the reward. The reward here is the future resurrection. Paul did not see suffering as ‘from the devil’ or the reward as something material [monetary stuff! The resurrection body will be ‘material’ – real]. Paul teaches that the whole creation is waiting for this day. Not only will we get a ‘makeover’ but there will be a new heaven and a new earth! The creation itself longs for this [almost as much as Al Gore!] This resurrection is called ‘the redemption of our body’. The next verse says ‘we are saved by hope’. John also says [1st John] that the future reality of the resurrection ‘causes us to be pure in this life’ [every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure]. Why? Because we know God has a purpose for our bodies as well as our spirits! The ‘getting saved by hope’ simply means the future hope of the resurrection ‘encourages’ us to live clean now. Once again ‘saved’ is a neutral term. In can apply to all sorts of things. I always found it funny how when you read certain commentaries, that you see the difficulty Christians have when coming across these types of verses. There’s a verse that says ‘the woman will be saved thru childbearing’ geez, you wouldn’t believe the difficulty some writers have when they come across this stuff. Some teach ‘she will be ‘saved’ thru the birth of a child [Jesus]’ and all sorts of stuff. I think if we simply changed the word ‘saved’ for ‘delivered’ [which are basically the same thing] that maybe this would help. But thank God that we have a future resurrection to look forward to, let this truth ‘deliver’ you from the temptation to think ‘what’s all this suffering worth, why even go thru it?’ Because we have a great promise at the other end!

 

  • UPDATE- TODD BENTLEY AND THE LAKELAND REVIVAL- Well, sad to say, but I just found out that Todd and his wife are separating. I feel I need to speak a little on this [not the separation, but the whole Lakeland Revival] because I spoke on it before. What happened? First, those of you who read this site realize that I believe in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Second, you also realize that I am not a fan of the fame and image that go along with many contemporary expressions of ‘church and ministry’. I am not one of those critics who simply jump on the bandwagon either. Did God do some things at Lakeland? I think so. Were there lots of mistakes made? I think so. I was really uncomfortable when some very ‘well known prophets/apostles’ spoke of the revival in very ‘exalting’ ways. Some went to endorse it at the beginning and went way overboard in their language. I feel the ‘platform’ persona and the absolute lack of discernment from God T.V. in broadcasting something beyond the intended parameters led to this fall. I appreciate the willingness of Christian networks to want to get the Word out, but most all of the networks have no [or very little] discernment on what they do! So as of now I think believers should pray for Todd and his family. I think the networks should simply stop broadcasting it altogether. And the people of God need to re-focus on Christ and his Word.

 

  • ROMANS 8:26-28 ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities’ why does Paul say ‘likewise’? He is saying ‘not only does the future hope of the resurrection sustain us, but also Gods Spirit helps us’! He knows how to make intercession for us in ways that we cannot. I just finished an hour prayer time, not an ‘official’ intercession time [which I do a few times a week now]. But an ‘unofficial’ time where I try and hear what the Spirit is speaking. When you are ‘praying in the Spirit’ [which can include the charismatic expression of tongues] you are depending upon the Spirit to transcend your limited ability to articulate what needs to be said. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are ‘the called’ according to his purpose’. A very famous verse indeed. What does it mean? It means what it says! Over the years I have heard so many excuses for trying to get around difficult things. Why do the righteous suffer? Some taught it was because of their ignorance of scripture. Why did the things that happened to Job happen? Some said it was because he ‘feared’ that the things would happen [this group seems to miss the whole underlying reason for the book. Job’s friends are continually looking for a reason thru out the book. The point is, sometimes there is no reasonable explanation. I realize you can pick apart certain statements from Job and come up with ‘reasons’, but the meaning of the book is God is sovereign and we shouldn’t always think we can figure him out or ‘work the system’]. Here Paul says ‘whatever is happening to you right now [even very bad stuff!] will eventually work out for you benefit’. What about Hitler? Did he love God? I don’t believe so. This scripture says ‘to them that love God’. Your only responsibility thru the difficulty is to ‘love God’.

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 8: 31-39 ‘What shall we say then to these things? [what things? The fact that God predestined us and has guaranteed completion of the purpose he has designed us for!] If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Paul teaches that Christ is the only one with the ‘right’ or authority to pass judgment. If the only person in existence who can ‘officially’ condemn and pass legal judgment has actually died for us for the purpose of ‘freeing us from a state of condemnation’, then who ‘gives a rip’ about others opinions and views of us? Most of us struggle with how others view us. Paul did teach that Elders should have good character and a fine reputation in the community. But there is another type of ‘persona’ that preachers can fall into. A sort of ‘concern’ about what the critics are saying. In this context Paul says ‘If the opinion of the only person in existence whose opinion really matters, is one of “I accept you unconditionally, I declare you free from what others think, you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Ever since I have known you, you have been pleasing in my sight” [all true scriptures by the way] Then who cares what others think! Paul also teaches that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love ‘not tribulation or distress or famine or persecution’ IN all these things we are more than conquerors thru him who loved us. Most times we view this passage from a ‘Calvinistic’ lens. I want you to see the impact of this statement thru a different lens. In the American church we have taught people ‘would a good father not pay the bills of his kids? Would a good father allow his kids to suffer? If you were really partaking of the New Covenant you would have it made’. While I do realize that many well meaning ministers have taught these viewpoints with honest and sincere hearts, I also have seen how this mindset accuses the saints. It basically tells the struggling believer ‘what kind of father do you have? If he really loved you would you be going thru these things’? In essence we are saying ‘tribulation and distress and persecution’ are all signs that ‘you have been separated from Gods love’! Paul blows this false [materialistic] mindset out of the water. He says it is thru these things that we are more than conquerors. It is the ability to look into the face of Pontius Pilate and say ‘you have no power over me, my father has permitted these things to take place. I am here to lay my life down for his glory’. Paul said all these things we are suffering are opportunities to glorify our father. To look into the face of society and say ‘nay, we are more than conqueror’s thru him that loved us’. The early church set the world on fire when they were laying their lives down for the cause, refusing to deny their Lord even at the point of death. They were ‘more than conquerors’.

 

  • ROMANS 9: 1-8 Paul returns to an earlier theme ‘Christ came, as pertaining to the flesh, in response to the covenants that God made with Israel’ [my paraphrase!] Paul says that natural Israel played a very important role in the coming of Messiah. He was [is] the fulfillment of the prophecies that came as a result of Gods interaction with ‘the commonwealth of Israel’. Now Paul again says ‘they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, but “in Isaac shall thy seed be called’”. Understand something here, Paul is not teaching ‘another’ natural lineage to Christ. The mistake of the worldwide church of God [Herbert Armstrong] which teaches British Israelism, trying to trace the natural lineage of Europeans and saying ‘these are the lost tribes’. Paul is simply saying ‘those who are of the Law, the natural tribe of Israel [Jews] are not automatically counted as ‘the seed’ [children] but those who ‘are of promise’. Paul also uses this in Galatians 3 and 4. ‘Of promise’ is simply saying ‘those who have been born of Gods Spirit [Jew or Gentile] are the children that God promised to Abraham’ he is the father of ‘many nations’. All who would believe. These themes are building upon Paul’s earlier theology in this letter. This letter [Romans] has a little more ‘weight’ than say a pastoral epistle [Timothy, Titus]. Now, I am not saying it is ‘more inspired’ but I want you to see that even in the book of Acts you see Paul place special emphasis on ‘I must make it to Rome’! Paul fully realizes that this letter will be read among the believers and Jews at Rome. Rome is the capitol city of the Empire. He wants the early believers to understand the role and purpose of God for Israel. Paul’s efforts are being seen by some Jewish believers [Jerusalem] as antagonistic. Paul wants to make it clear that he was not trying to start some type of movement that rejected natural Israel. At the same time he wants natural Israel ‘my kinsman according to the flesh’ to receive their Messiah! So in this context Romans is a theological treatise saying ‘God wants to bring both Jew and Gentile together as one new man in Christ [Ephesians]’. When he argues ‘they that are the children of the flesh ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD[verse 8] but the children of the promise are counted for the seed’ he is simply saying ‘all people, both Jews and Gentiles [which includes all races that are ‘non Jews’ even Arabs!] can partake of this free gift by grace’. The promise is to all who ‘will believe’.

 

  • ROMANS 9:9-23 now we get into predestination. Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau [I spoke on this in the Genesis study, see chapter 25], he says God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born. He also uses the story of Pharaoh and says God was the one who hardened his heart. Paul says these things show us that God’s mercy and choice are a sovereign act. He specifically says ‘God chose Jacob, not on the basis of any thing he did [or would do!] but because of his own sovereign choice’. Now, this is another one of those arguments where Paul says ‘you will then say to me, how can God find fault? If everyone is simply doing the things he preordained, fulfilling destiny, then how can God justly hold people accountable’? First, I want you to see that this statement, that Paul is putting into the mouths of his opponents, only makes sense from the classic position of predestination. Second, if predestination only spoke of Gods foreknowledge of the choices that people were going to make [like asking Jesus into their heart!] then the obvious response to the argument would be ‘Oh, God chose Jacob because he knew what a good boy he was going to be’. Not only would this be wrong, Jacob [the supplanter] was not a ‘good boy’, but Paul does not use this defense in arguing his case. He simply says ‘who are we to question God? Can the thing formed say to him that formed it “why have you made me like this”? It seems as if Paul’s understanding of predestination was in the Augustinian/Calvinistic Tradition. A few years back a popular author on the west coast, Dave Hunt, wrote a book called ‘what kind of love is this’? He took on the Reformed Faiths understanding of predestination. Dave was a little out of his league in the book. He seemed to not fully grasp the historic understanding of the doctrine. He quoted some stuff from Charles Spurgeon that made it sound like he was not a believer in predestination. Spurgeon did make strong statements against certain ideas that were [are] prevalent in classic Calvinism. Some taught that Christ’s Blood was shed only for the elect. This is called ‘particular redemption’ or from the famous ‘Tulip’ example ‘limited atonement’. Spurgeon did not embrace the idea that Christ’s Blood was not sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world. The problem with Hunt using this true example from Spurgeon, is that he overlooked the other obvious statements from Spurgeon that place him squarely in the Calvinistic camp. Some refer to this as ‘4 point Calvinism’. I myself agree with Spurgeon on this point. The reason I mention this whole thing is to show you that major Christian figures have dealt with these texts and have struggled with the obvious difficulties involved. I think Paul does a little ‘speculative theology’ himself in this chapter. He says ‘what if God willing to show his mercy and wrath permitted certain things’. He gives possible reasons for the seeming ‘unfairness’ of this doctrine. The point I want to stress is Paul never tries to defend it from the classic Arminian understanding, that says ‘God knew the way people were going to choose, and he simply ‘foreordained’ those who would choose right’. To be honest, this argument does answer the question in the minds of many believers, I simply don’t see it to be accurate.

 

  • PROPHETIC UPDATE! As of today [8-08] enough has happened in the last few years to kind of encapsulate the state of the church [Gods people] and where we are heading. Whenever you have ‘prophetic people’ and movements make some real obvious mistakes, I always feel tempted to go thru this site and delete everything that deals with ‘prophecies, dreams and visions’. This has happened to me on more than a few occasions. But the Lord kind of stops me. Now, why do I mention this? Because these last few years the charismatic/prosperity churches have gone thru some turmoil. The ‘Emergent’ movement has also struck a nerve with the Reformed defenders of the faith, and they have also had some battles. In the midst of it all you also had a resurgence of Catholic apologists [Scott Hahn] and ‘the defend the fullness of truth’ conferences. First, I felt the Lord was going to deal with the more obvious abuses of the prosperity movement a few years back. I even ‘prophesied’ that this would happen [on this site!]. So this is a legitimate ‘correction’ that is taking place as of this year. Some of the main leaders of the movement have come under some serious ‘judging’. Also, the more theological/mature Emergent movement has come under fire by the Reformed preachers because of some real problems. Some in the Emergent church have espoused ultra liberal ideas on the Atonement, Hell and other basic Christian doctrines. The problem is the older reform minded ‘correctors’ are for the most part absolutely ignorant of their own ‘blind spot’ in the area of Ecclesiology. They seem to think ‘defending the historic faith’ includes defending a ‘limited’ Ecclesiology. It’s too easy to just believe that Edwards, Luther, Calvin and all the other great minds of their eras must have been right on Church government and structure. For the most part they were not. So this part of the ‘emergent church’ have it right [those who challenge limited ideas of ‘church’]. Now, the recent ‘fiasco’ of the Lakeland revival. I believe the whole ‘group’ of Apostles and Prophets [?] that initially gave their approval are very questionable. Some of the men I do like [Rick Joyner], but the whole ‘apostolic network’ that some of these brothers belong to is very questionable [when I say ‘questionable’, I do not mean they are frauds or fakes. I mean the whole idea of having an ‘apostolic network’ seems to be missing the target]. I believe most of Gods true Apostles and Prophets today are men of great humility, they suffer persecution [like Watchmen Nee] and for the most part are serious students of the Word and ‘followers of the way’ [Christ’s example of a servant]. So today [2008] we need to be open to correction in the areas that are off base. We also need to be careful not to reject all ‘prophetic things’ out of a feeling of being embarrassed to even use the same terminology as some of these guys. And we need to recognize that some of the old time defenders of the faith [Sproul, Macarthur, Colson] do have very good points they are making when the emergent brothers reject the very basis of ‘knowable truth’, but they also have a huge blind spot in their ecclesiology [thinking defending the truth includes ‘Sunday Church’]. Also, the Catholic resurgence is important not to discount, some Evangelicals are becoming so frustrated with the Protestant ‘craziness’ and divisions, that they seem to find refuge in joining this ancient expression of Christianity. Let’s have a good vigorous debate, let’s strive for unity. The prophetic movement needs to receive correction. The prosperity movements more extreme elements need to be rejected outright. At the end of the day God is still going to do a great work in the earth. His people will show forth his glory and truly be the glorious temple that he desires.

 

  • ROMANS 9:24-29 Paul quotes Hosea and Isaiah to show that God has a purpose for both Jew and Gentile. He uses a few verses from Isaiah 10 and 13 to say ‘except the lord had left us a remnant, no one would be left’. Now, once again we come up against the mindset of always reading ‘saved’ as meaning ‘born again’. In context, God ‘saving’ a remnant simply means ‘he spared them from ruin and total destruction’. There is a verse in Revelation that says ‘the nations of them which are saved shall enjoy the new heavens and earth’. Some commentators will show you how some versions leave out ‘which are saved’ which would leave the text as saying ‘the nations [that are left, remain!] shall walk in it’. This is the context here. Paul is saying God always had a few from Israel that remained, he didn’t utterly wipe them out. Now, this of course fits in with ‘having sins forgiven’, being ‘saved’ or redeemed. There are prophets who say ‘the Lord will turn away ungodliness from Jacob’ [delivered from sin] and ‘the lord comes to those who have turned away from their sin’ speaking of Israel. So I want you to grasp the biblical concept of God saving [sparing] a remnant. The word ‘remnant’ actually speaks of the part of cloth/ material that is ‘left over’ from the whole piece. Jesus also said ‘unless those days were shortened, their would no flesh “be saved”’. Once again meaning ‘no human would survive unless God cut short his wrath’. Paul also uses this language here ‘the lord will do a quick work on the earth and cut it short [shortened!] in righteousness’.

 

  • EVOLUTION AND RACISM- Jesus said if you call someone a fool ‘without a cause’ that you would be in danger of ‘hell fire’. One of the most famous ‘Evolution versus Christian’ cases in the 20th century was known as ‘The Scopes Trial’ [monkey trial]. I remember as a boy watching the made for T.V. movie ‘Inherit the Wind’. The movie portrayed the Christians as ‘ignoramuses’ while showing the defense side as ‘enlightened’. The key figures were Clarence Darrow [1857-1938] and William Jennings Bryan [1860-1925]. John Scopes was the teacher accused of teaching evolution from the book ‘Civic Biology’ by George Hunter. Tennessee had recently passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution in their schools [Butler act]. Scopes was found guilty and fined 100 dollars, but the intent of trying to show the Christian fundamentalist as ‘backwoods idiots’ was achieved. Darrow managed to get Bryan to admit that the creation account of Genesis might be speaking of ‘ages’ when it says ‘days’ [the very popular gap theory was accepted by many fundamentalists at the time. C. I. Scofield’s bible popularized this belief in the notes]. After the trial the fact that the A.C.L.U. lost the case was insignificant, they won in the media. Till this day many people see this event as a victory for freedom and human rights. What is not commonly known is that the book Scopes taught from was one of the most racist books of the age. It freely taught Eugenics [the stronger more ‘nobler’ races winning out over the less valuable inferior races!] it even had a scale showing the 5 races of humans from the most valuable and intelligent, to the least valuable and ignorant. The book had whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. Bryan was a defender of civil rights for all humans, he stood on the side of blacks and minorities being equal. The so called ‘advanced’ bunch [the evolutionists] were on the side of the K.K.K., they espoused the doctrine of white supremacy as taught in the book Scopes used. Bryan felt the danger of this so called ‘scientific theory’ was that it would lead to disaster and the degrading of human dignity. It is an historical fact that Hitler read and believed in Eugenics and Evolution, he felt his atrocities against the Jews were simply mans way of ‘wiping out the inferior races’. His demonic attack would occur a few years after Bryan’s warnings. Now, for those who view the famous ‘Monkey Trial’ as a great victory for humanity, I have one response ‘the men who wrote and espoused such racist beliefs were quite obviously FOOLS!’

 

  • ROMANS 9: 30-33 ‘What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after the law of righteousness have attained it, even by faith’. Paul concludes the chapter by summing up his ‘righteousness by faith’ argument. Natural Israel, who sought to become righteous by law, who were always striving for perfection thru the keeping of the law. They did not attain that which they sought after. Why? Because they sought it ‘not by faith, but by law’. No law could ever make a man righteous. The Gentiles, which were not even looking! They got it. Why? Because they simply believed in the Messiah, it was the best message they ever heard. They were told their whole lives ‘you are separated from Gods promises. You are not included in the commonwealth of Israel’. They never dreamed that the Jewish Messiah would say ‘neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more’. They received Gods righteousness by faith. Israel ‘stumbled’ at the stumbling stone. Jesus is called a precious stone and also a rock of offence. To those who believe, he is great, precious. To those who don’t believe he is this tremendous obstacle. The unbelieving world doesn’t know what to do with him. I was watching Ravi Zacharias the other night. He is a good Christian apologist. He was telling the story of being in Russia and speaking to a large group of Atheists. During his talk they were really aggressive, making motions with their hands and all. He was told ahead of time to be prepared. At the question and answer time a Russian Atheist asked ‘what are you talking about when you say God? I have no idea what you mean by this false concept’. Ravi asked him ‘sir, are you an Atheist?’ He replied yes. ‘What is an Atheist’? Ravi asked. The man responded ‘someone who denies God’. Ravi said ‘what exactly is it that you are denying’? The unbeliever has come up against this ‘rock of offence’. He tries to get around it, to develop all types of systems and philosophies to deny it. The rock is there, you can either ‘fall on it’. That is admit he is who he claims to be. Submit and be ‘broken’. Or it will eventually ‘grind you to powder’. You will pass from the scene and the next crop of Atheists will rise and face the same dilemma. This rock ‘aint going away’.

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 10:14-21 [Just a note for the previous entry. In the conversions recorded in scripture [Acts] do you know how many times there is a reference to ‘calling upon the Lord’ during the conversion? Surprisingly one time. The conversion of Saul [Paul]! During one of the ‘re-tellings’ of his own story he says ‘I was told to arise, and be baptized. Washing away my sins while calling upon the Lord’. Wow, could we have arguments over this one! Do you identify the ‘washing away of sins’ with baptism or the ‘prayer’? I actually previously taught [somewhere on this long blog!] how in the 1st century Jewish mindset ‘washing from uncleanness’ and water were related. I taught it in a way that did not teach ‘baptismal regeneration’ but more along the lines of ‘discipleship’ you might find the entry under ‘my statement of faith’. The point I want to make here is Paul spent 3 days after the Lord appeared to him before he actually got baptized and made an open confession of faith. Paul’s reputation was so bad [he killed Christians!] that his conversion and confession needed to have all the weight possible. Others needed to know that he now ‘confessed Christ’. Most commentators will look to the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the Damascus road as his conversion. The point I want to make is in the book of Acts, the main ‘altar call’ was actually baptism. This was the normal means to identify with the believing community. We also see the fact that once people believed, they then were baptized. The same distinction can be made with ‘confessing’. Neither can take place until one believes. I would assume that Paul said something like this at his baptism ‘O Jesus, please forgive me for what I have done. I killed your people and have committed a terrible crime’. There obviously were some serious things he needed to confess! But the overall view of conversion in Acts does not show a ‘sinner’s prayer’ type conversion.] Paul indicts Israel ‘The word did come to you, you didn’t believe’. He also quotes Moses ‘God said he would provoke you to jealousy by a nation who were “no people”’. We are beginning a portion of Romans where Paul will try and explain the dynamic of Gods purpose for Israel, and his ‘use’ of the Gentile nations to ‘make them jealous’. When we studied the parables we saw this dynamic at work. Israel was offended that God [Messiah] was offering equal access to the promises of Israel thru Jesus. Israel was jealous of this free grace. Paul shows them that Moses prophesied that this day would come. You also see this in Stephens’s sermon in Acts chapter 7 ‘Moses said the Lord would raise up a prophet like me [Jesus!]’ and then Stephen shows how Israel also did not recognize that Moses was the intended deliverer of the people. So likewise 1st century Israel also did not recognize their Messiah [the first time around!]. God’s acceptance of the Gentiles was difficult for Israel to embrace. It took a divine vision for Peter, and he still ‘fell back’ into a caste system mentality. God is not finished with these dealings [Paul will say in the next few chapters] and he will make every effort to show both Jews and Gentiles that they are both important pieces to this ‘divine puzzle’. He will even warn the Gentiles ‘don’t get proud, if God cut off the true branches to graft you in, watch out! He might do the same with you.’ Paul is striving for both Jew and Gentile to live in harmony as much as possible, he did not want to come off as a defender of the Gentiles only. He was ‘defending the gospel’.

 

  • PARABLE FROM A PLANE [or any other mode of transport!] this parable is in response to all the various ‘Calvinistic’ sites I have read from in the last few years. I believe in the doctrine of classic predestination [Calvin, Augustine, Paul] but I feel there are some problems with the way believers approach this issue. Say if you were taking a flight from New York to Texas. You have been on this flight hundreds of times. In fact your father is the pilot! Now, when you were growing up you were reassured that the plane was safe, the pilot is well trained and for all practical purposes you know nothing can go wrong [I realize this analogy isn’t perfect, but just pretend that this flight is guaranteed not to have any problems]. Over the years you have enjoyed the journey. Then one day you meet a fellow passenger [an Arminian- Someone who does not believe in the doctrine of predestination, at least not in the way you do]. You begin having some good discussions, he espouses his belief that it is quite possible for something to go wrong. He agrees that the plane itself is safe and the pilot is qualified. But he states ‘if you want to jump out you can’. This idea never entered into the original passenger. He always believed that the security of the flight was so ‘secure’ that even if he tried to jump, he couldn’t open the exit. Now, the Arminian says ‘I think you could’ the Calvinist says ‘no way’. During their discussion they disagree, but no one attempts to actually ‘jump’. Now a few weeks later the Calvinist is afraid to get on the plane. He has taken the flight many times, but now he wonders ‘What if the Arminian was right? Say if the pilot [his dad] actually has the ability and power to open the hatch and throw me out? The possibility of this actual thing has now frozen me with such fear that I will not get on the plane’. The father [pilot] would seem offended. How many times have children fallen asleep in the car when their father was at the wheel? Even though it’s in the realm of possibility that dad will ‘throw you out’ [I don’t embrace this, but follow me] it would still seem dysfunctional for the child to say ‘I refuse to drive with dad until I have some guarantees that he will never open the door and dump me’. As a matter of fact, I feel so insecure of the possibility that dad can throw me out, that I even hate the other kids [or passengers!] that even brought it up! As I have read from some ‘Reformed sites’ I have seen this type of dynamic more than one time. Some of the brothers see the Arminian camp as heretics. I think we need to step back and take a breath. Even in the Arminian camp, they have faith that ‘dad isn’t going to stop short and open the exit’ [for the most part]. Most simply believe that ‘dad’ leaves this option open for the ‘jumper’. I know this silly parable doesn’t do justice to the whole issue of Gods sovereignty. I just find it disturbing how some of my fellow Calvinists seem to view the other side as ‘the enemy’.

 

  • ROMANS- Let me overview a little. This entry goes along with the last one [#856- those of you reading this straight from the Romans study will need to find it under one of the ‘teaching’ sections]. Paul deals with the issue of ‘being provoked by/to jealousy’. Many times believers remain divided because of pride and jealousy. We often do not want to accept the fact that God actually is working thru other camps, groups of Christians who are ‘not like us’. It challenges our very identity at times! We feel like ‘well, my whole experience with God has been one of coming out of [name the group- for many it’s Catholicism] and I KNOW that I have found and experienced God by leaving mistaken concepts about God. Therefore any other ‘defender’ of Catholics is challenging my core experience’. I myself attribute my conversion to ‘leaving religious ideas’ and reading the bible for the first time. Though I had various believers witnessing to me, it was the actual reading of John’s gospel [and the whole New Testament] that clinched it for me. The reality of ‘whoever believes’ as opposed to religion. But my own experience should not limit [in my mind] the reality of others who also embraced the Cross without ‘leaving’ their former church. It is quite possible that other ‘Catholics’ arrived at a serious level of commitment to the Cross, while remaining faithful to their church. Now I realize this in itself can become an issue of contention, all I want to show you is we should not limit the power of the gospel to our own personal experience. During the recent controversy [2008] over certain Pentecostal expressions of ‘revival’ some old time churches simply made a case against all the Charisms [gifts] of the Spirit. The fact is most theologians accept the gifts of the Spirit as being for all ages of the church. Sure, there have been problems with them, even early on [the Montanists] but the fact is there has always been some type of Charismatic expression of Christianity thru out the church age. But the more Reformed brother’s sound [and are often!] more ‘biblical’ than some of the crazy stuff that happens under the banner of ‘Pentecostal/Charismatic’. So the divisions exist. In this chapter [Romans 11] Paul is dealing with a very real dynamic that says ‘I find my whole identity in the way God has worked with me for centuries [Judaism]. The fact that he began a new thing with other groups who I detest [Gentiles] has offended me to the point where I can’t even experience God any more’. Israel could not see past her own experience with God. The fact that God was ‘being experienced’ by other groups in ways that seemed highly ‘unorthodox’ did not mean that their former experience was illegitimate. It simply meant that Gods experience with them was always intended to ‘break out’ into the broader community of mankind. They lost this original intent and used their ‘orthodoxy’ as a means of self identification. An ‘elite’ religious class, if you will. I find many of these same dynamics being present in the modern church. We should stand strong for orthodoxy, we also need to expose and correct error when it gets to a point where many believers are being led astray. But we also need to be able to see God at work in other groups, we should not use our own experience with God [no matter how legitimate it is!] as the criterion of what’s right or wrong.

 

  • EVOLUTION- I just read another one of those articles in the news paper. How Florida just mandated the teaching of Evolution in their public schools [I figured it already was mandated?]. They of course described the theory as the ‘central organizing principle of life science’ BULL! Now, I have heard scientists say ‘what in the heck do you mean by this’ [the so called idea that evolution is this amazing ‘organizing principle’]? The truth is evolution has fallen so badly in recent years that many scientists are scrambling for alternative theories. The ones that disbelieve in creation or intelligent design are even looking for a way out of evolution! The old theory has no more legs to stand on. Let me try and show you the desperation of some. Stephen Hawking has espoused various theories on the universe. One of the theories [which is difficult to describe without diagrams] basically looks like a ‘funnel’ or ‘cone’. The present accepted scientific theory of Big Bang Cosmology would look like a cone, with a minute starting point that grows wider as you pan to the top. This accepted theory shows a ‘point of singularity’. This is basically the point on the diagram that says ‘all things started here’. Now, even though this is accepted science, the ‘contrarians’ are desperately trying to come up with other alternatives. Why? Because if the ‘big bang’ is true, then God is a necessary being! So how does the brilliant Hawking get around this? He comes up with a theory [besides the ‘multi-verse’ one!] That says ‘my cone/funnel has a round indistinguishable knob for a point’. Sort of like a dunce cap with a ball at the end [Prophetic? Just kidding]. Hawking espouses that there is no discernable ‘edge’ or starting point. He feels that this concept can explain away the ‘point of singularity’. Why is this absolutely ridiculous? It would be like me trying to prove to you that this roll of duct tape that I hold in my hand ‘had no beginning’. And if I was able to ‘hide’ the starting point of the tape, where you couldn’t peel a piece off, that this would prove ‘walla, the tape has no starting point’ [that is it was never made]. Absolute lunacy! You say ‘well, John, who are you to question the intellect of such an austere man as Hawking’? Many other Physicists have said the exact same thing. It’s simple logic that tells you this. Just because you can hide the beginning point of a thing, this does not mean the thing had no beginning! I just get riled up when I read these news paper articles and they espouse some of the most ridiculous stuff. Maybe their world really does look like a ‘dunce cap with a knob on the end’. God created the one I live in.

 

  • NOTE TO THE PASTORS IN CORPUS CHRISTI- I need to do a little ‘local stuff’. First, when I first came to corpus [1992] there were many areas of ‘lack’ in the preaching. Too much materialistic stuff. After a few years of public teaching [first radio, then the blog- as well as actually publishing books] we made enemies. Some who disliked us later became advocates of what I was teaching. I am speaking of key leaders in our region. They realized the damage that the prosperity message caused abroad [Africa and other nations [though Africa is a continent!]]. There came a strong return back to the message of the Cross. How much effect we have had in other regions, I don’t know for sure. But in our region [Corpus and the surrounding areas] we had an effect. Good. Some felt that I was a little too strong in that I mentioned actual names of other preachers. Let me say this; if a preacher endorses, by name, another teacher from his pulpit. He then later needs to ‘un-endorse’ him ‘from the pulpit’ if he has now come to reject the preachers doctrine. I realize some preachers accept our stand now, but disagree with me because I mentioned names. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to ‘mention names’ if preachers did not publicly endorse these same men? Also, I am glad that many In Corpus Christi are really preaching the biblical gospel in a stronger way than before. This was imperative for the purpose of our city to be carried out. There have been many prophetic words over Corpus Christi stating that we would be a ‘representative city’ to some degree because we bear the name ‘The Body of Christ’. I realize that some who finally came along [after many years!] to seeing things ‘my way’ have now been challenged all over again in other areas. This can cause another ‘rift’ like the first stage. I simply want to commend my ‘fellow elders’ for the great changes that they have made. Don’t feel like ‘geez, we can never please this guy [me!]’. I understand that many of you [key leaders] have made real adjustments as a result of reading/hearing our teaching. I commend you all.

 

  • WHAT WAS IN THOSE DARN BUCKETS? Imagine yourself sitting on some roadside and you witness way up on a mountain the sight of an old man throwing a bucket of some unknown substance off the cliff. You then assemble a group of detectives and begin researching what was in the bucket. You interview eyewitnesses who say ‘we saw a bucket full of numbers’. Some say the bucket had even and odd numbers, others say only odd numbers. Well, now we have a dilemma. Both sides are adamant about their belief! They will not budge. So you begin an exhaustive 150 year archeological dig to find the numbers. After 150 years you have found ones and threes and sevens and so forth. You have found thousands of these odd numbers. What would your conclusion be? The evolutionist has had 150 years since Darwin to ‘unearth’ all the ‘missing numbers’. We have found fossils of all different kinds of life forms. The problem is there are no ‘even numbers’ [transitional species]. How do we explain the absence of all these so called ‘transitional species’? The intelligent thing to do is admit there were no ‘even numbers’ [transitional species] from the start? But the evolutionist can’t admit ‘the old man had a bucket full of odd numbers’. So he comes up with all types of explanations for the ‘missing numbers’. The problem is there is absolutely no reasonable explanation for why all the odd numbers survived [fossils of complete things, structures] and not a single even number has been found! [Though some clever ‘number hunters’ will try to pass off a broken odd number every so often]. They have even found so called ‘missing even numbers’ and later discovered that they were fakes! I think its time to admit that the old man on the hill had a ‘bucket full of odd numbers’ [there never were any so called ‘missing links’!]

 

  • Romans 11:13- ‘For I speak to you Gentiles, in as much as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office’. Let me just make a few comments today. How is Paul ‘exercising’ his apostolic authority over the Gentiles in Rome? We know he hasn’t been there yet [since becoming a follower of Jesus]. He did not have some type of relationship with them where they contributed to him. He was holding no ‘church services’. He exercised it by speaking into their lives and caring for their welfare. He did this by WRITING THIS LETTER! Recently there has been some discussion on ‘Gods government’ and the apostles ‘bringing things into alignment’ [dealing with the mistakes at Lakeland]. Lots of talk that I am familiar with. What is Gods government? In the world we have 2 competing ‘world views’- systems or modes of operation. You have God’s kingdom, and then the worlds system. When the apostle John said ‘love not the world, neither the things that are in the world’ he was referring to this system of lies and pride and sin. In Gods kingdom you operate under his laws ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart… and your neighbor as yourself’. In this family [children of God] you have different types of ‘gifts’. Some are apostles, others prophets, etc. All these gifted ones are given for the singular purpose of building you up so you can have a mature faith grounded in Christ and be the ‘glorious temple’ of God in the earth. Paul was playing his part by communicating Jesus to these Roman Gentiles. He did not have some type of a corporate relationship with them where he said ‘commit to my authority over you. Either I will be your ‘covering’ or someone else!’ These are mans ideas. Now, we often say ‘Paul didn’t receive money from the Corinthians, but he did from the other churches’. I have said this myself. Paul did receive support from the Philippians, but that was support for his traveling ministry. To get him to the next place. If you read carefully you will see Paul telling the Thessalonians ‘when I was with you I did not eat, or take stuff for free. My hands ministered to both me and those that were with me’ I think he even said he worked night and day. When he spoke to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts, he also said ‘I labored when I was with you, I did not take support from you when I was there. I did this to leave you ELDERS an example’. Now, the point I want to make is it seems as if Paul did not take money when he was actually living among the saints. It seems he took it only for traveling expenses [and of course for his ministry to the poor saints at Jerusalem]. Now, I believe and teach that it is scriptural to meet the needs, financially, of laboring elders. The reason I mention this is to show you that being an ‘apostle’ or any other gifted minister in the church simply means you bear extra responsibility to bring Gods people to maturity. It was not some type of office where you were a ‘professional minister’. When I hear all the talk of ‘Gods apostles are bringing Gods government back into alignment’ for the most part these are men’s ideas being applied to an American corporate 501c3 ministry. Gods ‘government’ operates along different lines. So in this example Paul said ‘I magnify my office’ he was simply imparting some truth to them for the purpose of their own edification. Paul did not see them coming under ‘his covering’.

 

  • ROMANS 11- let me make a note on the previous entry. Over the last few years, as well as many years of experience with ‘ministry/church’, I have seen how easy it is to fall into the well meaning mindset of ‘I am going into the ministry, this is my career choice. My responsibility is to do ‘Christian stuff’ and the people’s role is to support me’[ I am not taking a shot at well meaning Pastors, I am basically speaking of the many friends I have met over the years who seemed to think ministry was a way to get financial support]. In the previous entry I mentioned how Paul seemed to have a mode of operation that said ‘when I am residing with a community of believers, I refuse to allow them to support me. I will work with my own hands to give them an example, not only to the general saints, but also to the elders. I am showing you that leadership is not a means to get gain’. It does seem ‘strange’ for us to see this. Of course we know Paul also taught the churches that it was proper and right to support those who ‘labor among you’. I have taught all this in the past and I don’t want to ‘re-teach’ it all again. The point I want to make is we ‘in ministry’ really need to rethink what we do. How many web-sites have I gone to that actually have icons that say ‘pay me here’. The average person going to these sites must think ‘pay you for what’? Paul did not teach the mindset of ‘pay me here, now’. Also in this letter to the Romans we are reading Paul’s correspondence to the believers at Rome. He often used this mode of ‘authority’ [writing letters] to exercise his apostolic office. Of course he also traveled to these areas [Acts] and spent time with them. And as I just showed you he supported himself on purpose when he was with the saints. Basically Paul is carrying out the single most effective apostolic ministry of all time [except for Jesus] and he is doing it without all the modern techniques of getting paid. He actually is doing all this writing and laboring at his own expense. He told the Corinthians ‘the fathers [apostles] spend for the children, not the children for the fathers’. So in todays talk on ‘apostles’ being restored. God ‘bringing back into alignment apostolic government’ we need to tone down all the quoting of verses [even the things Paul said!] that seem to say to the average saint ‘how do you expect us to reach the world if you do not ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’! When we put this guilt trip on the people of God we are violating very fundamental principles of scripture. Now, let’s try and finish up chapter 11. Paul is basically telling Israel and the Gentiles that God’s dealings are beyond our understanding [last few verses]. God is using the ‘unbelief’ of Israel as an open door to the Gentiles. He is also using the mercy that he is showing to the Gentiles as an ‘open door’ to Israel! He will ‘provoke them to jealousy’. There are a few difficult verses that would be unfair for me to skip over. ‘All Israel shall be saved’. Paul uses this to show that God’s dealings with natural Israel as a nation are not finished. Who are ‘all Israel’? Some say ‘the Israel of God’ [the church]. I don’t think this fits the text. Some say ‘all Israel that will be alive at the second coming’ I think this is closer. To be honest I think this can simply mean ‘all Israel’ all those who are alive and also raised at the return of the Lord. Now, this would be a form of universalism [all people eventually being saved]. I am not a Universalist, but I don’t want any ‘preconceived’ mindset [even my own!] to taint the text. I think God has the ability to reveal himself to the whole nation of Israel in such a way that ‘they all will be saved’. If I were a Jewish person I wouldn’t wait for this to happen! Just like the Calvinists argument of ‘why witness’? Because God commands it. So even though you can make an argument here for a type of universal redemption at Christ’s revealing of himself to Israel at the second coming [which is in keeping with this chapter, as well as other areas in scripture; ‘they will look upon him whom they have pierced’ ‘God will pour out the spirit of mourning and supplication on Israel at his appearing’. Which by the way would fit in with ‘whoever calls on the Lord will be saved’ which I taught in chapter 10. This is a futurist text implying a time of future judgment and wrath’]. So God’s dealings with Israel are not finished. Paul also warns the Gentiles ‘don’t boast, if God cut out the true branches [Israel] to graft you in. He can just as quickly cut you out too’! It would be dishonest for me [a Calvinist] to simply not comment on this. You certainly can take this verse in an Arminian way. Or you can see Paul speaking in a ‘nationalistic sense’. Sort of like saying ‘if Germany walks away from the faith, they will be ‘cut out’. [France would have been a better example! Speaking of the so called ‘enlightenment’ and the French Revolution]. In essence ‘you Gentiles, don’t think “wow, look at us. God left Israel and we are now special!”’ Paul is saying ‘you Gentiles [as a whole group] stand by faith. God could just as quickly ‘cut you out’ and replace you with another group’. I also think the Arminians could use this type of argument for the previous predestination chapter [9]. But to be honest I needed to give you my view. One more thing, Paul quotes Elijah ‘lord, I am the only one left’. He uses this in context of God having a remnant from Israel who remained faithful to the true God. God told Elijah ‘there are 7 thousand that have not bowed the knee to baal’. Paul uses this to show that even in his day there were a remnant of Jews [himself included] who received the Messiah. An interesting side note. The prophetic ministry [Elijah] seems to function at a ‘popular level’. Now, I don’t mean ‘fame’, but Elijah was giving voice to a large undercurrent that was running thru the nation. If you read the story of Elijah you would have never known that there were ‘7 thousand’ who never bowed the knee! Often times God will use prophetic people to ‘give voice’ or popularize a general truth that is presently existing in the ‘underground church’ at large. Sort of like if Elijah had a web site, the 7 thousand would have been secretly reading it and saying ‘right on brother, that’s exactly what we believe too’!

 

  • INTELLIGENT DESIGN- In some of my recent posts on Evolution, I have tried to show the desperation that many scientists are experiencing because of the evidence that is mounting on the side of Intelligent Design. All scientists have ‘preconceived ideas’ that affect the way they view the evidence. Some hold to a theory [note- this is only a theory!] that all things ultimately have to be explained thru naturalistic means. For instance, no matter how much evidence arises on the side of intelligent design, they will continue to reject the theory. Why? Because they are approaching modern science from a naturalistic perspective. They will say ‘if it can’t be explained by natural means [things that can be examined physically- Physics] then we must continue to look for other theories’. This mindset is not necessarily scientific. Nor have all scientists, past and present, assumed this position. So, first we need to understand that the view of science that says ‘no matter how much evidence points to intelligent design, I will never accept it’ is an actual bias on the part of the scientist. Also some of the most ‘notable’ critics have actually embraced this same ‘metaphysical concept’ [that which can’t be seen or measured thru naturalistic means] in trying to refute a creator. [Note- intelligent design and creationism are not the same thing. Intelligent design is simply the discovery of complex information and fine tuning in both the Cosmos as well as created beings. There are so many factors that lead us to believe that a ‘higher intelligence’ had to have been involved. Some espouse other ideas on what/whom the higher intelligence is. For Christians, Muslims and Jews he is God]. Hawking [Stephen] has espoused a ‘multi-verse’ concept of the universe. I have explained it before and wont do it here again [It’s under the evolution section]. The hypocrisy of this theory is it is by definition ‘metaphysical’. It is a theory based, by definition, on ‘supernatural/other than natural’ explanations. It theorizes that there might be an untold number of universes out there, and therefore we are not as unique as we think. The problem is this theory could never be proven by way of using the ‘naturalistic mindset’ that Hawking espouses. By definition ‘any thing that we could see or ever examine by natural means would be in our universe’ [Physics]. So in essence those who hold to a natural explanation to all things are actually contradicting themselves when they espouse this theory. They are using the same scientific logic as the ones who embrace intelligent design. They are saying ‘since we can not come up with a naturalistic explanation to the existence of all things. We too are espousing a ‘metaphysical theory’. The only difference is there god is called a ‘multi-verse’.

 

  • ROMANS 12:1-8 ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service [spiritual worship]’. Most times we see ‘by the mercies of God’ as a recap of all that Paul has taught from chapters 1 thru 12. This is true to a degree. I think Paul is honing in on the previous chapters that dealt with the purpose of God specifically seen in the resurrection of the body. As we read earlier ‘for we are saved by hope’ [the hope of the resurrection]. Basically I see Paul saying ‘because of what I showed you concerning Gods redemptive purpose for your body, therefore present your body now, in anticipation of it’s future glorious purpose, as a living sacrifice ‘holy and acceptable unto God’. Why? Because you are going to have that thing [body] forever! [in a new glorified state] Paul exhorts us to be changed by the renewing of our mind, the way we think. I have mentioned in the past that this renewing is not some type of legalistic function of ‘memorizing, muttering the do’s and don’ts all day long’. But a reorganizing of our thoughts according to this new covenant of grace. Seeing things thru this ‘new world’ perspective. A kingdom view based upon grace and the resurrection of Jesus. This resurrection that is assured to us because we have the deposit of the Spirit which is our guarantee that God will complete the work that he has begun in us. And Paul will jump into one of his ‘Body of Christ’ analogies which he uses often to describe the people of God. Because we are all one body, we should think soberly about our different gifts and purposes. God gave some ‘better’ [or more noticeable] gifts for the overall edifying of the body. So don’t boast about it. All have varying gifts, freely given. Administrate them with much grace. Do it with humility and cheerfulness. We are simply children thru whom Gods Spirit manifests himself in different ways. Don’t boast that ‘Wow, daddy gave me a bike’. Or look, I got a more expensive Christmas present than you. Daddy distributes the gifts freely as he wills. They are for everyone’s benefit. Don’t use this grace gift as a means of self importance or prestige. It would be like ‘prostituting’ a gift for self aggrandizement. People have done it, but it displeases the giver of the gift.

 

  • ROMANS 12: 13 Paul continues to give some basic guidelines on practical Christian living. Notice his teaching on financial giving ‘distribute to the necessity of the saints’. This basic Christian doctrine from Jesus teachings has become the premier act of giving for the New Testament saint. The reason I have stressed this teaching as opposed to the more popular view of tithing, is because the scriptures place such a high priority on Christian charity. As I have mentioned before, Jesus even uses this basic description to describe those who ‘are righteous’ or ‘unrighteous’. He teaches the final judgment will be based on this outward identifier of ‘what we did to the least of these’. If you read carefully the New Testament epistles you will see a picture of ‘local church’ as a caring community of people who show their love for one another thru these acts of kindness and compassion. None of the New Testament letters teach a type of financial giving that focuses on ‘support the ministry/institution’ as being ‘the new testament church’ that replaced the ‘old testament temple’. For example a tithe system that supports the ‘pastor/priest’ in the same way the Levitical priests were supported under the law. It’s so vital for us to see and understand this. Because the average believer is taught thru out his life that his primary expression of giving is to ‘bring the tithe into the storehouse’ in such a way that it violates the actual primacy of giving as taught in the New Testament. Which is to regularly give to meet the needs of those around you. The fact that there were instances in the book of Acts or the letter to the Corinthians where believers gave an offering in a corporate way [the collection for the poor saints- 1st 16, or the laying of the money at the apostles feet in Acts] does not excuse the believer from the teaching that we should all regularly give to meet the needs of those around us. This is flatly taught as a regular part of the Christian experience. The other fact that Paul never once teaches the tithe as a function of giving for the Gentile churches should cause us all to take another look at the way we teach giving in the church today.

 

  • ROMANS 12:14-21 Notice how Paul puts such a high priority on the principles of Jesus. He exhorts the saints to live by the precepts of the great ‘sermon on the mount’. Often times believers try and make a division between Paul’s revelation of justification by faith and the ‘liberal moral teachings of Jesus’. I see no division here. Paul actually quotes Jesus ‘if you’re treated badly, respond in love. By not getting even you heap “coals of fire on your enemies head”’. Actually, I remember how a few years back, when everybody was coming up with their ‘new revelation knowledge’ ideas on scripture. Things like ‘the camel going thru the eye of the needle’. Some taught Jesus was not really rebuking wealth, he was simply talking about a ‘low gate’ thru the wall of the city that was called the ‘eye of the needle’ and the camels had to crouch a little to get thru, true silliness! This verse ‘coals on the head’ was taught as saying Jesus was simply saying you were helping your enemy on cold nights by ‘keeping his head warm’! Sad. Jesus said don’t avenge yourselves, God will avenge you. Doesn’t sound like the lord is talking about ‘head warmers’! Look at these verses carefully. Paul incorporates the teachings of Christ as having a very high priority for the believer. We are often inundated with modern concepts of ministry. How to raise funds [or amass wealth]. Paul ‘locates’ the important thing as being centered on Christ. He knew if the churches [believing communities] of the first few centuries would follow this idea, that they would truly turn their world upside down for the cause.

 

  • ROMANS 13:1-6 Paul teaches that believers should ‘be subject’ unto human government. He shows us that ‘the powers that be are ordained of God’. All human leaders are given their position of authority, ultimately, from God. What about Hitler? Or evil Pharaoh? Did God ‘put them there’? If God is sovereign [which he is!] then he permits all things to transpire, that actually transpire! He does not ‘ordain evil’ in the sense that he initiates unrighteous things. But because he has the power to prevent anything from happening, if ‘it happens’ that a wicked ruler is in authority, then he in that sense ‘ordained it’. Understand Paul is writing this at a time in Roman history where the leaders were quite wicked. They worshipped false gods, and even claimed to themselves the title of ‘a god’. For Paul to use this language in this chapter, he even says ‘they are the ministers [servants] of God to thee for good’ is strong. Paul is also not teaching that there is never a cause for civil disobedience, in the sense of ‘whatever the government says, we will do’. In the New Testament we have Peter resisting the order to ‘not teach or preach in Jesus name’ [Acts]. He even says ‘should we obey God or man’ in his defense. Of course today we have legalized abortion, and in the case of later term abortions, the practice is equal to infanticide. We should do all that is in our legal power to stop the murder of unborn children. This law violates Gods law, from whom all human government is derived.

 

  • ROMANS 13:7-14 ‘For this cause pay your taxes also, for they are Gods ministers’ I noted earlier how Paul taught ‘give to those around you that are in need’ [chapter 12] and here he teaches the importance of ‘paying taxes’. Where is the exhortation to ‘pay tithes’? In the ecclesiology of Paul, the ‘corporate community of people’ are the ‘new testament temple of God’. Therefore you see the need to ‘pay tribute’ to only two ‘institutions’. One being the ‘local church’ [as seen in simple giving to the needs of the community around you] and the other being ‘the government’. Paul sees no 3rd ‘institution’ that is called ‘the local church’ to which the tribute of the tithe belongs. To correctly apply the verse in Malachi [if you were going to use it at all. It is obvious that the prophet is directing the rebuke towards natural Israel] you would simply see the ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’ as ‘give to meet the needs of the community [Gods new testament storehouse] around you’. Now Paul teaches the primacy of the law of love for the believer. If we walk in Jesus command to love, we fulfill the law. And again Paul uses the language of ‘fluent soteriology’ [salvation]. He says ‘now is our salvation nearer than when we believed’. Paul comfortably jumps in and out of ‘being saved’ and ‘will be saved’. It is this free use of the term that we need to become familiar with. The New Testament clearly teaches a future salvation. And it is not as simple as ‘My spirit is saved, my mind [soul- which is really a very weak translation for soul. The soul is much more than the mind, emotions and intellect!] is ‘being saved’ and my body will be saved’. It is not his cut and dry. Your spirit is saved, your spirit will be saved and is being saved [he ever lives to make intercession to God for us- this ongoing intercession deals with all aspects of the humans salvation. Not just the body!]. All 3 modes of salvation [past, present and future] can apply to ‘all of you’ [spirit, soul and body]. Don’t think future salvation only deals with the ‘salvation of the body’.

 

  • ROMANS 14:1-9 Paul discusses Christian convictions. Things that are personal habits of discipline where the scripture is silent on. Some believers abstain from certain types of food. Others see certain days as ‘more special’ than the others. It’s important to see that in this discussion Paul is not concerned with ‘who is right’. Though he will describe the legalistic believers as ‘weak in the faith’. And he himself will say he is convinced that ‘nothing is unclean in and of itself’. He is speaking about the convictions mentioned above. When I first became a believer I attended a good church. It was a Fundamental Baptist church that was a little legalistic in these areas. I remember a funny story, some of the brothers went on a canoe trip. We had a blast. One of the guys was wearing these old cut off shorts that looked like ‘blue jean hot pants’ [who wears short shorts, we wear short shorts!] the pants were old and the ‘fly’ kept unzipping. We told the brother ‘hey James, your gonna get us arrested or something if you can’t keep your shorts on!’. He got mad and called us a bunch of legalists! As you can see there are times where this accusation can simply be an excuse. But seriously the church was old fashioned [though well meaning]. I had another friend of mine that I led to the Lord and he asked ‘what’s wrong with the Christian rock, I like it’? He had heard some songs from the group Petra and he thought they were great. He also questioned why it was wrong for his boys to play mixed sports in public school. He was taught that the boys and girls wearing shorts in mixed company was wrong. So things like this are personal convictions that believers should not use to judge others. I want to stress that Paul does not condemn the more legalistic brothers, but he does make it clear that this is a sign of ‘weaker faith’. A faith that looks at the insignificant things and makes them significant. Many ‘Emergent’ church folk [of which I am one to a degree] seem to have had this type of background. Or at least are familiar with the classic evangelical message and preaching. Some have found a revolution in their thinking by re-organizing their lives around the actual lifestyle and teachings of Christ [which is a very good thing!]. But some seem to despise the older type churches and expressions of Christianity that they experienced while growing up. Some even cast away the good with the bad! Though many of the more legalistic churches practiced this type of Christianity, yet I commend them on spreading the gospel of Gods grace. Taking seriously their faith in the Lord. And being historic defenders of the faith at a time when the more liberal universities were throwing out the baby with the bathwater [the 20th century fundamentalist movement].

 

  • ROMANS 14: 10-23 ‘As I live…every knee shall bow and every tongue confess’. Paul teaches that we will all give an account of ourselves to God. He shows that one of the proofs that ‘he lives’ rides on this fact. How? The context of every one giving an account of his life is speaking of a future judgment day. But we also see the reality of Gods existence in the fact that most people [even atheists!] have at one time or another ‘spoken to God’. I was listening [or reading?] a testimony of a woman who was an atheist. Her child became critically ill and as the days went by in the hospital she had a conversation that went like this ‘I cant pray to God now. I would be a hypocrite. I have denied him my whole life’. The point is she actually knew that in time of need you should pray to God. This universal reality that most people on the planet have at one time or another ‘confessed to God’ is proof of his existence. Paul says because of this fact that we all will give an account to God, therefore don’t judge other people [motives] before the time. If you have the freedom to ‘eat meat’ [less legalistic] then by all means do so. But if this freedom causes another to stumble, then your first priority as a Christian is to live your life in an unselfish way for the benefit of others. So do not let your freedom become an offence to those who have ‘weaker faith’. Do all things with the benefit of others in mind. When Paul says ‘don’t judge your brother’ he is not saying there is never a time for correction and reproof. Paul used very harsh language when dealing with the Judaizers. These Jewish legalists did believe in Christ, they just mixed the law in with the gospel. Paul rebuked them harshly [just like Jesus and the religious leaders of his day]. But when dealing with new believers, those who are ‘weaker in the faith’ you don’t want to overload them with too much stuff. You want them to grow and mature in the proper time. If you used to be legalistic [not going to movies, not eating pork, all types of stuff] and now are more mature in your thinking [though some movies are bad and pork isn’t real good for you!] you should not despise those who still see the practice of their faith thru this lens. Paul said ‘he that eats, eats unto the Lord. He that abstains does it also to the lord’. In these less important restrictions that some believers abide by, most of the times their motives are pure. We shouldn’t demean them. We should try to live peaceably with all men as much as possible, we will all give an account some day.

 

  • ROMANS 15:1-7 ‘we then that are strong [more mature] ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves’. In Philippians we have the ‘KENOSIS’ the act of Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not something to be used for his own advantage. He did not see his purpose in the kingdom as one of ‘let’s find out our rights in the covenant and posses what’s rightfully ours’. A few years back it was common to hear ‘God told me his people don’t have a problem with giving [oh really?] but they need to learn how to receive’. While their might be a ‘speck’ of truth in this, the overall ethos of the kingdom [according to Jesus and Paul] is ‘we are not here to please ourselves, but give up our rights and blessings for the purpose of pleasing others’ [building them up, edifying them]. Paul makes this statement right after the chapter on Christian convictions. He shows us that even if we are right on a particular issue, it is ‘more right’ to not offend or put a stumbling block in our brother’s path. It is possible to ‘be right’ in a particular doctrine or truth, and yet ‘be wrong’ in that we might have used it in a way that destroyed the purpose of God in building others up. Many in the church [at large!] have unwittingly ‘tore down’ the poor and oppressed by seeking ‘their own pleasure’. Many overseas countries have been hurt by the amount of pleasure seeking doctrines that went into their countries. Many 3rd world Pastors gave sacrificially out of their extreme poverty to rich American ‘pleasure seekers’ and their poor people suffered greatly when they did not get a literal 100 fold return as was promised. Paul said ‘we that are strong ought to help the weak, and not please ourselves’.

 

  • ROMANS 15: 8-14 Paul freely quotes from Psalms and Isaiah [the 2 most quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament] and shows how God always had a future plan to include the Gentiles. In the first century mindset, ‘salvation’ was seen more in a nationalistic sense than an individual ‘me and Jesus’ type thing. The messianic promises were for the ‘commonwealth’ of Israel. As the gospel would expand into the Gentile nations, Peter would call us ‘a holy nation’. Still couching the purposes of God and his kingdom in a nationalistic way [not human ‘nations’ but Gods people]. So for Paul it is significant to show how King David [the greatest king Israel ever had] actually prophesied [Psalms] of the future inclusion of the Gentiles into the corporate ‘nation of God’. Also Paul says ‘you are able to admonish one another’. A theme in Paul’s writings is the ability of the ‘local believers/church’ to have within them a corporate ability for self edification. He teaches an idea that says ‘you are all able members of Christ’s Body, therefore build each other up’. Notice how Paul is not speaking into the modern day concept of ‘the Pastor’ who is usually seen as the main ‘builder’. In all of Paul’s letters he addresses the entire body to carry out the function of the church. He tells the Corinthians ‘when you are all gathered together, commit the unrepentant believer over to satan for the destruction of the flesh’. He gave this very heavy charge to the church. He did not see it as something that was to be carried out by a singular office [Bishop or Pastor]. So here we see Paul admonish the local believers to build each other up.

 

  • ROMANS 15: 15-20 Paul appeals to his apostolic authority as ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’ in defense of his strong letter. He also says ‘I dare not use any thing that Christ has not wrought by me to make the Gentiles obedient’. Was Paul saying he would not speak about his past testimony and struggles with sin? I don’t think so. He already spoke of these struggles in this letter [chapter 7]. If you keep reading he says ‘thru mighty signs and wonders, by the power of Gods Spirit’. If you read Galatians, Paul says ‘how did you receive the Spirit, by the works of the law or the hearing of faith’ [P.S. for those still stuck on chapter 10 of Romans, see here how Paul saw the passive hearing as the only outward sign of receiving the Spirit- not calling!] here Paul appeals to the Galatians and says they received the Spirit and God wrought miracles among them [mighty signs and wonders] thru faith. In Acts we saw how the primary purpose of the charismatic signs and wonders was for the proclaiming of the gospel. The signs testify of Jesus being the Messiah. So here in Romans I think Paul is simply saying ‘I will not resort to the preaching of the law’, the main tool used by the Judaizers to try and gain ‘obedience’ among the Gentiles in order to make the Gentiles obedient [these are the things that Christ has not wrought by him. They represented Paul’s past experience in Judaism]. But instead he will declare the gospel of God’s grace. He will lean on the Cross of Christ as the functional tool to ‘bring obedience to the Gentiles’.

 

  • ROMANS 15: 20-33 ‘Now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints’ ‘my service to them’. Paul tells the Romans that he is going to ‘minister’ and have ‘service’ towards the Jerusalem saints. How would you take it if I said ‘I am going to New York to minister, hold a ‘service’ in the church’. You would see me as saying I was going to preach in a building, do my best to encourage the people. And before I left I was going to receive an offering. Paul is saying nothing of the sort! His ‘ministry and service’ are speaking of his charitable work among the poor. He received gifts from the churches for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of the poor. He even says ‘if you Gentiles have been made partakers of their blessings, you should help them out financially’. We are familiar with this terminology when Paul uses it to speak of meeting the needs of Elders, but we very rarely apply it to the meeting of the needs of the poor. Paul had a ‘service’ for the saints, and he was not speaking in terms of going to some town and preaching a message and taking an offering. Service in the first century context was giving of your time and resources for the benefit of others. Doing things at your own expense, not always receiving a recompense yourself. I wonder where they got such an ‘unbiblical idea’. It reminds me of the time when Jesus put on a towel and washed the disciples feet. Another one of those strange passages that seem to teach that leadership is here to serve, not be served. These kingdom precepts do not fit in with the modern idea of ‘ministry/service’.

 

 

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

 

  • ROMANS 16- CONCLUSION Okay, lets try and finish up Romans. We do see some good stuff in this last chapter. We see Paul addressing women as functional ministers in the church. Phoebe is a deaconess, Junia an apostle! I still believe that Elders were only men, but women did function in the first century Ecclesia’s. Paul also says ‘mark those which cause divisions contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them’. Now, I have heard the strict Baptists use this against the Pentecostals, and it did put the fear of God in you! But then I heard the Pentecostals use it against the strict Baptists, and it also put the fear of God in you! [maybe another fear?] The point being you could use this to defend any doctrine you ‘have been taught’ by well meaning men. Here Paul is warning against those who were early on departing from the faith [the basic elements of the gospel and Gods grace]. The apostle John addresses those who ‘went out from us, but were not of us’ ‘whoever rejects Christ as come in the flesh is anti christ’ [1st John]. You did have those who rejected the basic elements of the gospel and the incarnation of Jesus. Paul warned the Corinthians not to depart from the reality of Christ’s resurrection [1st Corinthians 15]. And of course Paul openly rebuked the Judiazers for trying to put the gentile believers under the restrictions of the Mosaic law. So even though these types of verses seem to fit in to our present day controversies and differences among various denominational groups, yet in context they refer to those who were rejecting the basic tenets of the faith. Paul also encourages ‘God will crush satan under our feet shortly’ ‘God is able to establish us thru the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ’. Let me defend the concept of ‘old fashioned preaching’ a little. While I and many others have publicly taught a type of new testament ecclesiology that is absent the ‘weekly pulpit Pastoral office’. Yet there is biblical precedent for the preaching of the Word. Paul taught in chapter 10 ‘how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they preach unless they are sent’? God strengthens believers thru the preaching of Gods Word. While it is wrong for the average believer to depend solely on this preaching to become educated in the things of God, yet there is a strengthening that God gives to the believer when he comes under the pure preaching of Christ. As we end Romans, I want to re emphasize the major doctrine of justification by faith. The reformation of the 16th century did not happen in a vacuum. God restored a very vital truth back to the people of God. All Christians should be grounded and well versed in the reality of God freely accepting us based on simple faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I realize that many are returning to a more ‘sermon on the mount’ orientation of the Christian lifestyle. As I have taught before I think this is a good thing. A ‘re-focusing’ on the teachings and instruction of Jesus. But I think we also need to emphasize the many statements from Jesus himself on those who believe having everlasting life [John’s gospel]. Romans is a masterpiece letter from Paul, one of his main points was justification by faith. God wants believers to be grounded in this truth.

 

  • HURRICANE IKE- It’s 9-12-08, 6:20 am. I want to be careful in sharing this entry. We have friends in Houston who read our blog and hear our radio stuff. This week we had one of the worst predicted hurricanes to hit Texas in many years. For the first time since I have lived in Corpus all the projections had us as a direct hit. I have never seen the local officials ‘fear’ one as much as this one. Now, before I retired as a fire fighter I always stayed for the storms. It was part of your job. Of course as this last week progressed I made a few preparations and had plans to go inland [to stay at my daughter’s ranch]. I also prayed for the thing to ‘go north or south’ or at least not be a direct hit. Also a few weeks back as I was reading Isaiah I added a new prayer verse to my weekly intercession, it went ‘hear me oh islands, and you from afar’ [Ike?]. I simply felt the lord wanted me to start praying this. This was a week or two before any signs of a hurricane [I didn’t even connect it until this morning!]. Now as all the locals were in sheer panic, I kept up my routine. As many were evacuating I mowed the grass. I told my wife I think I am going to go down by the water and try and record the thing. I regularly pray outside during storms [and yes lightning!] and I was getting mad about all the fear. I told my wife ‘you guys go inland, I just might hang out and see what happens’ [I live in a flood zone very close to the water]. I did not want to change my schedule because of fear. Now, here’s where it gets tricky. There are some very accurate prophets [internationally known] who have been right on concerning natural disasters. One lives in the Dallas area. A few years back he predicted the tsunamis and where they would hit. He did gain national attention. I sent him some ‘reproof’ a year or so ago. He was quoting ‘the wealth of the wicked is for you’ a little too much. I have read his stuff and do like his ministry. I also noticed he quit using the verse after I sent him some stuff [I don’t know if he read it or not. I might have just emailed him our stuff? I have sent both hard copies and email at times]. I haven’t gone to his site in over 6 months. A few weeks back I went to his site and read ‘get ready Corpus, your gonna get hit!’ I felt it to be prophetic because it was the only thing he wrote about Corpus, and it was the first day I went to his site in many months. Then I opened one of my bibles [their laying all over the place!] and opened to a page in Isaiah that said ‘I am going to change your scenery’. This was a notation I put in a few years back. It was a simple prophecy I had read somewhere [or heard]. These things led me to believe we were gonna get hit. Then as I woke up yesterday, a couple of days before land fall. I took the prophecy about Corpus personal. I had corrected this brother somewhat and felt it to be a little personal. I am not saying that’s why he prophesied it, I just took it personal. So as I prayed I was wishy washy about where to ‘send it’ [in a decree type thing]. But was mad and said ‘I decree in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that you turn north. I forbid you [Ike!] to come within 100 miles of Corpus Christi’. Now, I felt I needed to be specific about it, so I was. Sure enough after I finished my prayer and writing time, I checked the coordinates, and to the surprise of everyone in Corpus, it turned north! Now, I am not saying it was because of my prayer [though it might have been!] but the indicators that I had all along, before any hurricane was in the gulf, seemed to connect this whole event with national prophetic things. I feel the spiritual callings on our city do play a major role in events like this. Jesus commanded the winds and seas and they obeyed. I feel the Prophetic/Apostolic callings have a role in stuff like this. As of right now the storm is predicted to be severe in Houston. I don’t want that! I even prayed ‘Lord, keep it away from the more populated area’. But I couldn’t help shake the feeling I had when I ‘aggressively’ rebuked it, by name. And said ‘go north’. I just felt like there was a little prophetic vindication in some of this. NOTE- The storm has passed, and it has caused the most destruction to the scenery of Texas since I have been here [28 years]. I just want you to see the reality of prophetic things. When I woke up one day and turned to the prophetic word in my bible that said ‘your scenery is about to change’ I felt it to be a warning about the change of scenery/landscape as a result of a hurricane. Within a few weeks [or less! It might have been a few days to be honest. But I try to go the extra mile in not over exaggerating these types of things] it actually happened. We don’t rejoice over the ‘accuracy of a prophetic word’ while people have lost their lives and homes. We should simply recognize and pray when God reveals stuff like this. UPDATE- I just remembered something. About a week or so before the storm hit, I drove to port Aransas [a beach town] and bought a souvenir picture of a huge wave coming over a pier. I hung it up in my yard where I pray. I also felt like the Lord was telling me to lie on the beach and pray while face to face in the sand. So we went to the same beach a week later and I did it. This day there was another storm just leaving the gulf and as I was in the ocean I got caught in a storm surge type wave. It was simply the sensation of a huge amount of water coming to shore. Not a high wave, but the tide came in a few hundred feet past the normal line. I feel like the Lord prophetically had me pray this day to avert our area from a direct hit. Our local pier was struck by a huge storm surge [just like the picture I bought] and caused massive damage to the pier.

 

  • RUTH 1- During the time of the judges there was a famine in the land. A Jewish couple, Naomi and Elimelech, leave their home land and travel to Moab. They take their two boys. During their time in Moab the boys marry. The girl’s names are interesting. One has the same name as a famous TV talk show host, Oprha! [actually it’s Orpah] the other is Ruth. Elimelech dies and eventually the two boys die as well. You have to stop and think of this tragedy for a moment. Is it possible that relocating to Moab was rebellion against the Lord? They did leave the promised land because things got tough. How often do we relocate under these types of circumstances? Naomi is left with her two daughters in law and she decides to return to the homeland. The girls want to go with her, but Naomi tells them ‘why go with me? I am too old to give you any more husbands. Stay in your own land and culture’. Orpah stays and becomes a very popular woman talk show host [okay, that’s it. I won’t do this again] and Ruth says ‘I will return with you and your family and culture AND GOD will be mine’. She chooses the true God of Israel over the pagan gods of Moab. Now, Naomi has suffered tragedy, she refers to herself as bitter. By all outward appearances she has failed in life. But wait, one of the most coveted things to happen for a woman of Israel was to have a part in the role of the Messiah. Ever since the promise in Genesis ‘the woman’s seed shall bruise the serpents head’ [the earliest evangel in scripture] all women from Israel wanted to be the mother of ‘that seed’ [Messiah]. If you weren’t the mother, the next best thing was to play a role in the lineage. Naomi will be the matchmaker of a couple that the lineage of messiah will be traced thru. God often used barren women, women who were deemed ‘cursed’ to play a major role in his purposes. I do realize that in the natural it did not look good for poor Naomi. I am sure all her friends gave her the standard ‘Oh dear, we are so glad to see you’ but later on must have thought ‘what on earth happened to that family? She left with big dreams and came back a widow!’ Are you feeling barren right now? Do you feel humiliated because the vision and purpose you told everyone about has not come to pass? Now is the time to find your purpose and destiny in God. You might just be in line to fulfill a greater, less obvious destiny. It might not look so glorious now, but maybe one day when the history books are written, your role will outlive the naysayers of the present hour.

 

  • RUTH 2- Ruth goes out during the Barley harvest and gleans in the field. Gleaning was engrained in the law of Israel. It allowed for the poor of the land to gather up the leftovers from the initial harvest. The land owners had to leave the corners of the field ‘un reaped’ as well. Ruth ‘happens’ [by chance] to glean in the field of Boaz, a next of kin. He is called the ‘kinsman redeemer’ this speaks of being a close relative [from the Hebrew word ‘go’el’] who had the right to redeem the goods of a relative who had died. Their stuff would go up for public auction and the redeemer had first shot at it. He also had the right to buy back a fellow relative from slavery, or even avenge the blood of a relative who was murdered. Ruth just happened to come into his portion of the field. He was a relative of her father in law Elimelech who had died in Moab. Boaz asks who she is, the men tell her she is the Moabite who came back with Naomi. Boaz tells his men ‘take it easy on her, let her get a good portion of barley. Even let some extra fall for her’. He favors Ruth. She even asks why he is treating her so well and he tells her it is because he heard how she did such a noble thing in staying with Naomi after no one was left. It kinda reminds me of the good works of Cornelius in Acts chapter 10. Scripture says his alms and prayers came up before God as a memorial. Boaz didn’t simply treat Ruth well for no good cause, she reaped what she sowed! Ruth goes home and tells Naomi about the situation and she says ‘great, he is a next of kin. Keep working with him’. Naomi realizes that if things work out that Boaz just might claim Ruth for himself. The Kinsman redeemer is a type of Christ. He needed to have the substance to ‘buy back’ the possessions. He needed to be related [by blood] and he needed to be willing. Unlike the mandate for a brother to marry a sister in law and raise up children to his dead brother, the Kinsman redeemer had free choice. He could pass up on the offer if he wanted. Jesus chose to go to the Cross for all humanity. He had the ‘substance’ [he had the perfect life to lay down] and the willingness to purchase us. In this chapter we see the sovereign hand of God at work. Though the scripture says ‘she happened’ by chance upon the field, yet we realize that in Gods plan nothing ‘just happens’. God was directing the course of Ruth to meet up with Boaz, God knew that he would use their eventual marriage as a tool to bring forth the messiah.

 

  • RUTH 3- Naomi advises Ruth to go to Boaz at night and lay down beside him. Boaz is at the threshing floor, a place where you went to thresh the wheat/barley. Threshing was simply the process of sticking a pitch fork type instrument into a bushel full of wheat and throwing it into the air. The wind would blow away the chaff [bad stuff] and the good stuff would fall onto the floor. Sort of like sifting for gold. In the New Testament Jesus is said to be coming with the pitchfork in his hand and he is going to thresh his wheat. This was a symbol to natural Israel that the time of judgment and cleansing had arrived. Jesus would spiritually shake things up and allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to cleanse away that which was useless. Ruth lays next to Boaz and Boaz wakes up startled. He realizes that Ruth is basically showing that she wants Boaz to redeem her. For him to function as the kinsman redeemer and marry her. Boaz informs Ruth that he will do it, but first he has to make sure the closer relative to Ruth doesn’t want to perform the task. Boaz was second in line as the redeemer. He asks Ruth for her veil and he fills it up with barley [like a sack] and she returns to Naomi. Let’s spiritualize a little bit. Often times the lord will take the ‘veil’ [darkness/depression] and turn it into a full harvest. The very thing that seemed to be a dark period in your life becomes the actual capacity for a full reward. Scripture commands us to come out from a place of mourning and darkness and to put on a new veil of rejoicing. Ruth’s experience was one of difficulty. She originally married into what seemed to be a stable family. After the death of her Father in law and husband [and brother in law!] things were not looking too good. Ruth persevered and transitioned into a new culture and environment. A very difficult thing to do during a time of upheaval and disappointment. The scripture says ‘if your strength fails in the day of adversity, it is small’. Don’t feel condemned, but if the truth be told it really isn’t our knowledge and natural ability that brings us into success, it is the maturity that God builds into you thru out your life. The ability to face difficult situations and to press ahead. Ruth prevailed thru some tuff stuff, she got a ‘veil full of barley’ in return.

 

  • RUTH 4- Boaz tells Ruth that he must first ask the closer relative if he wants to inherit Ruth and her husband’s inheritance. The closer relative turns down the offer, he can not harm his own inheritance by building up the heritage of Ruth. Boaz goes thru the public act of calling ten elders of the city together to witness the passing of the title deed to him. He marries Ruth and they have a son named Obed. He will become the father of Jesse who is the father of King David. The Lord used the tragedy of Naomi to carry thru her a divine link to the Messiah. The women of the town praise Naomi and tell her how blessed she is to have obtained an inheritance for her son and lineage when all hope was gone. There was a time in Naomi’s life when all looked lost. The odds of her pagan daughter in law Ruth, to have actually returned with her to the land and to have married back into the family were next to zero. Naomi reminds me of the verse in Isaiah that says ‘when I was in oppression and unstable I had all these children. How could this have happened’ [my paraphrase!] This was speaking of Israel’s fruitfulness despite her own trials and difficulties. In Isaiah 53 it says of Jesus ‘thou wilt see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. Thru his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many’. God often sees us in the midst of adversity and watches to see how we will respond. He is not looking for perfection, never stumbling. He is looking for a willingness to continue to trust in him thru it all. These are Divine tests. Naomi prevailed thru great difficulty, she will forever be named as someone who had a role in the history of the Messiah.

 

  • 1ST SAMUEL; INTRO, CHAPTER 1- Originally the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel were one volume. When the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was made [the Septuagint] they were added with 1st and 2nd Kings and were called ‘The books of the kingdoms’. In order to keep this volume from becoming too big, they were divided into the present divisions. In chapter one we see the family of Elkanah and Hannah [and wife #2 Pininnah!]. They go up to the Tabernacle of the Lord in Shiloh to worship the true God. Hannah has no children while wife # 2 does. This becomes a point of contention and jealousy between the two wives. Hannah pours her heart out to the Lord and makes a vow. She tells the Lord if he gives her a son that she will dedicate him to the Lord. Eli the priest sees Hannah praying silently [her lips moving but hearing no voice] and he assumes she’s drunk! Why? Was she stumbling and acting drunk? No. It was because he thought she was mumbling [speech] like a drunk. In Acts chapter 2 the same thing is assumed. Those who received the outpouring of the Spirit were thought to be drunk. Why? Were they stumbling and falling? No, once again it was a speech thing. They were speaking all types of unknown languages [known to the various groups their that day] and people thought they were acting like drunks when they can’t talk clearly. I emphasized this because it’s common today for renewal movements to associate the Spirit with people actually stumbling and driving in a drunken type state. While I don’t want to be dogmatic and say this can never be of God, yet many of these believers will use the Acts chapter 2 example to justify their belief. Act’s 2 does not teach ‘being drunk in the Spirit’ in this manner. Now the Lord hears Hannah’s request and she gives birth to Samuel. She keeps him until he is weaned [2 or 3 years old] and then she honors her vow and dedicates him to the Lord. She actually gave him up to become a full servant of God at Shiloh. It was not an easy vow to keep. As we go thru this book we will cover lots of interesting history. Samuel will become a mighty prophetic leader in Israel. He will be the one to introduce king Saul as Israel’s first king. The last verse in Judges says ‘there was no king in the land in those days, every man did what he thought was right in his own eyes’. It’s common to think this means God punished Israel for not having a human king. In actuality God will tell Israel that they were rejecting his kingship over them by wanting a ‘king like the other nations’. We will learn that God did not originally intend for Israel to have a singular human king. The description from judges simply shows us that sinful people, who reject God’s law, will go astray. In these instances a king can bring some sort of stability and government. The kings of Israel will serve in this capacity.

 

  • WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE THE CATHOLICS/ANGLICANS THINKING? Our readers realize that I am not anti catholic at all. Some believe I am too pro catholic! But these past few weeks have been horrendous for Intelligent Design proponents [like me!]. First, a bunch of Catholic statements have been made that are pro evolution. While nothing is ‘Ex- Cathedra’ [the official stamp of approval from Rome] many Catholic statements have been made in defense of evolution. The Anglican Church just officially apologized to Darwin for heavens sake! What’s going on? You have many good Catholic scientists who do lean toward Darwin’s theory in the sense that they view all the GOOD science that has come from the reality of grappling with the issue. And there have been great strides made. The fundamental error of Darwin is there is tremendous scientific evidence against all life forms having evolved from one common cell. Even if a person wanted to believe that living cells erupted spontaneously from a pre biotic soup, the honest reality is that it is absolutely unproven that humans themselves can be traced back to a single pre biotic living cell. Now a few years back you had the major scientific finding that all humans shared a common human parentage. The secular media actually reported this story as ‘the genetic Eve’ [the mother of all living]. This scientific breakthrough showed us that the ‘silly’ bible story of Adam and Eve might actually be literal! Yes folks, science says that we all have a common mom and pop! But can we trace a common ancestry to a single original cell from which ALL LIFE came from? Absolutely not. To the contrary you would be better off trying to make an argument for multiple ‘first cells’ instead of one. The study of DNA absolutely shows us the impassible gulf between human and animal life. No matter how hard science tries to bridge this gap, it can’t. They have tested monkeys that seemed to show human traits, hoping that the link between human and monkey could be made. What have they found? To their dismay, it was a monkey. All science shows us that human beings and animals are of distinct origin. If one wants to reject the literal reading of creation in the Genesis account [which seems to be what all the recent fuss is about] you still cannot teach Darwinian Evolution as a viable alternative. True science will not allow it.

 

  • SAMUEL 2- Hannah gives great praise to God for Samuel. This prophetic utterance is a lot like Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Luke chapter one. She says ‘God brings low the rich and helps the poor’. This week we had one of the worst financial disasters in U.S. history [9-2008]. It could have been worse, the government took over some major financial [and insurance] institutions. One of them was A.I.G., a major insurer. A day or so before they were taken over I asked my wife ‘did you take out the girls trust money’. We had a lot of money for our girls in the company [lets say between 50 and 100 thousand dollars]. My wife says ‘no, not yet’. I was a little perturbed to say the least. My wife is the trustee for the girl’s accounts, and I have been telling her for about a year to take the money out. So the day she makes the request all the talk on the financial shows is ‘will A.I.G. declare bankruptcy today’? I was upset. Another day went by and they said ‘overnight they will declare’. And we still didn’t get the money. Well the government stepped and basically took the company over and we got our checks. I was talking to my homeless buddies and they were somewhat aware of the crisis, but they could care less. Their lives were not tied up in these systems. They were still going to live the way they were living for most of their lives. Trusting God daily to meet their needs. It made me think of Hannah’s prayer. Also we see the first use of the word ‘Messiah’ [anointed] in the bible. ‘God will strengthen his king and exalt the horn of his anointed’. I read this yesterday and was quoting it all day. It’s appropriate that Mary uses this prophetic utterance while speaking of Jesus, the Messiah. The sons of Eli the priest are wicked. They are robbing the people and sleeping with the women at the tabernacle gate. Scripture says ‘the people abhorred the offering of the Lord’ because of their abuse. For many years I heard ‘if people are offended because the church emphasizes money so much, well let them be offended’. I never really questioned this reasoning. Then I began to see how the majority offence to unbelieving friends and family was the money issue. While most of the pastors were well meaning, they seemed to not realize that we do have a responsibility to not offend in the area of offerings. The apostle Paul adjusted his ministry in such a way that he would not allow the churches to support him while he was with them. [Not just Corinth either, but Thessalonica and Ephesus! Read Thessalonians and the chapter in Acts that deals with the Ephesian elders- 22?] The point being the church bears much responsibility to how the world views us in the area of offerings to God. Eli’s sons abused the system to their own benefit and the people began to despise the whole concept of ‘church and money’. A prophet will pronounce judgment on Eli’s household and Samuel will ‘grow in favor with God and men’. Just like Jesus. Samuel is a type of Christ who knew his prophetic/priestly destiny from a young age. Jesus was in the Temple questioning the leaders at the age of 12, Samuel was serving the Lord at an even younger age.
  • SAMUEL 3- Samuel is laying down at night and hears someone call him ‘Samuel’. He thinks it’s the voice of a man [Eli] and he goes to him and says ‘what’s up, why did you call me’? Eli tells him he didn’t call him. This happens 3 times and finally Eli realizes that the Lord is speaking to Samuel [though Samuel doesn’t realize it!]. Eli tells Samuel to simply reply ‘speak Lord, for thy servant heareth’. Sure enough the Lord returns and reveals to Samuel that he is going to judge Eli’s house and dynasty. Eli asks ‘what did the Lord tell you’? And Samuel tells it all. A few things. First, it’s possible for gifted young prophetic people to mistake men’s leadership for God. In Samuels’s case the Lord purposely bypassed human leadership. Even leadership that was God ordained to a degree! When we become over dependant on human leadership God will shake up the apple cart. Also Eli was still mature enough to direct Samuel towards the Lord. He knew it was not his job to mediate this gift. He could have been jealous and said ‘well, I guess you need to ignore the voice. After all who do you think you are trying to hear God while bypassing the official channels’. But Eli directed Samuel to the Lord. Also this chapter says ‘God let none of Samuels words fall to the ground’ all the people from Dan to Beer-Sheba knew that Samuel was a prophet. I have said in the past that true ministry does not seek fame and recognition. This does not mean that these things won’t happen! Often times God will elevate a prophetic gift while the person themselves are not seeking it. Jesus was a great example of this. He said in John’s gospel ‘I don’t seek the recognition from men, I know what’s in man’. What was in man? The same people who were extolling him would be part of the crowd who would yell ‘crucify him’ later on. The vanity of men’s glory is a shameful thing. Yet Jesus became the ‘most famous’ prophet in the history of the world. Samuel had a divine mission to accomplish, he was well recognized as a prophet sent from God for a particular season. Even Eli [the recognized official leadership] saw something special with Samuel, he was humble enough not to stand in the way.

 

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

 

  • SAMUEL 4 CONTINUED- Okay, let’s finish it up. In this chapter we see an important historical event, the capture of the Ark of the Covenant [the box that held the 10 commandments, not Noah’s Ark!] The children of Israel fight with the Philistines and take a loss of 4 thousand men. They go back to camp and regroup. They decide to take the Ark of God and involve it with human warfare. A big mistake! This speaks of the sad history of the crusades and other mistaken ideas of ‘holy war’. God does not involve himself in mans efforts of domination thru power. So the Philistines hear that the Ark is in the battle and they fear. ‘Oh my God, this is the God of Israel who defeated the Egyptians’. They knew the history of Israel and how the God of Israel was great. The battle rages and Israel takes a greater loss of 30 thousand men. Plus the Ark is captured and the two sons of Eli are killed. The runner runs back to Shiloh [the headquarters of the Ark, where the tabernacle of Moses still stood] and brings the terrible news to Eli [the high priest]. Eli hears about the Arks capture and falls back and breaks his neck and dies. One of the daughters in law to Eli goes into labor and delivers a boy. She names him Ichabod, which means God’s glory has departed. She did this because the Ark was taken. The Ark represented Gods glory and presence among the people. It seems as if Israel began to treat it in an idolatrous way. Sort of like what happened with the brass serpent that Moses made in the wilderness. God has to step and rebuke his people when they mistake the true worship of God with religious objects. The history of the Christian church has been divided over this for centuries. You can have religious art, it should not become a thing of worship. The iconoclast controversy of the Catholic and Orthodox churches have gone to extremes on both sides. At times believers would go into the ‘churches’ and destroy all the religious art they found. Others would hold to a view of icons [religious paintings] and statues that would seem to cross the line in areas of worship. I remember hearing a story about a prophet who stood up in a church meeting and said ‘thus saith the Lord, I have judged this church and people. My glory is no longer here. I have written ‘Michelob’ on your door posts’. Well, after he sat down he realized he mistook the word ‘Michelob [beer]’ for ‘Ichabod’. He then stood up again and said ‘Thus saith the Lord, I meant to say Ichabod’.

 

  • SAMUEL 5- The Philistines take the Ark back to their cities and every city the Ark is taken to experiences judgment. They get ‘tumors’ [hemorrhoids!] and rats. At one point they put the Ark in the ‘house of Dagon’ [a false idol. A fish head type thing with a human body] and the next morning their idol is found lying at the feet of the Ark. They set him up again and low and behold, the next morning the fish god is found at the foot of the Ark with his head and hands chopped off! Hey, if your god started as a fish and turned into a stump, then it’s time for a new god! Eventually they decide to send the Ark back to Israel. Let’s do a little history at this point. The Ark of God is the box that contained the 10 commandments. God had Moses make a box to put the tablets in [the 2 tablets that the commandments were written on]. The reason destruction will happen to those who ‘peak in the Ark’ is because the cover of the Ark was called ‘the Mercy seat’. This was the place where the high priest would make a yearly atonement [the Day of Atonement] for the sins of the people. The sacrificial blood was placed on the cover to be for a covering of sin. The Ten Commandments represented Gods Holy character, and the only way he could dwell with the people was on the basis of this atoning blood [a type of Christ]. When you remove the cover [the mercy seat] in essence you are causing the absolute righteousness of God to come into contact with the absolute sinfulness of man. That’s why those who peak in it are destroyed. Now the Ark was originally carried around with the tabernacle system in the wilderness. A sort of movable tent that was set up and taken down as God willed. A mobile piece of furniture. When the children of Israel came into the Promised Land it was placed in Shiloh. After it’s capture and return [which we will read about in the coming chapters] it will eventually be placed in the city of Jerusalem under King David’s rule. This tent that David puts it in is referred to as ‘David’s tabernacle/tent’. It will be a type of the new covenant ministry of Jesus. The tent of David will have no tabernacle structure like Moses tabernacle in Shiloh. There will be no veil or holy of holies or any other impediment to God’s presence. All you have is the Ark and the mercy seat. This showing us that in Jesus priesthood [typified by David’s kingly/priestly ministry] all you need is Jesus atonement and Gods glory. All have equal access to God, not just the priestly class [or another way to put it is all are priests!]. So as we progress thru these books keep your eyes open to the prophetic pictures that are being painted by the Spirit. All scripture testifies of Christ. He is the underlying figure that the Spirit is continually pointing to.

 

  • SAMUEL 6- The Philistines are reeling under the judgment of God. They call a meeting of their priests and diviners, and they ask what they should do. Their ‘religious’ leaders advise them to send the Ark back to Israel and make an offering. They were to make gold images of their judgments, rats and tumors, and place them in a box with the Ark and send it on a cart being pulled by two cows. They would take the cows calves and bring them home, but place the cows and cart on a road to Beth Shemesh. If the cows go down the road, they took it as a sign from God. Sure enough the cows take the Ark to Beth Shemesh and dump the cart in a field belonging to Joshua. Israel rejoices that the Ark is back and sacrifices the cattle with the wood from the cart. Their joy is short lived. They peek in the Ark and are destroyed. They removed the ‘Mercy seat’ [see last chapter-#888]. Over fifty thousand men from Beth Shemesh are killed. They decide to send it to the men of Kirjath Jearim. Over the years I have seen this story used in various ways to justify different ‘ways of doing church’. Some taught how God judged Israel because they didn’t follow the prescribed methods of Ark handling. We will see this happen with David and his men later on. Then the teacher would relate how important it is for us to follow Gods prescribed method, but then teach ‘Gods method’ is their various slant on how ‘we should do church’. I see some good stuff from this story, but I don’t see it in that light. The Philistines were advised by their own pagan priests ‘don’t harden your hearts like Pharaoh’. The story of Gods miraculous intervention in Egypt became lore of the day. All the surrounding nations knew that you don’t mess with the God of Israel. God didn’t destroy the men of Beth Shemesh because they didn’t fully follow prescribed law [though later on this will be part of the problem with David’s men] but they died because they took themselves out from under the covering of Gods mercy as represented in the Mercy seat [the lid on the Ark]. A few years back a famous believer, Reggie White [former football pro.] was known for his Christian faith. He was later influenced by Muslim teaching and made the statement ‘I am going directly to God, without a ‘go between’ [meaning Christ]’. He obviously was influenced by Muslim teaching and was coming out from the ‘covering of Christ’ [mercy seat]. Sadly, Reggie tragically died not too long after this from a sickness. He died in the prime of his life. I do not want to judge Reggie. I simply want to show you the danger of sinful men [all of us!] trying to approach a Holy God without the ‘mercy seat’ [Cross]. The men of Beth Shemesh removed the covering, and they suffered for it.

 

  • SAMUEL 7- The Ark arrives at Abinadab’s house in Kirjath Jearim, it will remain there until David retrieves it [it was there for around 100 years in total-1100 BC- 1004 BC]. Samuel calls the people to repentance and makes intercession for them at the same time. This leads to great victory over the enemy. Jesus ‘lives forever to make continual intercession for us’. We need to combine repentance and dependence upon Christ’s mediation in order to gain victory. This chapter also has the famous name ‘Ebenezer’ that makes it into the history of the church. Both songs and churches will use it in their names. Martin Luther King preached at Ebenezer Baptist church. This stone was simply a rock of remembrance for the victory of God. It spoke of Gods help for man. Jesus is the ultimate ‘stone/rock of defense’ for man. Scripture says ‘there is no rock like the Lord’ ‘Jesus is the precious stone, all who believe will be delivered’. The imagery of Jesus/God as a rock of defense is all throughout scripture. We see Samuel as the key leader of Israel and scripture says he judged them at this time. He lived in Ramah and ‘rode a circuit’ between the various cities on a rotating basis. He was the first ‘circuit rider’! The circuit riders were the famous American evangelists during the 19th As the Puritan east coast churches were becoming well established in the original colonies, there was a need to reach out to the West [and south] with the gospel. The circuit riders were the evangelists who traveled to various areas preaching the gospel and establishing churches [The great Methodist Frances Asbury became famous for his circuit riding and church planting]. During this time you had the famous ‘camp meetings’ where many believers from all over would gather at these outdoor ‘brush arbors’ and hear the gospel preached and commit their lives to the Lord. Over time the more staid Reformed churches of the east coast would view the ‘camp meeting’ brothers as a little ‘un hinged’. You would also have some of the ‘Spirit led’ groups condemn the old time reformed brothers as ‘unconverted’. There was a tendency to lean towards one side or the other. The various Quaker [shaker] type groups would emphasize the Spirit being premiere in all Christian understanding. While this is of course true, this in no way means believers do not learn thru the normal means of study and reading. Some of the more ‘Spirit minded’ believers would come to view the more ‘head knowledge’ brothers as ‘unconverted’. One of the worst cases was the Ann Hutchison controversy. She was a believer who began teaching under the ‘Spirits guidance’ and would give the impression that the more refined ministers were not of God. She would ultimately pay with her life for her beliefs. NOTE- The terminology of ‘New lights’ versus ‘Old lights’ was often used to describe the different emphasis between these 2 camps. There was a brother by the name of Davenport who would travel around and accuse all of the old time preachers as being unconverted. While it is possible for a minister to have never truly made a strong commitment to Christ, to paint them all with this broad brush was very unbalanced.

 

  • SAMUEL 8- Samuel’s sons are appointed as judges over Israel [leaders]. They are wicked, just like the sons of Eli. I find this interesting, Samuel was a product to some degree of his ‘spiritual elder’. Even though Samuel himself was a righteous man, yet he passed on to his kids the same leadership style that he tutored under. The children of Israel come to him and request a king ‘like the other nations’. It is important to see that God states clearly that this is not part of ‘the original plan’. God will tell Samuel that this desire for human leadership, along the lines of other ‘gentile nations’ is rebellion. Jesus will tell the disciples ‘the gentiles exercise lordship over one another, it shall not be like this with you’. Israel wanted to be dominated by a king! God tells Samuel to show them what they are asking for. And then goes thru a long list of things ‘he will take the best of your people and use them for self advancement. He will require a tenth of all you have. He will build a legacy for himself and his name by using you as resources to attain a personal goal of achievement’. In essence the lord is warning them that when you raise up human leadership in a singular way [one king] that violates the plural mindset of scripture, then you inevitably will become a servant to human institutions and purposes. I find it interesting that the Lord mentions the tithe and how this will arise as a result of wrong ideas on what leadership should be. Historically the early church did not practice tithing. As the centuries rolled along tithing was originally instituted as a ‘tax’ from the church/state on the people to support the institutional purposes of the church/state. In essence the tithe/tenth did become a means whereby human government would obtain power and prestige among the gentile nations. The word of the Lord was true! [It’s okay for believers to give 10 % to the church on Sunday, the curse of the law on those who do not do this should not be invoked from Malachi. The appeal should be based on grace giving]. Israel will get her king, God will eventually use the Kings of Israel for his prophetic purposes. David and Solomon will be pictures of Jesus and his future rule. Just like the temple, God will initially tell David ‘who do you think you are trying to build a house for me’? [Thru the prophet Nathan] but will still use the temple as a prophetic type of the people of God being a ‘holy temple’. So the Lord will allow sinful man to obtain things contrary to his original purpose, and yet still be glorified thru these requests. Also the sons of Samuel went astray ‘after lucre’ [verse 3]. Just like Paul and Peters warnings in the New Testament ‘taking the oversight, not for filthy lucre’ ‘some have strayed from the faith while coveting money’ so Samuels boys fell to this temptation. I know it’s popular in today’s circles to simply overlook all these verses from scripture. Many sincere men do not see them because their ‘grid’ of interpretation won’t allow it. I just wanted to note how this theme of covetousness is a scarlet thread that runs thru out the entire body of scripture.

 

  • SAMUEL 9- This is a prophetic chapter that parallels the book of Acts to a degree. Remember when we did Acts I showed you how it seemed that Paul [Saul] from Benjamin might have seen some prophetic significance to the fact that he too shared the same name and heritage [Benjamite] as Israel’s first king? Here we see Samuel play a roll similar to Ananias [Acts 9] in hearing the lord give instructions concerning Saul. Both Paul and Saul were told to go into a city and receive instructions. The lord confirms his word to Samuel that ‘this is the man I told you about’. Both Ananias and Samuel have prophetic signs that confirm the sovereign choice of God. Saul in this chapter is seeking for his fathers lost donkeys. They are about to give up and Saul’s servant says ‘there is a man in the city who hears from God’. Samuel had a reputation of being a prophet [seer]. Seers [another word for prophet. There is some distinction between a ‘prophet seer’ and ‘prophet’. But they are basically the same thing in my mind] were able ‘to see’ into the future about things. Samuel is said to be able to ‘tell Saul the secrets of his heart’. His words ‘come to pass’. He has God communicating to him in a direct way. Samuel is like Agabus in the book of Acts. A prophet who experienced God in supernatural ways. Samuel confirms Gods call on Saul’s life and tells him ‘I have some instructions to give you’ [next chapter!] What role did Samuel play in Israel? He obviously functioned in a prophetic gift that not only predicted what would come to pass, but also gave direction and spiritual oversight to Gods people. The New Testament teaching on prophets clearly teaches that they are part of the functioning ministry of the church. There have been many heresies and mistakes and even cultic ‘prophets’. But the basic teaching in scripture is they are a God ordained ministry that never passed away. We should approach prophets as we do pastors or teachers or any other gift. Are they stable in the faith? Do they have a good grasp of scripture? Good character? All the same principles that apply for Elders. The idea that after the canon of scripture was complete there were no more apostles or prophets has no scriptural support [read my section on apostolic, covering, shepherding]. Both church history and scripture support the ongoing role of prophets in the church. Now, I really doubt that all the fine brothers who declare themselves as prophets are. Some are learning about the gift. Some are functioning at various prophetic levels. But the office carries a lot of weight with it. I see Martin Luther King as a prophetic voice to our nation. He actually spoke of his death in a prophetic way the night before he was assassinated. There are also prophetic voices in history who spoke to their nation and people at crucial times. Alexander Solzenitzen [Russia] would speak out against repressive regimes. But we need to understand that the basic revelatory element of the prophetic [to be able to see and know things supernaturally] was included in the biblical gift of the prophet.

 

  • SAMUEL 10- Samuel anoints Saul with oil. He gives him very specific prophetic direction ‘you will meet 2 men, then 3. They will be carrying 3 loaves of bread and give you 2’. Very particular information. Saul will meet a company of prophets and prophesy with them. The scripture says the Lord changed Saul into another man thru this prophetic experience. Once again we see not only the significance of Israel being under the divine direction of the prophetic [thru Samuel]. But his prophetic office also opened the door for a ‘whole company of prophets’ having freedom to function in their gifts. Over the years I have found it interesting to see how easy it is to live your entire Christian experience in different camps. Some of the more refined brothers [Reformed, Orthodox] have a great advantage in the field of intellectual pursuit [which is a good thing!] but might not be aware of the sector in the church that deals with the prophetic. The prophetic ministry has grown and even produced some fine intellectual material [some bad stuff too!] The point is we need to try and be aware [at least have a working knowledge] of the many streams that operate in the Body of Christ. You might not agree with a lot of the doctrinal positions that these various groups hold to, but as members of Christ’s church they do represent a certain sector of the church. Saul will follow thru and see all the prophetic signs come to pass in one day. Samuel instructs him to wait for him to come and publicly recognize him as king. After 7 days Samuel comes to town and Saul is hiding. He feared all the things that were coming upon him. Samuel finds him and publicly recognizes him. Also Samuel told the people that their choice of a human king was rejection of God. Some of the people are glad about Saul, others despise him from the start. There is a strange dynamic that I have seen at work over the years. When individual personalities and goals pit themselves against other people’s visions, there seems to be a division that is not healthy. I have had good friends who wanted to publicly join and be identified with ‘my ministry’. I would simply tell them ‘there really is nothing to join, we are simply believers trying to live out the Kingdom of God’. Then other pastors would see that some of the homeless people that they are working with have become ‘joined’ to us in a strong relational way. Then I would sense a kind of mindset that would say to the homeless person ‘well, if brother John has such good influence with you, maybe you should be with him instead of us’. They would not say this in a bad way, just in a way that is prevalent in the present mindset of ‘doing church’. I see all these divisions as silly, they come from an idea of local church that has many various ‘local churches’ [Christian ministries] as seeing themselves as independent entities who are trying to instill loyalty in people. ‘Are you with us or against us’ type attitudes. In Saul’s case he had friends and enemies right from the start. When individual personalities and agendas [which God warned them about!] become preeminent in the minds of the people [contrary to the corporate comminutes as seen in the local churches in scripture] then there is a natural tendency to take sides.

 

  • SAMUEL 11- Saul will face his first major test. Nahash the ammonite comes up against Jabesh Gilead, a fellow tribe in Israel. He encamps against them and the men of Jabesh say ‘make a deal with us and we will be your servants’. Nahash says ‘under one condition, all your men need to have their right eyes poked out’. ‘Oh, is that all’. Sure enough Jabesh says ‘well, let us think about it. Give us seven days respite that we can send messengers to all the coasts of Israel. Maybe they will come and help. If not, then sure, we are willing to lose the eyes’! Now the messengers go to all Israel, and Saul hears the story. The scripture says he got angry and Gods Spirit came upon him. Saul will eventually become known for his temper. He will make rash decisions out of anger and jealousy. I want you to see that part of his anger was actually God ordained. Sort of like a Jehu [king of Israel] who rode furiously. Or a John the Baptist who took the Kingdom by force and violence. Saul was initially scared to become the king, God gave him a degree of righteous fury to be able to enter the fray without fear. Now Saul sends word back to Jabesh ‘by the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will have help’. He takes these oxen and cuts them in pieces and sends the parts to the rest of the nation ‘whoever doesn’t come and help. God so help me, I will do this to your oxen too’! [ It would have sounded better if he said ‘so will I do to you’. But Saul is still kinda new at the prophetic stuff]. So Israel rallies, Saul splits the men into 3 groups [did he get this idea from Gideon’s army?] and they storm Nahash and save Jabesh. A few things. Saul is better at this king thing then originally thought. The men are so overjoyed that they say ‘hey, who were those guys that rejected Saul the other day? Lets go and slay them’. Saul steps in and acts righteously and says ‘no, today is a day of great victory, we will not kill our own men’. Saul had the potential to be a good king, he will succumb to pride and jealousy down the road. Also the men of Jabesh were in trouble. They were running out of options. They were contemplating losing their eyes for heavens sake! ‘Just give up part of your vision’ was the threat. The enemy often intimidates us because of the vision/purpose that God places on our lives. If he can just get us to ‘lose the vision’ and live in bondage [servitude] he will be happy. What did the men of Jabesh do? They simply bought some time ‘give us 7 days respite and we will see what we can come up with’. There are times in the journey where we simply need ‘7 days of rest and rethinking’. When you are right up against a seemingly impossible struggle, it’s hard to see any light. You simply need to be able to sit back and tell the Lord ‘give me a little season of rest, help me refocus on some things’. Do a little regrouping and reconnecting to the original purpose. Don’t think you need to come up with an answer on day One! Often times the stress and pressure of the initial attack is too much for you to think clearly on day one. Don’t make major life changing decisions while under stress. After the 7 days pass, you will be able to review the counsel from the Lord and see if the situation has improved. Make your decision then.

 

  • SAMUEL 12- Samuel is getting old. He calls the people together and reviews his life before them. His defense sounds a lot like Paul’s defense to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts [chapter 20]. Samuel tells the people ‘all the time I have been with you, did I ever take your goods to enrich myself? Did I use my authority in a way to advance myself?’ he basically witnesses before the people that he was not in this for self gain. He also reviews the history of Israel. He reminds them of their past and how the Lord delivered them from Egypt. It is important to see that although Samuel was a great prophet who operated in tremendous gifts, yet he saw the need to also ground the people in history and doctrine. He knew the importance of remembering past events. Both the Passover and the Lords Table are Divine instances of ‘remembrance’ that God has ordained for his people. Samuel will once again rebuke them for rejecting God by choosing a king. He will call down thunder and rain during their wheat harvest as a sign of Gods anger. The people see this and fear greatly ‘pray to the Lord for us Samuel, we have sinned’. He encourages them and tells them ‘even though you have done lots of wrong stuff, yet it’s not too late to turn to the Lord from this day forward and make a course correction’. In all reproving and correcting we need to always leave room for repentance. Some will never change the way ‘they think and act’ [message bibles version of repentance] but we need to understand that this is the goal of all correction and judgment. Samuel tells the people he will ‘not cease praying for them’ and continue to teach them well. Jesus told Peter ‘if you love me, feed my sheep’. John says ‘this is how we can tell we love God, when we love his kids and obey his commands’. What is Jesus command? ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and might. And thy neighbor as thyself’. Samuel realizes that his faithfulness to God is directly related to his treatment of Gods people. Though he is a gifted prophet, yet he prays and teaches and remains consistent in the more mundane areas of ‘the ministry’. I have found that God looks for faithfulness in the mundane things before he honors the more flagrant gifts. It’s good to have the ability to speak or prophesy or sing for the Lord, but the need to be a consistent intercessor for God’s people takes priority. Samuel taught them history. He oversaw the problems and situations they went thru. He did not become wealthy from the people. He served the lord faithfully from his youth. Hannah gave him to the Lord at a very young age, God took what was given and made the most out of it.
  • SAMUEL 13- DON’T RETREAT TOO MUCH! In this chapter we see the famous story of Saul offering a burnt offering at Gilgal. He was supposed to wait for Samuel and he got impatient and offered it himself. Samuel tells him that the Lord will judge him severely for this and raise up a man after his own heart [David]. In the beginning of the chapter we see Saul and Jonathan separate into 2 camps, Saul keeps 2 thousand men and Jonathan a thousand. Jonathan is a capable warrior and has some good victories. The Philistines say ‘enough is enough!’ and mount a counter attack. They muster so many resources that Israel fears. They retreat into the rocks and hills, some go back over the Jordan! I read a recent Christianity today article that had one of the leaders of the Emergent Movement speaking with one of the more Reformed defenders of the faith. It was a sincere meeting between two seemingly opposing camps. The Emergent brother questioned the Reformed guy ‘what did you tell the people about what was taught in the first thousand years of Christianity before Anselm’? Anselm is the great Christian theologian who is often credited for ‘coming up’ with the ‘theory of Penal substitution’. Now, I love church history and do understand that this is an idea that many good men have espoused, that Anselm came up with the doctrine of Penal substitution. The point I want to make is this fundamental doctrine was taught by the first century Apostles. Our scripture is filled with the doctrine of Penal substitution! So in these cases I think the Emergent brothers have ‘retreated too much’. In their honest and good efforts of changing the way the church interacts with society, they have damaged their movement by doing stuff like this. Challenging too many core beliefs of the faith. In essence they went ‘all the way back over the Jordan’. The Philistines learn a trick from Israel and divide up into three groups and send out ‘raiders’ my King James says ‘spoilers’. They begin chipping away at the confidence of Israel. Saul has 600 men left with him and they are all trembling. Saul himself must be in tremendous doubt about his own life. He just received a strong rebuke from Samuel. He might have been preparing for the worst. But we will find out that there are still more battles to be won, Jonathan will make his dad proud of him.

 

  • SAMUEL 14- Saul and the people are hiding in fear, Jonathan tells his armor bearer ‘Lets go up to the enemy and show ourselves. If they tell us ‘come here’ we will take it as a sign from the Lord and fight. God can save by many or by few’. They go up and defeat around 20 men in half an acre of land. The scripture says the enemy trembled and the earth as well! It seems like the Lord shook things up, literally! [Another reminder of the book of Acts]. Saul and his people see the enemy fleeing and can’t figure out what’s happened. He takes a quick roll call and realizes Jonathan is gone. They figure out what has happened and enter the fray. The people pursue the enemy and have great victory. Saul says ‘let no man eat today until the sun goes down’. He begins making community wide decisions that are harmful to the people. Jonathan doesn’t hear this rash decision and eats some honey. The people are shocked. They know the curse of Saul. They finally win the battle and they seek the Lord for further instructions. God is silent. Saul figures it’s because there is sin in the camp and they find out that Jonathan was the one who ate the honey. Jonathan says ‘yea, I did eat it, and now I must die’? Sort of like ‘what a stupid and rash thing for you to have said! The people were all tired and drained because of following your singular ideas that were pronounced to the whole community. They would have gained strength if they simply did what was natural and ate when they were hungry’. Saul honors his stupid agenda over his own son and says ‘that’s right, you must die’. He was more willing to kill his son then to admit he was wrong. The people stand up with one voice and say ‘no way Saul, Jonathan has won a great victory. You will not get away with this’! What happened here? Was Saul so inherently evil that he couldn’t help himself? I think what we see here is the result of the mistake for Israel to have wanted a king like the other nations. When the church historically began to be centered around singular authority figures [monarchial episcopacy] you began to loose the freedom and health of the people of God to ‘feed themselves when hungry’. They began to become dependant upon the institutional church to tell them about God and his truth. Eventually you would have the modern expression of highly entrepreneurial ministries that would find well meaning Pastors trying to make corporate wide decisions in ways that were absent from the local churches in scripture. When the people of God lean too heavily on the gifts and leadings of one man, there is a tendency for the leader to come up with goals and decrees that are contrary to the full purpose of God. It is inherent in man to set goals and make broad decisions. That’s not wrong in itself. But the people of God in scripture are formed along the lines of a community of people, not a 501c3 corporation. So the well meaning Pastors have a natural tendency to say ‘what decisions should I make for the church this year? What goals and dreams should we put before the people’ and this inevitably leads to entire communities of believers being too focused on the singular directions of well meaning men. I think Saul simply came up with things to say because he felt he needed to exert leadership. God’s people really didn’t need Saul from the start! As far as I can see from reading the New Testament, the only corporate ‘goal’ or project that Paul would put before the people was his collecting of money for the poor. Now of course there were many spiritual goals of growth and becoming mature believers who praise and glorify God. But I don’t see any other ‘project’ that Paul was regularly laying before the people to join. No structure in the churches of scripture where Paul would say ‘Now Corinth, when I come back next year lets see 50 house churches, reaching 48 % of this region. And oh yes, lets raise this much money for this project’. Much of the modern church is too centered around these types of pleas. The many well meaning men who are operating out of good intentions for the most part are ‘just doing what kings [leaders- C.E.O.’s] are supposed to do’. The fundamental flaw is God never originally intended for his people to be structured along these lines. Many up and coming believers are seeing this and coming out of these limited structures. They are telling Saul with one corporate voice ‘you wont get away with this anymore’. [‘Saul’ in this scenario is not your individual Pastor, who for the most part is probably a good man who loves God. But ‘Saul’ is speaking to the whole concept of modern pastoral ministry that is absent from the churches in scripture].

 

  • SAMUEL 15- Samuel instructs Saul to go and wipe out the Amalekites. He goes and conquers the city but saves the sheep and oxen and other valuables. Samuel confronts Saul and says ‘you disobeyed the Lord by not totally destroying everything’. Saul says ‘Well, we saved the good stuff so we could sacrifice it to the lord’. Samuel tells him ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’. God wanted obedience more than religious worship. The writer of Hebrews quotes David in the Psalms ‘sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a Body hast thou prepared me’. Jesus obedience to the father by dying on a Cross trumped the sacrificial system of the law. Saul messed up the picture! Samuel calls for king Agag, the Amalekite king who Saul captured. Agag thinks ‘great, they aren’t going to harm me now. After all the Pastor wants me’! Well surprise, Samuel takes out his sword and hacks old Agag in pieces! Saul must of thought ‘Gee, I really messed up this time. I never even knew the Pastor carried a blade’. A few things. Over the next century or so [if the Lord tarries] I believe the church is going to go thru a type of modern reformation. Today we see many well meaning believers ‘sacrificing’ their time and money and lives into a system of church that is fundamentally disconnected from the picture and nature of church as described in the New Testament. Now, I am not calling for an iconoclastic tearing down of all church buildings! But if the American church stopped all new building programs [finish the ones that are in transit, but no more!] and if we all began actually, daily giving of our time and resources to helping the poor and reaching out to the lost. We would need a hundred years at least in order to bring the balance back to the New Testament [where over 90 % of all giving was charitable]. Jesus and the disciples practiced a lifestyle where all were responsible to lay their lives down for the gospel. There are actual commands in scripture that say ‘you who are not working, get a job so you can have something to give away to those who are in need’. These are real commands that should be ‘obeyed’. But what we have taught Gods people is if they work real hard and sacrifice [as compared to obeying !] then they can put lots of money in towards the next project or building or whatever. Now some of the resources being gathered in this way are used for good things, but the underlying problem is we have given the average saint the impression that this way of sacrificing is more important than actually obeying. I cant tell you the number of believers who simply do not see it as their personal responsibility to ‘give to him that asks of you’ ‘how does Gods love dwell in you if you see a brother in need and don’t help’ ‘if you do it to the least of these my brethren you do it to me’. But there is not a single command in all of the New Testament to bring a tithe for the purpose of building a church facility. Now, it’s okay to build them to a degree, but are we teaching people that this type of sacrificial giving [towards the machinery of modern ministry] releases them from the primary command to obey? The church will go thru a rethinking of what church means, as we travel along this road we need to obey more than to sacrifice.

 

  • SAMUEL 16- Samuel is coming from the recent ‘hacking incident’ of king Agag, and the Lord tells him to go to Bethlehem and anoint a new king. Samuel is afraid ‘what if Saul hears about it? He will kill me’. Notice, Samuel feels intimidated and fearful. When he gets to Bethlehem the scripture says the Elders were all in a panic, they said ‘are you come in peace’? Hey, they just heard about the hacking incident, word spreads fast when a prophet straps it on with some pagan! They must have been thinking Samuel was on a warpath. He tells them he is come in peace and wants to sacrifice with them and worship. As a little aside, when you have prophetic ministers in a city, it’s only natural that Elders [pastors] are going to feel intimidated. Why? Are prophets better men? No, but the prophetic operates under a different type of anointing. Don’t forget you already saw Samuel gain a reputation among the people because of his strong prophetic gift. Sometimes pastors can feel intimidated ‘geez, that guy hit the nail on the head. I hope he doesn’t call me out by name too!’ Samuel doesn’t ‘call them out’ but says ‘hey Elders, where all in this together. Let’s worship God’. Samuel finds David and anoints him. Saul is battling with all sorts of personal issues [evil spirit]. Even his close associates can pick up on it. The servants recommend for Saul to get a worshipper who can play music and minister to Saul. They tell him ‘yeah, there is this guy named David. He’s real good at playing music. Plus he is a valiant and mighty warrior’. We often see David as a ‘mamby pamby mamma’s boy’ at this stage of his life. But scripture says he already built up a reputation as a fighter. David takes the job and becomes a musician for Saul. A few thoughts. In this chapter we see Gods Spirit [anointing] leaving Saul and going with David. David himself in Psalms pleas with the Lord ‘take not thy Holy Spirit from me’ after his sin with Bathsheba. Let me encourage some of my Pastor friends. It’s easy to read stuff like this, or for some ‘prophet’ to pronounce stuff like this to a pastor. I really don’t see applying this scenario to modern day ministers. God’s Spirit in the Old Testament was operating differently than today. Only one king at a time could have the ‘kingly anointing’. When the Spirit left Saul for David it was because God was only anointing one person for the job. Today, while it’s possible for a pastor/minister to mess up and ruin his ministry, I still wouldn’t apply stuff like this in too much of a personal way. Sort of like ‘The Lord must have left me and now he’s chosen so and so on the other side of town’. The Lord ‘doesn’t leave you’ in this way under the New Covenant. Paul said the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, in context he is speaking of natural Israel, but you can also apply it to believer’s gifts today. How much God uses you does depend on your willingness and obedience to his call, but don’t think he left ‘your church’ and went to the other one down the street! [he hasn’t written ‘Michelob’ on your door! See entry 887]

 

  • SAMUEL 17- David goes down to the battle front and hears Goliath mocking God. The Philistines are confronting Israel and they have their champion giant [almost 10 feet tall! Like the Roman emperor Maximus, he was huge] Goliath. David hears the enemy challenge Israel day after day and he decides to take him on. Saul tells him ‘you can’t do this, you are too young and inexperienced, he is a man of war from his youth’! David insists that he is able, he killed a lion and bear while defending his father’s sheep, why not ‘this uncircumcised rascal’! Saul says ‘fine, hears my armor’. David tries it on and realizes it’s not his style of armor. He goes back to the simplicity of a sling and stone. He goes out to the battle, Goliath can’t believe his eyes ‘did you send me some mammas boy with a stick? I am not some dog that you can tame with a stick’! Oh really? David says ‘sir, not only will I win this thing, but I will remove your stinking pagan head from off that 10 foot frame and feed you and your buddy’s carcasses to the animals’! Old Saul must of been thinking ‘what in the world did we get ourselves into’? Sure enough the battle begins and David runs up to the giant and sinks a stone into his head. He stands over him and severs his head with his own sword. Now the poor Philistines heard the whole conversation and didn’t want to hang around for the rest of David’s mission statement to be fulfilled. They fled! Israel pursues and has a great victory. A few things; David show us the necessity and simplicity of warfare. Jesus taught the disciples that they had what it took to carry out the mission. He warned them not to fall for the wrong headed idea of ‘God has called us to start an organization, and the organization will accomplish this noble task’. After all the years of befriending and working with the homeless and down and out. I realize that many well meaning believers will see the needs of people, but then want to ‘put on Saul’s armor’ to effect change. Try and start another mission ministry, or make others aware of the problem. I have found the biggest need to be that people are simply not willing to actually give their time and substance and get involved. Jesus told the disciples ‘don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this, you are the equipment. No special appeals for funds!’ [Message bible]. We get lost in trying to put on Saul’s armor [lot’s of complicated ministry ideas] when Jesus says ‘just use the stone and sling that I have given you’. The church of Jesus needs to realize that the power to effect society is in the hands of simple followers, truly the meek will inherit the earth.

 

  • SAMUEL 18- David is accepted by Saul and seen as a hero. Upon his victory over the giant all the women begin praising and worshipping in the streets with tambourines and musical instruments. Why this exuberant awakening of the women of Israel? It seems to me that David’s skill as a warrior/worshiper brought a degree of respect to the ministry of praise and music that might have been lacking up until this time. Even though the Lord instilled worship as an intricate part of warfare [Judah=praise], yet it seems likely that being a musician during a time in Israel’s history where violence and war were respected might have been seen as a less than noble pursuit. So David restored a sort of freedom and respectability to praise. Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, becomes ‘linked’ to David in a strong way. Some advocates of the gay lifestyle have actually tried to use this scripture to defend the gay lifestyle, but it seems to simply be saying that Jonathan and David became best of friends. What might have caused this initial bonding? Don’t forget Jonathan himself was a warrior who was willing to lay it all on the line against great odds. He already confronted the enemy single-handedly and won! It’s possible that during Goliaths 40 days of mocking and tempting Israel that Jonathan said ‘I’ll do it dad’ and Saul would have never allowed his own son to face the giant. If so then the victory of David was even sweeter to Jonathan than the others. David begins receiving praise from the people because of his wisdom and skill on the battlefield. Jealousy arises in Saul and he tries to kill David with a spear. This begins the history of Saul trying to kill David on various occasions and David’s noble responses. Never trying to hurt Saul himself. Let’s end this chapter with a re-cap of the open type worship that is happening with the women under David’s ministry. It is much like the taboo that Jesus broke in the gospels. Jesus ministry was revolutionary in the way he welcomed and allowed women to be an open part of his ministry. The other written works of the day did not see women from this open standpoint. This is one of the proofs used to defend the canonicity of the scripture. If the stories were all being made up, then you would never include women in this way. Because it would tend to discourage others from believing the story! Jesus broke barriers, David’s ministry and rule will be a picture of the restoration of the dignity and usefulness of women in society. David’s Psalms were actually the song book of the nation. These songs were written during the time of David’s ministry in Jerusalem when the tent of David was the only thing containing the retrieved Ark of the Covenant. A type of the open access that would come to all people under the future ministry of Jesus. David was not only a great warrior, he was a passionate worshipper of his God.

 

  • SAMUEL 19- Saul puts out the word to his men ‘if you see David kill him’! Jonathan tells David ‘go hide in the field and I will go out where you are and speak on your behalf to my father. Then I will come and tell you all the words he has spoken’. Jonathan speaks well to Saul on David’s behalf and David is restored back into the presence of the king. I see Jesus intercession ministry here. Jesus goes to the father on our behalf, we ‘rest in a hiding place’ [in Christ] while he speaks well of us to the father. He ‘gives us the words that the father has given him ‘[Johns gospel] and we are restored back into the ‘presence of the king’. But in David’s case the restoration doesn’t last long. David will flee to Samuel in Ramah, Saul sends his men to get David. Each time they show up they are confronted with this prophetic weapon of intercession in the hand of the lead prophet, Samuel. Samuel is prophesying over a company of prophets and Saul’s men ‘fall under the Spirit of prophecy’ and prophesy too! This happens with 3 different groups of men until Saul himself comes. The same thing happens with him. The ministry of prophecy testifies of Christ. The gift itself is a Divine mechanism in the community of God that protects/defends Gods anointed king [David/Jesus]. Samuels’s gift was meant for more than just personal fulfillment, a ‘my ministry’ mentality. He was overseeing a company of prophets and instilling this dynamic into the broader community of Israel. In the church today prophets should function along the lines of building into the broader community for the overall benefit of the church. There have been good men who have operated in the prophetic gift for many years. They have raised up younger prophetic ministries under them and have lived very effective prophetic lives for many years. It is sad that many in the Body of Christ have no idea of this entire section of the church. Because of abuses and flagrant bad doctrine, many simply live their entire lives without ever experiencing the prophetic aspect of Christ’s church. In this story we see the prophetic ministry, under Samuel, playing a key role in the life of Gods people. NOTE- One example of a modern day prophetic ministry that has been stable and has launched many young prophets would be Bishop Bill Hammon out of Florida. He has been around for years and has had a very influential ministry over the lives of many good young men.

 

  • WHY BELIEF IN GOD IS PROOF AGAINST EVOLUTION- The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain all human life and interaction from a naturalistic perspective. The theory not only attempts to say ‘we came by way of natural selection’ but if this theory were true, it would by necessity have to be able to explain the totality of the human condition. His reason for life, his emotions and goals, even his ‘irrational’ belief that God is! Now, if you were studying a tribe of isolated pygmies, and time and again you noticed that they all gravitated towards a belief in a supreme being. If natural selection were true, then the ‘more advanced’ this tribe became, you would find less of a belief in a supreme being. But instead, as many has ‘evolved’ the process of natural selection [which would mean the inferior species are falling away] has not been able to produce this superior race of beings who have advanced to the point where evolution itself has become the obvious explanation of all things. The fact is, the more man ‘evolves’ the more religious he becomes! The mere fact that human beings have this inner belief and desire for a supreme intelligence can not be explained away by saying ‘well, this silliness will eventually pass away’. The facts show us that this ‘silly belief in God’ is increasing at an alarming rate among the most ‘advanced peoples’ of the earth. If natural selection were true, then the end result is ‘God exists’.

 

  • SAMUEL 20- David is on the run, he tells Jonathan ‘why is your dad trying to kill me? I have done nothing wrong!’ Jonathan tells David that he knows nothing about it, it must be a rumor. David says ‘no, your dad knows you like me, he isn’t telling you because he thinks you will reveal it to me’. Jonathan says ‘my dad does nothing unless he reveals it to me’. A type of Jesus in John’s gospel. David says ‘I’ll prove it. Tomorrow is a feast day, I am supposed to sit at the kings table. Instead I will hide in the field for 3 days [a type of Jesus in the grave] and when you are eating with Saul, if he says ‘where’s David’ and gets irate, then the cat is out of the bag’. So the plan is launched and Saul holds the dinner. On day two he asks Jonathan ‘where’s’ old David today, I noticed he has been missing’. Jonathan says ‘Oh, I let him go to his home town for a special family thing’. Saul says ‘thou son of that rebellious women’! You think he went for the bait? Sure enough Jonathan confirms to David that he was right and they make a covenant to always respect and protect each other and their future kids. This will come back to David down the road when he spares a relative of Jonathan. Saul confronted Jonathan and said ‘why are you protecting David? As long as he lives you will never be established’. Saul knew that Jonathan’s success was dependent on David’s downfall. Jonathan was very noble, he didn’t see the success of another Israelite as something to compete with. Leaders often fall into this trap of comparing their ‘ministries’ with so and so. I feel the wrong idea’s of local church breed this attitude. When we see ‘local church’ as the various independent Christian businesses that are all trying to accomplish tasks, then this breeds this competitive spirit. When we see ‘local church’ as the entire family of believers in our city [Jonathans family mindset] then we will overcome the spirit of competition.

 

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

 

  • SAMUEL 22- David escapes to the cave at Adullam. As he is in hiding the scripture says ‘when his family and friends heard where he was, they gathered to him’. Notice, David is beginning to enter into a time of rule and authority. He was already anointed by Samuel, but this is where the rubber meets the road. He already won some battles, but that was still under Saul’s reign. Now he’s on his own. It’s not that easy! Sort of like when the sparring partners turn pro and think ‘I can whip the champ, I’ve done it already in the ring’. But then when they get in for real, it’s another story. The prophet Gad tells David ‘don’t stay in the place of hiding, get out and go to Judah’. Judah is a place of praise. When we are on the run and are not sure what’s going to happen next, we have a tendency to ‘go into hiding’. Now, sometimes it’s good to find a place of rest and hiding, but these are not permanent positions! We eventually need to escape to a place of praise. At this point David’s men are at around 400 strong, just the right number to start a movement! I believe we all have the potential to be ‘church planters’. If you have the tools to effectively speak into at least 400 people on a consistent prophetic basis, then you can do it! Hey, start a blog, it’s free! Now Saul finds out where David’s at and goes after him. He tells his men ‘why did none of you take my side, or feel sorry for me? Can David give you stuff like I can?’ The brother was making campaign promises for heavens sake! Notice how fear and paranoia were affecting Saul’s mind. He was having a pity party. He is told by one of his men how the priests at Nob helped David, and Saul calls for them and kills the entire company of priests. One son escapes, Abiathar, and tells David what happened. David takes him under his wing. A few things, when we are in the battle and are not sure what’s happening, we have a tendency to draw back. Now, it’s fine to have a period of rest and renewal, it’s just not supposed to be a permanent place! You also have to fight some battles first. We live in a day where people want to ‘be retired’ at the age of 21! I like the commercial I saw a few years back, the parents are at their son’s college graduation and they ask him ‘so son, what’s next’. The boy compliments his dad on his sweater vest and says ‘I think I am just going to retire and move back home’. Let me challenge you, get out of the place of fear and anxiety and by Gods grace start a revolution. You leaders who are reeling because of the battle, enter into Judah. Begin praising God again like in the early days. I just finished a prayer time, I incorporate lots of thanksgiving when praying for stuff. Do you have a regular time of thanking the Lord on a consistent basis? When leaders feel overwhelmed and ‘in the cave’ it’s easy to forget praise. I adjure you ‘get out of the cave and flee to Judah’!

 

  • SAMUEL 23- David hears that the Philistines are fighting against another town, he asks the Lord ‘Lord, should I go and fight against them’? This is the beginning of David’s secret campaign against the enemy. As he flees from Saul he also fights the enemy secretly. Now the Lord says ‘go, fight them. I have given them to you’. Now his men are scared, they tell David ‘geez, we are in distress now, in our so called ‘home land’ and you want us to go and fight on foreign ground’! One of the characteristics of Gods heroes of the faith was a willingness to uproot and travel ‘to a place that God will reveal to you’ often times you have no idea where you are heading! You just start the journey in faith [Abraham- Hebrews 11] and learn as you go. Now David’s men caused David to ask the lord again ‘Lord, are you sure you want us to do this’? The Lord reaffirms the plan. Sometimes we need confirmation for the mission. It’s alright to have second thoughts, as long as you obey at the end! Remember Jesus teaching on the 2 sons? One said ‘yes father, I will obey’ [Jews] and didn’t. The other said ‘no, I wont obey’ [gentiles] and later obeyed. David stumbled a little here in doubting the first word, but the lord said ‘that’s alright son, I will give you some reassurance.’ David goes and Saul finds out and traps him in some town. David seeks the Lord and the Lord says ‘yes, Saul is coming and these people will turn you in’. David flees and Saul surrounds him. Then Saul hears word that the philistines have invaded their land and Saul leaves the area. Sometimes we get into situations where we truly don’t have what it takes to win. Even though David is God’s anointed man, yet he would not have been able to withstand Saul at this early stage of his ‘ministry’. God realizes what we can handle, sometimes we survive because the Lord divinely manipulates the circumstances to our advantage! In this case David would have been thinking too highly of himself if he thought ‘well, I am up here with the big boys now, I can take him’. God might be using you in a special way, this doesn’t mean you are advanced enough in everything to ‘go it with the big boys’. Wisdom allows us to recognize whether or not we should take on all the tasks that we think are needed. I enjoy studying from many other web sites and reading books and hearing good teaching. But there are obvious times where I realize ‘geez, was this brother really called to speak to such a large sector of the church at this time in his growth’? It’s not demeaning, we just need to recognize that all battles are not our battles. Sometimes the Lord says ‘David, you really can’t handle this fight right now’ and he diverts a possible tragedy.

 

  • SAMUEL 24- Saul heard that David is at Engedi, he pursues him. When they get in the area Saul goes into a random cave to ‘use the restroom’. Lo and behold, this just happens to be the one cave that David and his men are hiding in! David’s men tell him ‘see, the lord has delivered your enemy into your hand’. David secretly cuts a piece of Saul’s robe off. As Saul leaves the cave David reveals himself and bows to the ground and tells Saul ‘see my father, today I had the chance to kill you, but instead I spared your life. Why are you listening to all the rumors that people are saying about me?’ Notice, Saul was being fed gossip about David, and this was affecting David! We need to overcome the reality that part of the cost of ministry is people are going to lie about you and other people will believe it. Yes, Jesus did say this was part of the cost ‘if they spoke falsely about me, then they will about you. But when this happens rejoice! For this is also what happened to the prophets’. Hey, if you want to run with the big boys, then this is part of the price. Now David’s men also were affecting his thinking ‘Look, now’s the chance to get your enemy. After all if God didn’t want you to get even he would have never brought Saul into the cave’. Leaders have to be worried about their own men’s advice as well! It’s hard to walk this fine line at times, but true leadership listens to council and should err on the side of mercy. This is a good rule of thumb. Saul tells David ‘forgive me son, this day you have proven me wrong. Surely you will eventually become the king’. Saul goes home and David goes back to the stronghold in the wilderness. David realized that no matter how many times the lord would defend him against Saul, that Saul would be a permanent obstacle. Why? It’s in mans nature to want to retaliate against change. Especially change that involves a removal of authority that was at one time used by God! Saul was not the original intent of God [or David!] but once God’s people traveled down the road of kingship, God did use this mode of authority. Now Saul did become addicted to power. Even though leaders have good hearts and mean well, when there comes a change of authority [like the movement of communal church where there no longer is the role of ‘the pastor’] this challenges leadership at its core. Even if leaders become convinced that a change is coming [like Saul recognizing David’s destiny] still the sinful nature of man will come back and rears it ugly head. David knew that Saul would be back on his trail soon.

 

  • SAMUEL 25- THERE ARE MANY SERVANTS THESE DAYS WHO BREAK AWAY FROM THEIR MASTER! We see the death of Samuel and the story of David and Nabal. When David was on the run with his small army, he had provided shelter for Nabal’s men while in the fields. So David figures it’s time to cash in on the goodwill that he showed to Nabal’s men. He sends some servants to Nabal’s house to remind him of the favor that was done, and to humbly ask ‘can you in return show us some favor and provide us with some supply’? Nabal is considered a fool and replies ‘Who is this David, another one of the many rebels of this day?’ and Nabal refuses to help. Now David hears of the response and decides ‘I have had it! Let’s strap it on’. On the way to wipe out Nabal the servants of Nabal tell his wife Abigail what happened. They speak well of David and Abigail quickly puts together a supply and sends it to David. She averts the disaster that was imminent. The next day Nabal hears what happened and falls into a stroke type condition and dies within a few days. David takes Abigail to be his wife. I sort of see in Nabal a type of response to the new authority structures that God is raising up in the kingdom. David of course is a type of Jesus, but we also see all leadership types in David. In the present system of ‘local church’ there is a legitimate challenge to the ‘old type pastoral model’. Now, some in the past have challenged leadership out of rebellion. But there are very scriptural questions to the development of the one man leadership model that prevails in today’s idea of church. It is easy to mistake these challenges as ‘another rebellious movement like the others of days gone by’. During the reformation of the 16th century you also had this response. But there actually are real times of change and upheaval that come from God. Nabal stuck David in a category of ‘another one of those rebellious types’ but his judgment was way off. Nabal did not act righteously in this challenge to Godly authority. He used ‘rebellion’ as a false defense of his unwillingness to give David and his men their due. There are good men who are seeing the legitimacy of the present challenges to the old authority structures. But then there are others who are not even willing to give a fair hearing to the ‘David’s’ and just assume all new ideas are acts of rebellion. This can breed dangerous responses from both sides. Out of frustration David, who was right in this case, almost committed an act of retaliation that would have forever scarred his ministry. Nabal realized what a foolish judgment he had made and lost his life over it. It would have been better if the old guard recognized the legitimacy of the new guard and tried to hammer out an amicable solution.

 

  • SAMUEL 26- Saul pursues David in the wilderness of Ziph. David hears that Saul is still on his trail, and he tells his men ‘who wants to go down with me and see if we can spy on Saul’? Abishai goes. They sneak into Saul’s camp and find the men sleeping, they steel Saul’s spear and water supply. They go to the other side and yell ‘what’s up, why couldn’t a man like Abner protect Saul’? David reveals the stolen stuff and Saul realizes that once again David had the chance to kill him but let him go instead. Saul goes thru the whole ‘you are a better man than me’ thing. But the problem is no matter how many times God vindicates David, Saul still goes after him! I think David would have preferred for Saul to really learn the lesson instead of just making these worthless treaties. It’s like signing these treaties with North Korea on nuclear stuff. Then a few years go by and they say ‘well, you caught us, we were cheating’ and then we go and sign another one! David wasn’t putting much stock into Saul’s words. David also says ‘if God has told you to get me, than explain the reason, I will try and make any fault right. But if it’s these gossiping people that have turned you into my enemy, then let them be cursed’! Notice, it wasn’t just the fact that Saul was pursuing David, it was the reality that David’s secret enemies were the deceivers behind the whole thing. It’s like David has more respect for Saul, because he at least is open and willing to confront him publicly. But the troublemakers spend all their time poisoning the minds of others against you. They are too scared to confront you themselves. Bunch of wimps! Once again Saul recognizes Gods calling on David ‘you will do great things and prevail’. David is Gods new order of leadership, Saul is stuck in the old school. It was obvious that Saul was never going to transition and live peaceably with David as the king. Saul had his ways and he basically was going to live out his days functioning in the comfortable patterns of kingship that he was familiar with. He also could see the writing on the wall. He saw that David had the lord helping him, he was still humble enough to have glimpses of clarity. Being able to see the future and what God was going to do. Saul just couldn’t get to a point where he would peacefully accept the new king.

 

  • SAMUEL 27- David realizes that as long as he stays in the area, Saul will never change. He goes to Achish, king of Gath, and asks if he could stay there. David is given Ziklag and it becomes a permanent possession for Israel. David recognized that no matter how many efforts he made to show Saul that the rumors about him were false, that this was going down a dead end trail. Sometimes we need to simply ‘walk away’ from some stuff. It’s not like David was hating Saul, he just recognized that all his efforts to try and get Saul to approve of him were vain. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were seeking glory and acceptance from men. He said those who seek to please men in this way could not please God. He challenged their core reason for being ‘in the ministry’. They wanted to be accepted and successful in the eyes of others. They did not realize that their ideas of ministry strayed so far from the intent of God. Jesus showed them that if their motivation was how others viewed them [they loved to make long public prayers and show themselves to be spiritual] then God was no longer in it. David quit trying to spend so much time and effort in getting Saul to like him, he fled to Gath. Now the king of Gath is overjoyed to get such a talented member ‘on staff’. He believes David is now with him as opposed to Israel. We will see later that this trust he places in David blinds him from David’s real motives. The king’s men will advise against using David in a key battle against Israel. Leaders need to be careful in seeing the talents and gifts of people as simple additions to their ministries. Because we live in a day where church and ministry are so intertwined with corporate ideas, this leads to a dynamic of pastors looking for ‘the best men I can find’. In actuality Jesus was seeking the worst! Now, I realize Paul wanted good men to work with him and he rejected those who would quit half way thru the task. But don’t view ministry thru the lens of ‘great, David is now with me instead of Saul’! In Gods kingdom we are all equal as brothers and sisters, we should not allow the talents and gifts of others to cause us to favor them more than others. David stayed in the philistine’s area for around a year and a half, sort of like Paul’s time at Corinth. The whole time he is secretly fighting the enemies of Israel while Achish thinks he is fighting against Israel. Notice also that Ziklag became a permanent inheritance in Israel. A city that David didn’t even fight for! Sometimes when we simply recognize the transitions that God is leading us into, we yield and at the same time take ground. I used to make decisions quickly, recently I had to make some ministry decisions. Changes that I would have preferred not to have made. In the old days I would have jumped thru these changes without really waiting on the Lord. Or I would have persisted to not change and struggle along the sure path. But now I try and wait and decide as a few days go by. If things look like the new direction is the way to go, then I go with it. David left the territories of his homeland for a while, he hooked up with Achish and during this seeming distraction he possessed some territory peacefully. Sometimes we need to relax during the distraction, and allow the lord to give us some easy land.

 

  • SAMUEL 28- Saul prepares for battle against Achish. The philistine king thinks David is with him. Saul seeks God and doesn’t receive an answer by ‘dreams or prophets’. Saul expected to get some kind of supernatural sign. Samuel is dead, but he released a prophetic mantle/anointing into the community that showed the people that God can reveal himself in these ways. Saul goes to a witch who works with familiar spirits, a thing forbidden for Gods people! I have had friends ask me about reading the horoscope and going to palm readers. God forbids his people to dabble in sorcery and witchcraft, don’t do it! Saul manages to bring back Samuels spirit from the grave and Samuel rebukes Saul and tells him he and his sons will ‘be with me tomorrow’ [dead!]. Saul is reproved for two things. He didn’t fully obey God, and he refused to carry out judgment/justice [when he was supposed to wipe out Amalek]. I have seen many well meaning men in ministry. Good people who mean well. Ministry can be a tough thing. When people feel intimidated they have a tendency to not want to ‘execute judgment’. To only teach and preach good things, never dealing with error or blatant heresy. God wanted Saul to obey AND do judgment. Not judgment in a wrong way, but a willingness to see things that are out of alignment and to deal with them. God wants truth, truth in love, but truth. When Gods leaders get to a point of both obedience and justice, then we will experience his presence in a strong way.

 

  • SAMUEL 29- The philistines go up against Israel. David is with his men and Achish, king of Gath, wants him to join the battle. The other kings say ‘what in the heck were you thinking? You can’t bring David to fight against Saul. What better opportunity than this will he ever have to reconcile with Saul? Surely he will kill us and reconcile!’ Now, Achish disagrees and says ‘David’s been with me for a while and he has been perfect’ actually not. David was secretly fighting the enemies of Israel all along. We have already seen David’s penchant for trying to vindicate himself. How many times has he taken opportunity to say ‘see Saul, I had the chance to get you but I didn’t’. Achish tells David ‘sorry David, I trust you but the other kings don’t’ David makes this defense and says ‘why, what have I done’ [he knows what he’s done! Achish doesn’t]. So David goes back and the philistines proceed without him. I really think David was going to do what the kings thought. He probably was going to try and reconcile with Saul one more time. In this case the other kings had it right. Scripture says in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Achish was so enamored with David’s skill that he wasn’t thinking clearly. The council of others was right. Also David would have interfered with this battle, this is the battle where Saul will lose his life and David will take over as king. In essence David’s idea was to eventually reconcile with Saul and Israel and have a wonderful time of transition. God had other plans. The time for David to step up to the plate and rule was now. Not a few more years of trying to ‘make things right’. Samuel and David mourned for Saul and over did their loyalty to him. God told Samuel at one point ‘quit crying about it son, I have rejected the man. Get over it for heavens sake!’ David’s good intentions were well meaning, but God had another plan. It wasn’t going to work as smoothly as David wished.

 

  • SAMUEL 30- David returns from the battle lines and finds out his town was sacked by the Amalekites. They took everything and spared the lives of the women and children. David’s men see the disaster and cry bitterly. They have a deacon board meeting and contemplate stoning him to death. Things were bad, David encourages himself in the Lord. He asks the Lord ‘should I go after them and try and recover our families’? The Lord says ‘go, you will recover all’. David pursues and gets his people back and kills the enemy. Four hundred young men escape. The same amount of men that went with David, 200 stayed behind out of weakness. Why did the 400 Amalekites flee? It’s possible that the Lord used these 400 survivors to spread the word about David’s fierceness. This battle was pumped up, David showed no mercy! After they return, the 400 man army of David despises the 200 who stayed behind and say ‘we will give you your families, but no goods!’ They treated them as lesser men. David would have none of it and says ‘we can’t withhold the things the Lord has freely given us [freely you have received, freely give- Jesus] but we will treat everyone alike’. I see the New Testament ministry of giving and sharing as a community here. What happened in this chapter? David experienced a tremendous possible loss this day. His men were at the lowest point of ‘the ministry’. All seemed lost, they even feared the loss of their families. The Lord does restore to David that which seemed gone for good, and David’s men regroup. All this happens at the next to the last chapter of Samuel. In the next chapter Saul dies and David becomes king. Everything seemed hopeless right before the greatest victory of all! David was soon to enter into his prophetic destiny in God. There is a theme in scripture that goes like this ‘right before, and right after great victories there are great trials’ geez, that means there are always trials! Yes, to a degree this is true. I also want you to have a biblical perspective on what it means to ‘recover all’. The church went thru a stage where we learned all the verses on ‘the enemy must repay 7 fold’ and other themes on ‘all the years the locust hath eaten will be restored’. I like and have used these themes in my own life over the years to claim victory. But I want you to see from an eternal perspective. The theme of the New Testament is one of eternal rewards. Not so much focused on ‘what we get here and now’ but on us having a ‘better reward in heaven’ [Hebrews]. Those of you who have lost loved ones, finances [we just had a tremendous stock market crash 10-08]. What if I were to tell you ‘you are not really much worse off than those who haven’t lost all’. In a few short years all our loved ones will be gone. We will have lost control over all of our wealth and riches. We will all be gone [in the natural!]. But yet there awaits a real future resurrection where we will all get our loved ones back. Where we will reap eternal rewards for a life well lived. In the eternal perspective we do ‘recover all’, all isn’t lost! I want to encourage you today to believe God to restore some things in the here and now. Yes, God can bless you and restore to you wealth and health and family and many good things. And for those who have lost some of these things permanently, God will restore to you real soon.

 

  • SAMUEL 31- The Philistines pursue Israel and Saul and his sons are killed. Saul tells his armor bearer to kill him, the armor bearer is afraid to do it. So Saul falls on his own sword. The enemy takes Saul’s body and cuts off his head and they pin him and his sons up on a wall for public humiliation. The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead hear of it and they get his body and give him a proper burial. David will soon become the king. It’s kind of a sad way to end 1st Saul and his sons really die, Jonathan was killed. A true warrior with a pure heart. I think we need to recognize the danger involved with the kingdom. There are times where men and woman of God have come under attack and have fallen. A few years back there were a few public scandals of believers who fell. Some just go away, others try and get back into the ministry. Often times there is no real facing up to the issues and an honest appraisal of what happened. I think many of these believers would be helpful if they wrote a book or shared openly about their struggles and difficulties. But the church has a tendency to cover up the real dangers involved in the ministry. Also Saul commits suicide. There are few suicides in scripture. We know Judas killed himself as well. If I remember right there is a Psalm that speaks of the sword of your enemies entering into them! A basic reality of a curse that comes upon those who fight believers [Gods anointed ones] that they will die at their own hands [or you don’t have to ‘get them’ yourself!]. Jesus taught us to not resist and take out vengeance on our enemies. It seems as if in both of these cases [Saul and Judas] that they fell victim to this judgment from God. How should we view this? Jesus and David were Gods ‘anointed ones’. Can we say that those who challenge present authority structures are rebelling against ‘Gods anointed’? This challenge has been made many times over the years. The two great divisions of western Christianity, the ‘Great Schism’ of 1054 [where the Eastern church- Orthodox, split from the Western branch] and the 16th century Reformation. Both had to do with believers resisting what they felt to be unscriptural authority as seen in the doctrine of apostolic succession thru Peter to the Popes. In both of these cases the ‘rebels’ were considered to be resisting ‘Gods authority’. I see it a little different. In Saul’s case he actually was the old order authority who was resisting change to the ‘old way’. God was bringing in a new anointed one thru David, and Saul was fighting the change. And of course Judas was coming against Jesus, who would institute the most radical change to mans approach to God that would ever come on the scene [in essence Jesus was eliminating the old order priesthood and making all believers priests!] I feel that these truths can apply to the current of change in our day. As the people of God transition from an ‘old order’ idea of leadership, to a more communal concept, both sides need to have respect and appreciation for each other. The new order [organic ecclesia] needs to appreciate all that the old order accomplished, and the old authority structures need to see the writing on the wall.

 

2ND SAMUEL

 

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 1- David returns to Ziklag after recovering everything and a messenger from the battle with Saul comes thru. David asks ‘what happened at the battle’? David hears for the first time that Saul and Jonathan died. He asks for details and the Amalekite tells the story of Saul’s death. This story is a little different from the one previously recorded. In the previous chapters Saul is said to have fallen on his sword. Here the Amalekite says ‘I saw Saul wounded and he asked me to slay him. He was at the point of death so I killed him to take him out of his misery’. Some feel this is a lie, that the brother was trying to make himself look good by fudging. I think he might be telling the truth. After all if he were trying to make himself look good, you probably wouldn’t say ‘I killed a wounded guy’. Either way he tells the story. David responds in anger ‘why do you think your bragging about this is noble! You killed a leader who God used mightily’ and David instructs his men to kill him. David finishes the chapter with a song of praise and remembrance for Saul and Jonathan. He extols their virtues in battle ‘swift like eagles, strong like lions’ and he invokes Israel to mourn for the great loss. I see a noble thing here. Even though Saul was rejected and his leadership style was being removed, yet the ‘new order’ [David] refused to despise the reality of the good times that were initiated under Saul. He still showed respect for ‘the old order’. Many times in studying church history you read of ‘the dark ages’. The centuries that are between the intuitional period of Christendom and the renaissance/reformation era. Often times this period is looked at as a period of ‘no value’. But in reality there were some spiritual things that came forth from the ‘old order’ that were of great value. The desert fathers and other great Christian mystics. The reality that the church became the sole arbiter in many international disputes of the times. Yes there were some bad things, but good stuff too! David was smart enough to begin his dynastic rule with crediting his former enemy with the respect and honor he deserved.

 

  • 2nd SAMUEL 2- David inquires of the Lord if he should go up into the cities of Judah. The Lord tells him to go to Hebron. David becomes the king of Judah and rules from Hebron for 7.5 years. From this point on the southern portion of Israel will be referred to as ‘Judah’ and the northern tribes are called ‘Israel’. Abner, king Saul’s commander, anoints another son of Saul as the king of the other tribes. So you have Joab, David’s commander and Abner, the military leader of the opposing king. Joab and Abner meet up on the field. Abner suggests a sort of competition between the men. A fight ensues and good men die needlessly. Joab pursues Abner and his men and Abner winds up killing a brother of Joab. He did not want things to escalate to this degree! He tried to spare the brother, but in self defense he killed him. Abner tells Joab ‘stop chasing us, why should there be more bloodshed between us, we are all brothers’? I see here the ‘innocent’ spirit of competition that got out of hand. When God’s leaders begin comparing the skills of their people against the skills of others, then people become pawns on a ministry chess board. Competition is a deadly thing that exists in the church, the lines between successful corporate ideas and Gods communal church have been blurred for a long time, this causes us to be vulnerable to this type of thing. Joab and Abner retreat and go home. David becomes king of Judah in Hebron. He will eventually consolidate the kingdom under his rule [he will reign for 33 years out of Jerusalem. A type of Jesus, who walked the holy land for 33 years until the Cross] and the kingdom will split again under Solomon’s sons rule. The divided history of the northern [Israel] and southern [Judah] tribes are seen as a judgment from God for various reasons thru out Israel’s history. For the most part the kings of Judah are better than the kings of Israel, but they will both have good and bad kings over time. I see a picture of the historic divisions of Christianity thru this history. Eventually you will have some who feel they have a ‘more pure religion and priesthood’ under the Orthodox and Protestant expressions of Christianity [I too hold to this to some degree] but yet God will eventually rebuke Judah as being worse than her northern ‘sister’! As we teach the Old Testament in the years to come I will try and trace these developments as we get to them.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 3- Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, king of Israel. He accuses Abner of sleeping with one of his fathers concubines [second wife type thing]. And Abner, the military leader who for the most part propped up Ishbosheth as a puppet king for his own sake, gets irate and says ‘who do you think I am that you accuse me like this? I am not some dog that you can mistreat! I will now turn over the kingdom to David. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be a king!’ and Ishbosheth remains stunned and silent. What happened here? When men join a ‘team’ [church-organization] out of jealousy and competition, they see themselves as helping the leader as a by-product of there own selfish motivations. We often see churches/organizations compete with one another like professional ball teams ‘how many games did your team with this season/ what was your average attendance this year?’ and stuff like that. When ministry leaders/staff see their ‘church’ from this type of perspective, then as soon as the leader offends you, you respond like Abner ‘how dare this guy speak to me like that! Doesn’t he know if it weren’t for my support he wouldn’t even be here!’ Now, I am not defending either side in this scenario, I feel for the most part that both of these responses/attitudes are not found in the churches of the New Testament. Because the churches in scripture were communities of believers who lived in your city. They weren’t established along these corporate ideas at all. Now Abner goes to David and tells him ‘I am now with you [people can be fickle!] and will do my best to bring all Israel to you’ David makes the deal and Joab, David’s military man says ‘what did you do? Abner was here simply to spy on you, his motives are wrong!’ Joabs brother was killed earlier by Abner himself, Joab was not willing to make peace with Abner. After all there is only room for one military commander, and Joab is not about to accept a demotion for this late comer to the party. Joab calls Abner back and kills him. David hears what happened and washes his hands from the whole matter. In this chapter we see how the motivations and selfish intentions of people cause strife. I feel the whole scenario of ‘whose side are you on, which ‘local team’ [church] is your team?’ leads us into these types of positioning and intrigue. In the New Testament you did not see Paul interacting this way between the local churches [communities of believers] he was establishing. For the most part he was teaching them to be faithful to the gospel and would only exercise apostolic authority when things got out of hand. He would appeal to his proof of who he was by saying ‘I am the one who brought you the gospel in the first place, don’t listen to these false teachers who are drawing you away from the truth’. But you did not see a dynamic of ‘are you supporting my apostolic ministry or not? If you are not faithful to my ministry then I no longer have time for you’. These limited ideas cause us to compete with one another. Abner and Joab were men who wanted self advancement and recognition, they aligned themselves with various leaders for their own purposes, this is not the family mindset that Jesus will instill in his future leaders.

 

  • EVOLUTION AND THE EARTHS AGE? One of the difficulties in harmonizing the biblical record of a 6 day creation with modern science is the measured age of the earth and universe. Christians and scientists have debated this issue for years. Some believers explain away the seeming contradiction by challenging the science used to estimate the age of things. There are a few separate ways science measures this. The problem with challenging the actual science is these different ways of measuring do seem to confirm the long age belief [universe around 13-15 billion years old. The earth less than 10 billion]. One of the ways science measures this is thru carbon dating. All living things have radiation remnants in them. When you measure the carbon ratings [carbon 14 and carbon 12] that are in fossils, you can come up with an approximate age based on the ‘half life’ of carbon 14. Basically it looses so much carbon after so many years. If you assume this loss to be at a constant level you can approximate the age of the fossil. Some young earth creationists say this science is questionable [possibly so] and they simply say the amount of radiation that was lost in the early days could have been much greater than what is being lost now, therefore it ‘looks’ like the fossil is millions of years old, but in actuality it is young. Some teach that God could have made the original young creation with ‘age’ already planted inside the creation. I do not hold to these ideas myself, but I understand the possibility of these things being so. Now, if you trace the biblical history of man and compare it with modern archeology. You find surprising agreement between the two. The biblical record of the Bronze Age speaks of Tubal- Cain as the inventor of bronze instruments. The archeological record dates the Bronze Age to be around 4500 years ago, the same date of Tubal Cain. True archeology confirms biblical dates. Now, after the creation of Adam on day 6, most all of the known ages of man are in line with the bible. The problem arises when you try and date the previous 5 days of creation. The bible says God did this in ‘6 days’. Some teach the ‘day-age’ theory. The bible says a day with the Lord is like a thousand years, and they teach that these are simply descriptions of long ages. Others say there was a gap between verse one and two of Genesis and you had a whole pre-Adamic race of men. And of course some say they literally believe the 6 day account and all science that points to billions of years is either wrong, or that God tested man by putting fossils in the earth with ‘pre-programmed’ age already in them. Let me espouse another way to look at this. In the field of theoretical physics, Einstein came up with the single most amazing breakthrough in time and matter, the famous E=Mc2. This theory [which is no longer theory, but proven law] showed that time itself is relative. Up until Einstein’s day, the accepted law on time was Isaac Newton’s understanding that time was absolute. No matter where a person was in the universe, time was always the same. Now Einstein challenged this and taught that time itself, depending on who is ‘holding the clock’ actually changes. You can have a single event in history, and 2 different people can actually have 2 real different measurements of the same event. If one of the clock holders is approaching the break neck speed of light, his actual measurement of the one event will be different. We are not saying it simply seems different, but there actually are different times that the same exact event transpired in. This has been proven to be true. This opens the door for a possible real 6 day creation [not spiritualizing days into ages] and also the scientific measurement of a 15 billion year old universe. The difference is between who is ‘holding the clock’. After man was created on day 6, it seems as if man was holding the clock. And that’s why most biblical and archeological dates are the same. But before day 6, who was holding the clock? Now, I am not saying the 5 days prior to day 6 have to be taken as ages. It’s scientifically possible for the actual 5 day event to have taken place in 5 literal 24 hour days, but the fact that God is ‘holding the clock’ can explain the seeming contradiction between 6 thousand and 15 billion years. This is an actual scientific possibility that was made understandable because of Einstein’s break thru theory. I am not saying this explanation is the correct one, but I am trying to show you that we are not as smart as we think we are.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 4- Ishbosheth hears of Abners death and falls into a state of fear and depression. Even though Ishbosheth was the king, Abner was the power behind the scenes. He is lying on his bed at noonday [a bad thing to do! Start your day early and don’t sleep until the evening, this would eliminate most of the sleeping and anti anxiety pills that are prescribed today]. Two of Ishbosheths men come in and kill him while lying down on the job. They cut off his head and bring it to David. They assumed David would rejoice over this act of vengeance. After all don’t you feel good when God avenges you? Jesus taught us not to rejoice over our enemy’s downfall. Scripture says God sees it and it displeases him. David was not happy about the news and killed the two guilty messengers. In this chapter we also see Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan who is lame. The story goes that when he was 5 years old and the news of Saul and Jonathans death came back, that the nurse fled and dropped him and he has been crippled ever since. Some of us have had ‘crippling’ experiences that have permanently sidetracked us. Now Jesus is the master at healing people who can’t walk. In John’s gospel he asks the lame man ‘do you really want to be healed’ and Jesus heals him. Sometimes we allow past experiences to permanently affect our future. Have you ‘been dropped’ by somebody who was supposed to take care of you? Have any of your inner circle betrayed you while ‘lying on your bed at noonday’ [in a position of intimidation and weakness]? I want to exhort you to let Jesus heal you. Jesus told the blind guy to go ‘wash in the pool of Siloam’. Siloam means ‘sent’, you have been destined to be sent on a mission from God. ‘Get out of the city and dwell in the fields, there I will deliver you from the enemy’ [bible!] I think some of us have been waiting for perfect conditions before we act, God says get out of the bed while there’s still time. If not you are in danger of ‘losing your head’ [losing the authority of a leader].

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 5- David consolidates the northern and southern tribes and they find unity thru his reign [in Christ 2 are made one- Ephesians]. Israel says ‘we are part of your bone and flesh’. Wow, what a picture of the New Testament church. Jesus actually uses these exact words when speaking of himself after his resurrection ‘bone and flesh’. David takes the capital city of Jerusalem. He defeats the Jebusites who are mocking his ability. Scripture says ‘David dwelt in the fort and called it the city of David. And he built round about from the surrounding areas and inward’. I have been quoting this for 15 years now. I saw it as a personal word to me when moving to Corpus Christi. The principle is God will give you a home base of operation, and from that base you establish and branch out to the surrounding areas. Sort of an apostolic calling, Paul did this in the book of Acts. David ‘perceived that the Lord had established him for the sake of his people Israel’. David understood that the Lord gave him special favor, not for his own benefit but for Gods people. Other scriptures speak of God telling his people ‘remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you. The Lord hath given you rest and this land. Your wives and little ones and cattle shall remain in the land that the Lord gave you, but you shall go before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help then until the Lord establishes them like he did for you’ [The word to the children of Israel who received the territories before crossing the Jordan]. God establishes leaders [and saints!] so they can branch out and have the security to move forward. All of us live in areas of the world where a mission field is right outside our door. If people simply reorganized their lives around the priorities of Jesus as seen in the gospels, we would have a great impact in society. But instead we are inundated with this political class warfare message that estranges us from the ones Jesus died for. God blessed David with wealth and affluence. He was to use this great influence for ‘the least of these my brethren’.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 6- David attempts to retrieve the Ark and bring it to the new capital city of Jerusalem. On the way back one of the brothers tries to steady the ark as it was about to fall. They were carrying it on a ‘new cart’ with oxen pulling it. This was not the way the law prescribed carrying it! This was the formula that the Philistines used earlier. So David’s man touches the Ark and is killed. They leave it at another brother’s house for three months and the brother is blessed, David goes and retrieves it. This chapter doesn’t say what changed, but obviously David went back to the law and used the prescribed manner this time around. As he enters Jerusalem with it there is this joyous picture of everyone leaping and dancing and praising the Lord. Sort of like the triumphal entry of Jesus [Gods ‘fleshly’ ark, who had all the fullness of God dwelling in his physical body!] to Jerusalem when the people shouted ‘Hosanna’. David places the ark in a tent/tabernacle that he personally made for it. I wrote earlier how this was an open tent that had no barriers between the ark and Gods people, a contrast between Moses tabernacle where God and the people were separated [law versus grace type thing]. David’s wife mocks him because he took off his royal robes and wore an ephod [priestly garment] and danced and humbled himself before the Lord. David says ‘I will even be more lowly than this’. His wife is barren for the rest of her life as a judgment for mocking David. What ever happened to the ark? Well let me give you some history. The ‘story’ [tradition] says that when the queen of Ethiopia visits Solomon to see his wealth, that eventually he ‘marries’ her and they have kids. The queen goes back to Ethiopia and supposedly takes the ark from Solomon as a gift. The Ethiopian orthodox church claims to have it in the main ‘church’ in Ethiopia. Because of this history all the Ethiopian churches have replicas of the ark in their buildings as well. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of rich tradition. They are technically not considered ‘Catholic’ [western] or ‘Orthodox’ [eastern]. They are part of the church who are sometimes referred to as Oriental. This referring to the historic churches [not necessarily Oriental in geography] who never accepted the traditional churches belief in certain expressions of the Trinity and the relationship between Jesus and God. They stuck with the Arian view of Jesus deity and are not considered ‘orthodox’ in this area. As the centuries developed and various barbarians who were raiding the empire were converted, they also believed in a Christianity that would be more aligned with this type of belief. Now, I know Christians do not consider this to be correct doctrine, but I am simply sharing the history with you. I am not siding with their belief! We really have no idea where the ark is today, to be honest it doesn’t matter. We ‘see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the purpose of dying, and he was raised again for us’! [Hebrews]. We have the real McCoy!

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 7- As David’s house is becoming established, he says to himself ‘I live in this great cedar house, and God is dwelling openly in this tent. I know what I will do; I will build a house/building for God also’. Good intent, bad imagery! David tells the plan to Nathan the prophet and Nathan says ‘go, do all that is in your heart’ and everything seems fine. That very night the Lord appears to Nathan in a vision and rebukes the whole scheme ‘Have I ever asked for someone to build me a house? All the years of journeying with my people, don’t you think if I wanted to dwell in some temple that I would have already done it!’. Basically Nathan and David get reproved big time. Why? Up until now God ‘dwelt’ in 2 separate tabernacle/systems. The Mosaic one was a type of law and separation between God and men. You had the classic veil separating God from the people. The ‘holy of holies’ [back room] was a type of mans separation from God because of mans sin. Now, after David retrieved the ark and brought it to Jerusalem. He set it up under an open tent called ‘the tent/tabernacle of David’. From this vantage point you had a beautiful picture of the future Messianic reign under Christ [of whom David is a symbol] where the people would all have open access to God. In essence ‘no more veil’. So even though David’s intentions are good, he is messing up the image. God still confirms his calling on David and his family/dynasty and we see one of those dual messianic prophecies that speak of Solomon and Jesus at the same time. God says he will raise up a permanent throne thru the loins of David and David will have a never ending rule. For this to happen someone obviously needs to be born from the lineage of David who will ‘have the power of an endless life’ [Hebrews]. Gee, I wonder who that could be? God’s intricate plan of salvation that is contained in these Old Testament books, written many years before Christ, couldn’t have been some made up 1st century story. It would have been impossible to have coordinated all the prophetic portions of scripture that tie together in Christ. Even the original writers and readers of Israel’s history could not have seen the unfolding of prophetic events that were to be fulfilled in Christ. We finish the chapter with David praising God and recognizing in humility that God has spoken about his family and purpose for ages to come. David sees that God is calling him to something greater than just being a human king, having a brief political history. God has plans for David even after David’s death! God spoke of David’s ongoing effect thru his seed [kids] that would continue for many generations to come. God wants all of us to live with a kingdom [not human!] legacy in mind. Paul the apostle built a gentile church that has lasted for 2 thousand years, he was a man of humble means. He left behind no edifice or bulky institution. But his ‘seed’ [spiritual kids] have outlasted him for many generations to come.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 8- As David extends his rule he allows the defeated territories to maintain a level of self governing. The military principle is defeat [demoralize] your enemy, but don’t totally wipe him out. Either put a puppet king over them [Israel’s enemies will do this to her down the road!] or allow the ruling leaders to stay under tribute. Why do this? Some feel our country violated this principle in the present war with Iraq [2008]. The pundits say ‘why did Bush dismantle the Iraqi army, they should have simply allowed them to remain under U.S. rule’. First, the talking heads would have never been satisfied. I could hear Chris Matthews now ‘why in the world did Bush leave the army in place! Doesn’t he know that they were infiltrated with terrorists?’ But David allowed the defeated areas to exist under his rule. He wiped out some of their men, but not all. I think the modern concept of ‘extending Christ’s rule’ thru church planting can learn some lessons here. In the first century ‘church planting’ was the simple process of preaching the gospel to regions of people. Those who believed were baptized and continued in the apostle’s doctrine and the ways of Jesus. The first century ‘church planters’ were not trying to provide buildings and weekly ‘preaching services’ and long term dependence upon the Pastoral ministry. For the most part these new converts were to ‘self maintain’ under the direction of more grounded brothers in the Lord [elders]. This allowed for the ‘conquered territories’ [conquered by the sword of the Spirit, not the sword of man!] to function relatively easily on their own with out a lot of heavy financing and building programs and all sorts of stuff that the modern concept of ‘church planting’ has brought along for the ride. David simply put troops in these conquered cities [Jesus sent them out 2 by 2] and these areas of people understood that they were servants to the king! They paid tribute [I would associate this with the New Testament doctrine of giving as a community, not the Levitical tithe] and the Davidic kingdom [gospel] could spread rapidly in a short period of time. David had men working along side him; priests and scribes and stuff. He did ‘justly’ and ruled with integrity. He exemplified the character of a true leader, but did not back down from his God given authority. God established him as a leader in Israel. The boy did his job!

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 9- David inquires if there are any sons of Jonathan still alive, he wants to keep his oath to Jonathan that he would treat his offspring well when he became the king. Sure enough they find out that Mephibosheth, the crippled son, is still alive. David tells Ziba, former servant in Saul’s house, to become the servant of Mephibosheth. Later on we see Ziba speak badly about Mephibosheth; he will tell David that he was unfaithful to his rule. It’s possible that Ziba resented this new position of servitude that David put on him and his house. We read stories in the New Testament how the mercy Jesus shows to certain groups of people [lame and crippled and poor] will create a dissension among the others. David’s treatment of Mephibosheth is much like Jesus treatment of the down and out. David honors this lame boy, he allows him to sit at the kings table [Jesus in the parables calls people to ‘his dinner banquet’] and he outwardly, publicly associated himself with the sick and disabled. Truly David is fulfilling his role as a type of Christ. The jealousy of Ziba [down the road] reminds me of the story of Haman in the book of Esther. Haman was this wicked brother who hated the Jews. He particularly loathed this brother named Mordecai. This Jew refused to bow down as Haman rode by. Haman was close to the king [non Jew]. So Haman devises this plot to kill all the Jews and ultimately Esther saves the day [thus the name of the book]. But at one point the king asks Haman’s advice ‘what should I do for the man I respect and like so much’? Haman thinks the king is talking about him, so of course he says ‘Well, have him exalted to the highest position next to the king, let all the kings servants bow down and respect him…and on and on’. Haman thinks ‘Now I’ll get that rat Mordecai to bow!’ And the king says ‘sounds like a great idea, now go and make all this happen for Mordecai’. This was not Haman’s day. Jesus challenges our hidden agendas. How do we respond when other ministries excel? Do we secretly feel good when we hear about the failure of a ministry that never honored us? Do we root for the church we attend and kind of have an attitude of ‘we are doing better than the other guys’. All these attitudes violate the family mindset of the Body of Christ. When David, or Jesus or any other king show special favor to another subject, our ‘eye shouldn’t be evil because the king did what was his right to do with what was his’. David honored his former vow to his best friend Jonathan, he kept his word.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 10- The king of Ammon dies and David sends messengers to show due respect. The son, who is now the new king, receives David’s men. But the princes of the land say ‘what in the heck were you thinking? Surely David has sent these men to spy on us’. Why would the princes say this? Possibly because the king treated David well when he was alive. He sent David materials and workers to help. Sometimes people resent it when they feel others are getting the favor that they really deserve. They poisoned the mind of the new king. Now he takes David’s men and shaves half of their beards off and cuts their robes in half. An act of public humiliation. David hears about it and the fight is on. Ammon requests help from Syria and Syria says ‘sure, why not?’. I’ll tell you why not, because the scripture says don’t get involved with fights and issues that don’t concern you, that’s why! Well David confronts the armies and wins. Syria winds up surrendering and making a treaty with Israel. What happened here? Once again we see the poor decision making of a younger king. He took the advice of the other princes who were speaking out of wrong motives and intentions. Solomon’s future son will do the same and it will lead to another division in Israel. Paul instructs Timothy [or Titus?] to not allow a novice to be an elder. Does this mean young men can’t be spiritual leaders? Not necessarily. Timothy was fairly young at the time of getting this instruction. But new believers [leaders] have a tendency to grasp doctrine and ideas that might not be totally wrong, but they have a tendency to emphasize them in a distorted way. How many times have I heard teaching on the ‘importance of money’, or some other single issue. The preacher will often defend his distortion by saying ‘look how many times this subject is mentioned in scripture’ not realizing that this in itself does not justify the wrong emphasis. For instance many of the times this subject is mentioned it is in the context of warning believers to not become side tracked with seeking wealth! I could start a doctrine on the importance of ‘water’ or ‘bread’. Look how often water is mentioned! We have it in Genesis and Revelation. Jesus speaks of the waters of life. And I could go on and on. But the fact that this subject is found in so many various ways, doesn’t mean we should exalt it into an idol. So young [new] believers do have a tendency to lift things out of proportion at times. The new king acted foolishly and the Syrians came along for the ride. Wisdom would have said ‘let the king of Ammon do what he thinks he should, we will sit this one out’.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 11- David sends Joab and his men out to war. He stays home and takes a walk on his roof and spots Bathsheba. He sends a servant to contact her and he sleeps with her. He finds out she’s pregnant and the gears in his mind start moving. He calls her noble husband, Uriah, from the front lines of battle and pretends he just called him to inquire about the battle. He sends him home, hoping he will sleep with his wife, and then David will be off the hook. Sure enough Uriah is so noble that he refuses to sleep in his house when his men are in the battle. So David gives it a second shot and gets the brother drunk. He sends him home again and Uriah refuses to sleep with Bathsheba. So David calls for Joab, the lead commander of his army, and says ‘put Uriah in the front lines and draw back and let him die’. Something interesting happens. Joab carries out the plan but also allows some of David’s other men to die. Then he sends a messenger to tell David ‘we were at the front lines, close to a wall, and some of our guys were killed’. Joab tells the messenger ‘if David gets mad and says “what were you thinking by getting close to the wall? This is a basic mistake that should have never been made!”’ Joab says if David asks this, then say ‘Uriah is dead too’. It’s possible that Joab stuck it to David here for making him partake in his personal problems. Military men do not like carrying out personal political vendettas. Either way the messenger goes and tells David and David feels he covered up his sin. Of course we will soon find out the cover up didn’t work. Bathsheba does move in with David and they make plans for the coming baby. A few things; David was a great man, he followed God as a man ‘after Gods own heart’. David was also human. Hebrews says ‘every high priest taken from among men must make sacrifice for his own sin as well as the peoples’. I don’t want to excuse sin, but I want you to see that all of us have ‘feet of clay’. Modern ministry has a system where we present the best image of leadership to people. We feel this is part of the role of leaders. The scriptures show you ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’. We just saw the ugly.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 12- Nathan confronts David over his sin. He gives a parable about 2 men in a town, one owned lots of flocks and sheep, the other owned one precious lamb. The man with all the sheep had a visitor come to him in need. So instead of sacrificing his own sheep, he went and took the precious ‘only lamb’ from his neighbor. David is incensed over this injustice, he declares ‘This man will pay back what he did and also die for this sin’! Nathan says ‘you are the man’. David realizes he did this very thing with Bathsheba and Uriah. Notice how we have a tendency to be enraged over the sin and faults of others, but we make room for ourselves when we are guilty of the same things. Jesus confronted the religious hypocrisy of his day when he showed the Pharisees that they were guilty of lust and anger and jealousy, the same root causes of murder and adultery. They wanted strict judgment on others who were guilty of the same sins that they were guilty of. Also the fact that the man with one little lamb lost his favorite, this speaks of the great sacrifice of giving up the ‘only begotten Son of God’. Jesus sacrifice was great because the father gave his only Son. Now David receives the reproof from the prophet and Gods judgment is pronounced ‘the sword will never leave your house. From within your own family treachery shall arise. Your wives will be taken from you and publicly disgraced. The son from Bathsheba will die’. Very strict judgment indeed, yet the Lord says ‘nevertheless, I will spare your life’. This was something David did not leave room for in his earlier judgment on the sheep stealer! David mourns and fasts for the child’s life, but the child dies. David has another son with Bathsheba and his name is Solomon. One of the greatest/wisest kings Israel will ever have. A few things; in David’s earlier scenario he said the ‘sheep stealer’ should pay restitution. He wanted the man to right the wrong. In David’s case he killed the very man whom restitution should have been made to! In essence his sin was so severe that it actually cut off part of his future reconciliation. Unforgiveness towards others falls into this same category. God requires us to forgive those who have wronged us. We often do every thing else under the sun to get back on track, but we ‘eliminate’ the very person that stands in the way of total reconciliation! That person is often times the offender. Also at the end of the chapter David is told by Joab that he is on the verge of taking a city and David should come and finish the job so Joab won’t get the credit. David musters his forces and finishes the job. One of the hardest things to do in ministry/service is to regroup and move forward again. David had some very serious issues he had to deal with. The situation with Bathsheba was not going away. He couldn’t completely resolve this issue. But he still needed to function and carry out his responsibilities. Faithfulness means sticking it out even thru your own personal failures. Completing the task to the best of your ability. At one point they asked David ‘why were you grieving and fasting while the boy was still alive, and after he died you ate and functioned again’? David said ‘who knows, when the boy was alive there was a possibility that God would change his mind and let the boy live. After he died there was nothing else I could do’. Most of us would have been angry at God. David didn’t have all the answers, he knew Nathan was an accurate prophet. The things Nathan said were from the Lord. But David also was ‘from the Lord’. He too had a relationship with God. He depended on this relationship to guide him thru stuff. Maybe God would do something? David did not have all the answers. And when God didn’t do what he wanted, he didn’t take it personal. He moved forward the best he could. God showed tremendous mercy in allowing this sinful situation to produce a future king. Solomon was born from this turmoil and he was a great man of God. Look to the lord to bring forth wisdom from the failures in your life. The ‘first son’ might not have survived, but the second son just might be a prodigy.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 13- In this chapter David begins reaping the judgment on his household. Amnon, David’s son, falls for Tamar. Tamar is the sister of Absalom, another son of David. David had kids from various wives, so you had sons and sisters who were not from the same mother. Amnon devises a scheme and sleeps with Tamar. Then he rejects her. Absalom is incensed over this. David hears about it but doesn’t deal with the problem. Two years go by and Absalom gets even. He tricks Amnon and his other brothers to come to his territory. Then he kills Amnon. Word gets back to David ‘all your sons have been slain by Amnon’. David thinks ‘surely, this is my punishment’. He mourns and is shaken to the core. Now, the report was false. It really wasn’t as bad as David thought. Leaders, don’t always believe the initial report. The first intuition might be wrong. It’s difficult for leaders to recognize that something needs to happen, and then to wait on the Lord for clear directives. Leaders often want action, so they will respond and act based on the initial report. It’s better to sleep on it for a few days. David finds out that all the sons are not dead, just Amnon. Absalom flees to another king and is gone for a few years. David is distraught over the loss of one son and the reality that the other son is estranged from him. Could David have prevented this whole scenario? Maybe not, we do know the Lord said a sword would be in his family. A division and fighting would arise from within. But David also failed in that when he heard of the situation he never dealt with it. Sort of like Samuel and Eli. Eli let his boys run wild and they ruined Gods house. Though the Lord ‘promised’ David would reap what he sowed earlier on, yet the reaping was not as severe as he initially thought. Absalom could have very well killed all the brothers, but the Lord only allowed a limited judgment. Sometimes we mess up and make wrong choices, remember; God is for us. He is on our side. All chastening and discipline are for our ultimate benefit. What good what it have done for David to have been totally wiped out? God was disciplining David and his family, but God was still on David’s side.

 

  • 2nd SAMUEL 14- David is broken over the estrangement of his son. Joab realizes that the kingdom can’t function to its full potential under this strain. But he knows he can’t confront David himself. Why? Maybe it’s because of the nature of leaders. It’s a very rare thing for one leader to confront another leader over an issue. The natural response is to look for ways to justify ourselves. So instead Joab finds a ‘wise woman’ and gets her to put on this act for the king. She tells him this sob story about one of her sons killing the other one. She is a widow and is left with only one son, but all the other relatives want justice! They can’t forgive the only heir. Well David falls for this scenario again! He did this with Nathan and Bathsheba. So he tells the woman ‘God forbid that someone takes vengeance on the only son. Over my dead body…. on and on’. Now the woman says ‘can I say one last thing’? Knowing David’s history of getting trumped at the end of these things, I would have said ‘no maam, you’ve said enough already’. But David says ‘go ahead’. She tells him ‘you’re the man!’ [Ouch! I wonder if this woman was the wife of Nathan?:-)] So David realizes he’s been duped again. The woman says ‘O, you are so wise and smart and….’ Gee, for someone who is so swift, he sure falls for these stories a lot. David sends Joab to get Absalom and Absalom returns to Jerusalem but the king avoids him for 2 years. Finally he sees his son. All is not well, Absalom resents the fact that his father called him home but never really made things right. Joab is glad that David gave it a shot. And the nameless wise woman gives us a quote worth remembering ‘For we must needs die, and are as water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means [the Cross], that his banished [humanity] be not expelled from him [reconciliation]’. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 15- Absalom sits daily at the city gate and when the people come to the king, Absalom ‘steels their hearts’. He says ‘o, if I were the king I could do such a good job. I am better than the one God appointed’. Avoid trying to gain peoples acceptance by comparing yourself with others. God might use you to be an example in some way, but this is a matter of grace. Paul said he excelled more than the other apostles who were ‘in Christ’ before him, but nevertheless it was Gods grace that caused this to happen. Absalom slowly wins the hearts of the people and stages a takeover. Some men go willingly, others followed ‘out of simplicity’. They were led astray like sheep. Remember, when dealing with followers of groups who have ‘rebelled’ [classic cults] some have been raised innocently with their beliefs. Try and honestly talk to them and treat them courteously. God can give you an open door with them if you see them as people who have value and worth. We see David as a type of Christ in this chapter. He is forsaken by the city of Jerusalem and loses his following. He even ascends the Mount of Olives while weeping! He says ‘If God chooses to forsake me, so be it. But if he brings me back again [resurrection!] and allows me to see the Ark in Jerusalem, then let his will be done’. Jesus said ‘not my will, but thine be done’. The Father, who forsook his Son, did delight in him and ‘brought him back again’ to see ‘the Ark in the city of Jerusalem’. Jesus saw the tabernacle of God [Gods people, the dwelling of God] in ‘the city of God’ [the church is called the city of God that comes down from God out of heaven] and he was restored to his former place of exaltation at the fathers right-hand. David is reaping some stuff here. He makes some plans for a future return to leadership, but recognizes when it’s time to retreat. Now, I realize that God wants us to move forward and ‘take the kingdom by force’. But Jesus also gave us a principle; he said ‘when one king is facing another king. He sends out messengers to check out the opponent. If word comes back that you are really out of your league in this battle, then try and come to terms of peace if possible’. In essence there are times where taking a step back and re-evaluating is a wise thing. David plants a few spies in Jerusalem who will report back to him every now and then. David also finds out who his true friends are. Some follow him instead of Absalom, even though Absalom is the ‘hot ticket item’ at the time. These brothers who stick with you till the end are true friends, but they aren’t always the most encouraging. Thomas [one of Jesus disciples] says at one point ‘Lets go, we might as well follow him all the way to our deaths’. Thanks for the willingness to follow Thomas, but you think you could change the attitude a little! So David is doing the best with what he has, Gods people are surviving, but they are being used as pawns on Absalom’s chess board. Absalom looked good at the start, but he will not finish well.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 16- As David flees Jerusalem, Ziba, the servant that was under Mephibosheth joins with him. David asks ‘what are you doing here? You should be home with your master’. Ziba says ‘as soon as Mephibosheth heard about the take over, he said “I will stay in Israel and become the new king, God will restore to me Saul’s throne”’. Now David believes it and says ‘I now put you in charge of all the household of your former master, it belongs to you’. Later on Mephibosheth will deny all of this. Its possible Ziba made this up for his own benefit. Leaders, be careful of advice from people with a personal agenda. They often make themselves look better than others. Now as David flees another enemy comes out and curses and throws stones at him along the way. This guy says ‘look at you now, you rebelled against the old king [Saul] and now you are receiving the just reward’. Now David responds with a Christ like attitude and says ‘let the guy curse me, I will not retaliate. Maybe God will look on this persecution and reward me’. One of David’s men wanted to ‘take his head off’. Gee, David has all types in his leadership circle! Did this guy who was cursing David misread the whole situation? Yes, but don’t forget we are reading this story from the real perspective, some people living at the time of David and Saul saw this new king [David] as a threat to the old ways. It’s only a few days after the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama won. Though there were many reasons for and against him, now that he won we ALL need to pray for him. But some of the supporters of McCain sincerely saw this ‘new kind of person’ as a rebellious threat to the ‘old order’. Sincere people who saw things from a different angle. So David’s accuser sees the story from a wrong lens. David was being judged by God, but not because he toppled the old order of King Saul. Back at Jerusalem Absalom listens to the advice of Ahithophel and sleeps with his fathers concubines. The advice was that when all Israel heard about it, they would realize that this rebellion was a real rebellion and the people would unite under his illegal rule. Scripture says Ahithophels counsel was like ‘hearing from God’ in those days. Leaders, be open to the counsel that is coming forth from particular streams at certain times. It is not only important for believers to ‘learn the bible’, but also to be able to discern the signs of the times. Specific things God is saying and doing in our day. If you were living in the 16th century the issue of the reformation was vital for every one who was a believer. Whether you were Catholic or Protestant, you needed to be up on the issues. Erasmus, the great Catholic scholar and humanist [not ‘secular humanist’] wrote insightful criticisms against his own church, yet remained within her fold. So matter what Christian tradition you align yourself with, you need to be aware of the seasons and purposes of God for your generation. In Absalom’s day, Ahithophel was the go to man.

 

  • HAS MODERN SCIENCE PROVEN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD? Does the long age theory of the earth and universe disprove God? After the enlightenment era and the general scientific/industrial revolution, many people were taught that science held to ‘real truth’ while scripture dealt with ‘myth’. Myth in this context did not mean ‘fake’ but simple stories that conveyed spiritual meaning. In the field of theology you had what was called higher criticism. Well intended theologians tried to come up with liberal ideas that could join science and theology together in a compatible way that would suit the modern man. Many people grasped a naturalistic explanation to the universe and world and life on our planet. After Darwin advanced his theory of Macro- Evolution, science began a long haul survey of the data and came up short. After 150 years of honestly searching for the proof of Evolution, the sincere scientists [many of whom are Atheists] have seen the writing on the wall. What they were told to look for is not there! The data show that even if you were to follow the old age theory of the earth and universe [15 billion for the universe, 5 billion for earth- approximately] this in no way would leave enough time for the random development of life on our planet. Even the old age model doesn’t work. The evidence for the old earth perspective shows that life appeared on our planet around 3.5 billion years ago. Even if you believe in the spontaneous generation of the living cell [which is actually very difficult to believe in!] the short time period between the earth’s age and the first appearance of life [according to the science itself] is in no way enough time for the random development of life to have occurred. In actuality the 15 billion year old date of the universe would still not be enough time, according to the scientific statistical odds, for life to have spontaneously developed by mere chance. The problem is the average public school taught citizen does not know this! He thinks that science has somehow proven that all life and existence has come about by naturalistic means. Science has PROVEN this to be impossible! Even unbelieving science. In 1980 you had the famous conference on macro evolution held in Chicago, the famous paleontologist from the Museum of natural history in New York, Niles Eldridge, said ‘the pattern that we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist’ [New York Times- Nov. 4, 1980]. He was stating the obvious findings of the scientific community, that Darwin’s ideas, no matter how noble and ‘enlightening’ they seemed to be, were completely shown to be false. Some from the scientific community were willing to accept this truth and begin a new journey for a different explanation of life. Some espoused that life could have started some where else, and wound up on our planet by chance [or design!]. This explanation seemed to give a little room for the impossibility of random chance to have brought about life in the short timetable and constraints of earth. Simply put, this idea acknowledged that life could in no way have developed on its own; therefore some other set of circumstances that might exist in some other place [extra-terrestrial] might have done this. Of course this idea is getting very close to the biblical world view of life having started with a creator. In essence the ‘extra terrestrial’ is actually God! The whole point is the ‘average Joe’ simply believes that science has answered all the questions of the origins of life, but the scientific community knows otherwise.

 

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 17- Absalom is strengthening his position as the new king. Ahithophel, his chief counselor, advises to strike while the irons hot. He tells Absalom ‘let me gather a 12 thousand man army and quickly pursue David. I will come upon him and his men while they are tired and fearful, then I will kill David only and bring the people back to you’. Now, this advice was the best, but Absalom asks for the advice of Hushai also. He was the secret spy that was really on David’s side. He advises Absalom to wait and gather all the people and mount a broad attack. God put it in the heart of Absalom to believe the bad advice [bad for Absalom, good for David!]. So Ahithophel sees that his counsel is rejected, he goes and hangs himself! Once again we see the ‘sword of David’s enemies enter into their own heart’. Remember what we said earlier about this? So Hushai sends word to David about the plan and David responds accordingly. Leaders, understand the strategy of our mortal enemy [satan]. He wants to target you when you and your people are weary and tired. He wants to take you down more than any other thing. The bible teaches ‘smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’. Now this is a Messianic prophecy with a lot of meaning, but one of the points is the lead ‘point man’ is usually the main target of the opposing side. How can we mitigate this factor? Practice plural leadership as much as possible. The new testament churches were not ‘run by a Pastor’ in the way we do it today. So adjust your leadership paradigm and bring it more into alignment with scripture. Also, spread ‘the wealth around’ [a recent key issue with the newly elected president, Barack Obama]. If you can get the wisdom and truth that God has communicated to you into the hands of many others, then you have accomplished a lot. Paul told Timothy ‘the things that you have learned and been assured of, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’. This is true apostolic ministry. David will survive this rebellion against his kingdom, but if Absalom listened to the best counsel David would have been finished for sure.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 18- David and his men regroup and mount a counter attack against Absalom. They divide into 3 groups and go for it. David tells his men ‘take it easy on Absalom’. Why? Understand that David is seeing the prophetic judgment upon his family that was a result of his own sin. I wonder how many times David saw the fulfillment of this former word [the sword will never depart from your house] thru the seeming insignificant acts of Absalom along the way. David felt guilt over this whole rebellion mounted by his son. Now the battle rages and David and his men kill around 20 thousand troops of Absalom. Word gets back to Joab that Absalom got his hair caught in some tree and is hanging in the tree. Joab says ‘why didn’t you kill him!’ the messenger says ‘God forbid that I should kill the king’s son! I heard the strict orders from the king for no one to take his life’. My King James Version says Joab responded with ‘I may not tarry thus with thee’ in today’s terms ‘I can’t waste time listening to your reasoning’. Joab goes and kills the king’s son. When I read thru this chapter earlier this morning I saw 2 possible things here. First, Joab and his history with David are one of Joab being a ‘bloody man’. He killed Abner against the king’s wishes, and now Absalom. Why in the world did David not remove Joab from this position earlier? One reason, Joab knew how to war. The boy was capable; he knew how to get the job done. In ministry [or business] loyalty is important; people need to be able to carry out the decisions of leadership. But loyalty in and of itself doesn’t cut it, you need skills and abilities as well. You say ‘that’s not fair’ well if you don’t have the skills go get them for heavens sake! Proverbs says knowledge is in the street corners calling out to the simple and saying ‘come, receive of my learning’. The resources are there, laziness prevents people from accessing them effectively. Now Joab also acted responsibly to some degree. He realized that Absalom would be a permanent threat to David’s rule, he killed him and saved many. Right after his death Joab blows the trumpet and the battle is called off. 2 Messengers run to bring the word to David. Ephesians says ‘blessed are the feet of those who bring the gospel’ Gospel simply means ‘good news’. In the New Testament this good news was the reality of Jesus death, burial and resurrection [1st Corinthians 15] but in the Old Testament it was simply the news from ‘the runner’. You could tell from the way the runner was running whether the news was good or bad. How? Say if your wife took a lotto ticket that said ‘you one a million dollars’ and said ‘I am going to ask the store clerk if it’s real’. As you are waiting in the parking lot you see her coming out of the store. Do you think you would be able to tell if the news was good or bad by watching the way she approaches the car? So this was what the king looked for as the messengers came running. If they bore good news their feet had this special pep to them. News gets back to David and he is broken over the death of his son ‘O Absalom, my son Absalom. Would God I had died in your place’ I always stop and meditate this verse every time I read it thru my yearly reading thru the bible. This contains the heart of the Father in redemption. A few more things; in this chapter it said that Absalom raised up a monument/pillar after ‘his own name’. Because he didn’t have any sons to carry on his legacy, he left ‘a thing’ that would honor his name after he died. Absalom didn’t simply have a rebellion issue against his father, he really wanted to build for himself a legacy. His motivations were self serving. Jesus warns the leaders of his movement not to approach ‘church and ministry’ with the same ‘gentile’ [worldly] concepts of leadership. The world often succeeds thru the motivation of greed and lust and power. It’s very easy to fall into the Absalom mindset and take it out on Gods people when the ‘pillar’ [the thing of ministry] doesn’t ‘go up right’. Many well meaning sincere men have been side tracked into seeking fame and acceptance by seeing ministry thru the lens of ‘I want to leave some institution that will bear witness to my name after I am gone’. Ministry, according to Jesus, does not operate along these lines. In Absalom’s obsession to become famous in the eyes of men, he went down a path that did leave a memorial to his name for generations to come. We just read it.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 19- David sends word to the elders of Judah ‘why are you guys so late in receiving me back to Jerusalem as your king? I am your own kin for heavens sake!’ After the death of the rogue king Absalom, Israel came to her senses and began saying ‘you know, when David was our king things weren’t all that bad, now that Absalom is dead, what are we waiting for, lets call David back’. So David sends word back that he is reuniting with the people again. He also makes some strategic moves; he tells Amasa ‘when I get back, you get Joab’s job’ Ouch! David finally dealt with the talented, yet self willed commander of his men. On the way back one of the first guys that greets him is the same brother that cursed him and threw stones at him earlier. David lived to see the day of Gods vindication. The brother repents and David forgives him. Also the son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, greets David with great joy. The first thing David says is ‘why didn’t you leave with me at the beginning?’ The earlier slander of Ziba stuck in David’s mind. Mephibosheth swares that Ziba tricked him. David forgives him and says ‘enough! You split the inheritance with Ziba’. Mephibosheth replies ‘Let him keep it, I don’t need the material wealth. I am just glad to be with you again’. The church does not see the reality of this test contained in scripture. There are times where ‘David’ does offer opportunities of self advancement that are simply a test to see what our motives are. In this case David rightfully gave material stuff to Mephibosheth, it was the maturity and character of Mephibosheth to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. The scripture contains many examples of Christ followers forsaking things for his cause. Just because the bible ‘offers opportunities for wealth’ does not mean Gods best is for you to ‘go for the wealth’. Now that David’s back in Jerusalem, the divided tribes [Israel-10 tribes, and Judah] have a squabble. Israel says ‘Judah, who do you think you are in being the first ones to escort the king back, he is our king too’! And Judah replies ‘yeah, but he is our blood kin, David is from our tribe. We hold a ‘special’ relationship with him because of natural heritage’. It’s funny, these guys were on Absalom’s side a few days ago, now they are fighting over him! I kinda see Jesus and natural Israel in this story. The nation of Israel became offended over the fact that they were ‘blood heirs’ of the Jewish Messiah. They held to this ethnic pride that would be destroyed thru the Cross. It offended the natural mind to see this ethnic figure [in the historic mind of Judaism] to be accepted by ‘all the tribes’. They wanted him solely for their own purposes. So here we see Judah and Israel fighting over David, he will unite them both under his rule [Ephesians ‘the 2 are made one, Jew and Gentile, and God hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us] and Jerusalem will once again be called ‘the city of the great king’ [we are the ‘city that comes down from God out of heaven’ the bride, the Lambs wife!]

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 20- Now David comes up against another short rebellion. Sheba, a Benjamite, blows the trumpet and says ‘what part have we in David, every man for himself’. Sheba draws Israel away from her king and Judah remains loyal. David quickly tells his new commander, Amasa, ‘go and gather Judah together and meet me in 3 days’. He takes longer than 3 days and David says ‘surely this Sheba is going to be trouble’ and he sends Joab out too. What’s going on here? First, David removed Joab from the commander position and replaced him with Amasa. For whatever reason Amasa is taking longer to gather Judah, David is reading into it thru the paranoia of Sheba’s rebellion. Was Amasa turning against him too? David then turns to his former commander Joab and seems to be using him as the back up ‘go to man’. Leaders, if you changed the staff for a reason, don’t keep going to the former guy for advice. It only creates tension with the new team. If you think the new guy isn’t working well, then give him a little time and if you have to then go and make the change. But don’t simply give him a title and then undercut his job. Now Joab goes out after Sheba and finds Amasa and kills him. He then chases down Sheba into a city of Israel. Joab comes against the city and a wise woman says ‘why are you trying to destroy us, we are a special town in Israel’? Joab says ‘we just want Sheba’. Sure enough the woman says ‘wait a little bit’ and next thing you know Sheba’s head comes over the wall. You don’t want to mess with these Israeli women! So Joab gets his job back, thru violent means. David puts down this short rebellion. And he has to regroup big time. Leadership means being able to function in the midst of turmoil and inner strife and infighting. That’s part of the cost. There is a verse that says ‘rule thou in the midst of your enemies’. God doesn’t tell us ‘I will remove all the problems so you can rule’. He tells us ‘lead right thru all the stuff’!

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 21- After David gains back his kingdom, there is a 3 year famine in the land. David seeks the Lord about it. God tells him it is a result of the violence that Saul committed against the innocent blood of the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites were the people who tricked Joshua [Joshua 9] into staying in the Promised Land. After Joshua gave his word, they later found out that they were tricked. Well Saul obviously went back on this promise of protection and came against them. When ever there is a nation wide judgment, we need to see what the possible causes might be. We just elected a new president of the U.S. [11-08]. While there are obviously great historic realities to our new president being the first Black man to attain this honor, yet we also need to seek God over the way we treat the ‘innocent blood’ in our land. Barack Obama has already floated the idea that he will overturn the executive decision of President Bush on our foreign aid being used for abortions in other countries. To be honest it surprised me that he even floated this idea so soon. This is a direct contradiction to the statement he made at the forum at Rick Warrens church earlier in the year. He said he would work to reduce abortion and that the goal of reducing them would be part of his governing philosophy. He simply mislead us on this issue. Also the Gibeonites were ‘illegal aliens’ in the sense that they were the only people group allowed to remain in the Promised Land along with Israel. Our country has had open borders for many years. True, we do have procedures to go by if you want to come to our country. But we have previously promised ‘protection and safety’ to those who wanted to come. Much like the Gibeonites we began to resent the aliens in our midst. We now treat them with less respect and honor than was originally promised. We told the tired masses at one time ‘to come’ but now we want to build fences to keep them out. On both of these issues our country needs to seek God, we are just beginning a few years of very bad national economic times. For those who think this president [or any other!] has the ability to turn this economic disaster around, you are only kidding yourself. The next 4 years will not be good. We need to pray for our president and honor him, but in reality our economy is very bad. Also in this chapter we see David and his men fight the sons of Goliath, the giant who David defeated earlier in his life. Old enemies are resurfacing. David is in a battle with one of them and is almost killed. To the rescue comes Abishai, the brother of Joab. These were the brothers who gave David ‘hell’ all thru out his reign. Self willed, violent. This time David was grateful for the violent ability of these brothers. Sometimes we have to put up with people in our cities, areas. We might not always agree with their style. But when things get rough, we can count on them to get the job done. David and his men wipe out the rest of the giants sons and they tell David ‘you can’t war with us any more, it’s too dangerous’. David recognizes it’s time for a personal transition, he likes being in the battle front, but he is risking too much to think that time has not affected his ability. God leads us thru various stages of growth and development thru out our lives, the bible says ‘there is a time and season for everything’. We need to be able to follow the course as God directs. David was a true warrior, he did not want to adjust his procedure. Wisdom allows us to do what’s best for the overall community and not to please ourselves.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 22- David exalts the Lord and mentions many themes that are found thru out scripture. He also says ‘the Lord has rewarded me according to the cleanness of my hands… he has recompensed me according to my righteousness’. Though David is renown for his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband, yet we must see that David’s repentance was real. Ultimately David turned from his sin and God did bless him. We don’t want people to get the impression that repentance did not matter, in David’s case it made all the difference in the world. David also says ‘the Lord is merciful to those who are merciful…and hard with those who are hard’ Jesus says this in Matthew 5. David says ‘God took me and placed me in a large place’. One of the most frustrating things is to be operating from the wrong paradigm. Too often we leave the impression with young Pastors that their ‘job’ is to preach to 30 people a week for 30 years, marry them, bury them, perform the job of the ‘hired clergyman’ and this is what it means to be faithful. While I recognize that many well meaning men are functioning out of this mind set, yet God puts in people [all of his people, not just ‘full time ministers’!] a ‘large place’ to function out of. Now, when I say ‘large place’ don’t think building, think ‘the area, groups of people that I will influence thru out my life’. Scripture says God took David from ‘following the sheep’ [small pastoral mindset] to being king over the nation. God simply gave David great influence and stature for the sake of his people. Jesus said ‘you have been faithful over a little, I will now give you authority over 10 cities’. Are you frustrated because you are supposed to be ‘over 10 cities’ and are still dealing with ‘the little’? Be faithful to the day of small things right now, promotion comes from God alone. ‘You have made me the head of the heathen…strangers shall serve me. As soon as they hear me they will submit’. These are Messianic themes found elsewhere in scripture ‘ask of me and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, the ends of the earth for your possession’. Jesus became the ‘head of the heathen’ he is Lord over the gentile nations, John calls this ‘the other flock’ in his gospel. God gave both David and Jesus authority for the benefit of people. What kind of people? The lost, down and out. Those who society rejected. God gives us authority for the ‘sake of the heathen’. Don’t see your ‘ministry’ as a gift to the ‘upper class’ only, spend some time ‘with the heathen’.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 23- David recounts his life and the mighty men who were with him thru the ups and downs. He says ‘God raised me up on high, the anointed of God. He spake his words thru me’ Jesus was raised up ‘on high’ he was/is Gods anointed one [Messiah] and he spoke only the words that the Father gave him. Now David has some valiant men to mention. Some fought the enemy against all odds. One was in a lentil field and the rest of the people fled. This brother stood his ground and won! This characteristic is important for leaders; there are times where you must stand, even if the rest of your people are afraid! If you start running, then forget it, there isn’t a ‘snowball’s chance in Hades’ that the job will get finished. Also David was in the cave Adullam, and he longed for the water at Bethlehem. His 3 mighty men heard him and they secretly snuck out and broke thru the Philistines front line and got the water for David! A valiant deed. Then they bring it to David and he pours it on the ground! He says ‘God forbid that I should drink the water that you risked your lives for’. I don’t know about you guys, but if I were one of the mighty men, my next valiant act would be ‘watch me make the king drink water off the ground’. One of the brothers killed a lion in the snow. I grew up in New Jersey, when it’s freezing out its hard to carry out tasks. You really don’t want to fight battles and ‘slay lions’ in difficult environments. The mighty men were able to function well, even in harsh conditions. The rest of the chapter is simply the naming of all the others. A few things; God raises up leaders and ‘kings’ at various times in history [Luther, Calvin, Graham, etc.] these men make their mark on history with the help of many other valiant men. In David’s case one of the men saved him from sure death in an earlier fight with the giant’s sons. The point is we are not in this thing to make a name for ourselves or to think ‘I could do a better job than David’ [Absalom] and go and start our own ‘kingdom’. God places key people in key places at certain points in time. It is vital for all the ‘actors’ [those who act/function!] to be courageous, take risks as God ordains, and fulfill the mission to the best of your ability. There are times where leaders WILL HAVE TO LEAD! That means you sought God, you heard what he said, and you followed thru on it. Many sincere men try all sorts of ‘new ideas’ in an attempt to get something off the ground. A year goes by and they have a new idea their working on. What happened? Ultimately you have to lead. You have to follow thru on the directives that God gave you. The problem isn’t with the plan [most of the times] but it’s with the faithfulness to follow thru with the mission. David’s men had the character to stick things out when others fled. Sure, those who flee will be back to check things out every now and then. Don’t despise them, but you know who can be trusted with the next mission. These are the noble warriors who acted valiantly in the face of great odds. These are the ‘go to men’ if you will.

 

  • 2ND SAMUEL 24- David numbers the people. Joab and his men tell David not to do it. Why? Well to be honest we really don’t know for sure, but let me give you my spin on it. The nation of Israel were very religious and sticklers for specific things. You see this development years later with the religious Pharisees, a tendency to focus in on specific instructions and these ideas becoming obsessive in their minds. All Israel knew the original promise that God made to Abraham. God told him that his ‘seed would be like the stars for multitude and the sand by the shore’ [Genesis 15] included in this famous promise were the words ‘go, see if you can count them’? It was understood that God was saying to Abraham ‘go, if you want to test me, try and count them’ [the stars]. It’s possible that the counting of the people was considered a taboo for this reason. Now David does count them and his ‘seer/prophet’ Gad tells him ‘you messed up, you have 3 choices of judgment that will come on you’. David picks the 3 day judgment under Gods hand and 70,000 Israelites die. The census David took showed that Israel had 800 thousand people, Judah 500 thousand [1.3 million total] without counting the women and children! So you can multiply this number by at least 3 to figure the actual size of the nation. God stops the judgment short and David builds an altar at the place where he saw the destroying angel. David also pleads with the Lord ‘why kill the people, let the judgment be on me and my family instead’. David shows the heart of Moses here. Also David had a ‘seer/prophet’ that was part of his ‘ministry team’. In the prophetic churches it is common to have real prophetic people [not flakes!] who are stable in the word, and also give good advice to the leadership. There are real life prophets/seers who function in the church and can play a key role in the future of the church. We end Samuel with David overseeing a large kingdom. The people were the prophetic fulfillment of Gods purpose in the earth at that time. The letter of Peter says we are Gods holy nation today. The Father promised the Son that he would give him ‘the heathen for his inheritance and the ends of the earth for his possession’. Just like David, the anointed king/priest of Israel, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and sees the great multitude of people on the earth [and in heaven] that are the fulfillment of the promise of God to him. We are living proof of the faithfulness of God to his Son.

 

  • 1st CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is ‘the most verified’ as being his. Of course we know this because Paul says so in the letter! But for all those intellectual higher critics, this helps. Corinth was a city of great influence and trade, many land and sea routes converged at Corinth and her port. The city was also known for her philosophers and ‘preachers of wisdom’ [Rhetoric]. They actually had a custom at Corinth in which you could ‘hire’ your own ‘preacher of wisdom’. These were the traveling teachers who made a living at speaking. This also might be why Paul specifically said ‘when I was with you I did not take money from you’. The custom of the traveling preachers was you could pay a one time honorarium for a single speech, or you could actually hire a regular speaker and have him ‘on salary’. Paul did not want the Corinthians to think that he was their hired preacher! How much influence this type of trade would have on the later development of the ‘hired clergy’ is unknown, but the similarities are striking. The famous 5th century bishop of Hippo, North Africa, Saint Augustine, made his living as one of these traveling teachers of philosophy before becoming a Christian. It’s believed that Paul wrote a 3rd letter to the church at Corinth, so what we know as 1st, 2nd Corinthians might actually be letters 2 and 3. I personally think Corinthians holds special value for the church today. The 21st century believer is being challenged on her Ecclesiology, the whole idea of what the church is. In Corinthians we see a specific picture of what the church is and on how she should meet. Paul will not address ‘the Pastor’ [there was none in the modern sense of the office] but he will speak directly to the brothers at Corinth and give them some heavy responsibilities to carry out [like committing a brother to satan for the destruction of his flesh! Ouch]. Paul went to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey and spent 18 months with them [Acts 18] one of the longest stays at any church. Because of the pagan background of the city Paul will address specific issues related to believers and certain practices of idol worship. Eating meat offered to idols and stuff like that. Corinth also practiced a form of idolatry that included prostitution, so he will deal severely with the loose sexual morals of the people at Corinth. Well we have a lot to cover in the next few weeks, try and read Corinthians on your own as we plunge into this study, it will help a lot.

 

  • 1ST CORINTHIANS 1:1-17 Paul greets them as an apostle called by God, he affirms his authority and ‘fathering ability’ as coming from God. He tells them he thanks God all the time for the fruit that he sees in their lives, the thing that made Paul rejoice was the work God was doing in the communities he was establishing as an apostle. Today ministers have a tendency to ‘rejoice’ over the Christian enterprise that we oversee. Whether its’ how well the budget went this year and stuff like that. Paul’s joy wasn’t in the fact that God called him to some great personal ministry where he would find self fulfillment. His joy was in the actual growth and freedom that ‘his churches’ [communities of people] were experiencing. He also defines them as ‘those that call upon the name of the Lord like all the others’. Remember what we said when studying Romans chapter 10? One of the signs of the believer is ‘they call upon Jesus name’. They are believing communities of ‘Christ callers’. Not so much a one time evangelical altar call, but a lifestyle. Jesus said we are ‘a house of prayer’. A spiritual community/house who intercedes for all nations. It’s in our very DNA! Paul also commends them as being enriched by God in all ‘knowledge and utterance’ [speech]. It seems funny that he would say they were blessed and enriched in speech. Paul will give some of his strongest rebukes over speaking gifts [tongues, prophesy] to this community. Yet he does not approach it from the strong anti charismatic view. He doesn’t say ‘your speech is demonic’ he says it is enriched by God! We will deal with the gifts later on. Now for the first real rebuke. Paul says he has heard reports that there are divisions and strivings among them. They are already dividing up into various sects. Some follow Paul, others follow Cephas, some say ‘we are the true Christ followers’. Paul rebukes them sharply over these divisions, he does not want the early church to identify with individual personalities and gifts at the expense of true unity. Was this the early development of denominationalism? To a degree yes. But I also don’t think we should view the various Christian denominations as deceived or ‘lost’. The modern church has become what we are thru many struggles and difficulties over a 2 thousand year history. My personal view is we should strive for unity, not by trying to dissolve all the various ‘tribes’ that exist in Christ’s church, but by growing into a more mature view of all who name the name of Christ as being fellow believers who partake of a common grace. I applaud all the efforts being made by various Christian churches today to come to a greater outward unity [for example the Catholic and Orthodox dialogue] but I also believe as we see each other as fellow believers and learn to appreciate our different emphasis, that this approach can also lead to greater unity among believers today. Paul saw the beginnings of division in the early Corinthian community, he did his best to quell the coming storm.

 

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

 

  • 1 CORINTHIANS 2- Paul tells them that when he came to them to declare Gods wisdom, that he did not do it with excellency of speech or with enticing words of men’s wisdom. What is he saying here? Remember, Corinth had the background of traveling philosophers of rhetoric who could ‘dazzle the average folk’. Sort of like the role science would come to play with modern man. All science is good, it’s when man in his arrogance begins to espouse or ‘twist’ things to his advantage that the problem arises. That’s when the arrogance of mans wisdom simply says to the average Joe ‘who do you think you are to question me! I am a man of wisdom’ Phooey! [I know it’s corny]. The fact is that natural man has always had the ability to deceive or come up with ‘evidence’ just in the nick of time. Did you know there was/is an entire cottage industry in ‘finding’ fossils to prove evolution is true? Do you really think men were above deception in the 1800’s? That they were above the temptation to come up with findings so their funding would not be cut off? Darwin wrote his famous book ‘the Origin of Species’ in 1851. Right after the book became popular there was a race among the archeologists to find the missing link. It just so happened that within a few short years they found it! [or something they thought fit]. It was also a ‘coincidence’ that some of the findings were discovered right before the grant/funding would run our for the researcher. Now, don’t you think the poor brother was tempted to fudge? Do you think that some of these findings, which later fell into the category of various bones simply being found in one location, were simply hyped for the benefit of the researchers to continue their work? You bet stuff like this happened. Some of the discoveries of skeletons that looked a little different were determined to be modern humans that simply suffered from various growth deficiencies. Scientists said this publicly! But this finding didn’t ‘fit’ all the excitement that was happening around the ‘new knowledge’ of Darwin. And the fact is that some of these early findings, with all of these obvious opportunities for fraud, stand today as the best evidence for evolution. After 150 years, these guys just happened to come up with the best evidence under these highly suspicious circumstances. But the average man, like the brothers living in Corinth, were simply dazzled by all the technical jargon. ‘Neanderthal man’ wow, that’s scientific brother! The name comes from a Christian whose name was ‘Neander’ and the famous discovery of the bones were in a field where he lived. Now that’s what I call the wisdom of man! So Paul lets the Corinthians know that his gospel isn’t some fabricated wisdom that has no basis in reality, he was preaching the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! [chapter 15]. He does say this wisdom and truth of Jesus is ‘hidden wisdom that the princes of this world can’t grasp’. He teaches that only God himself can teach a person this true wisdom of the gospel. But when Paul says ‘hidden wisdom’ he is not talking about the Gnostic belief [early cult of Christianity] of ‘special wisdom that only an elite few have’. Paul is saying mans unregenerate nature cannot grasp the great riches of the gospel. God regenerates us and gives us freely of his Spirit so we can ‘know the things of the Spirit of God’. Make no mistake about it, in Christ there are tremendous sources of riches and wisdom. This wisdom is sound and sure, not like the wisdom of the philosophers. There wisdom often times was based on sheer fantasy.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEBREWS commentary copyright 2007 John Chiarello   www.copruschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com  P.O. box 181256 C.C. Tx. 78480

Feel free to copy this booklet as well as all my other books on my blog site!

KCTA RADIO [1030 on the AM Dial] every Sunday at 9:45 am.

 

CHAPTER 1:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About ccoutreach87

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

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