[#’s 942-1073] TEACHINGS PART 6
(942)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.
(943)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.
(944)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:18-31 Paul declares the actual preaching of the Cross to be the power of God. The Jews sought for a sign [remember the sign of Jonas?] and the Greeks prided themselves in wisdom. Paul declares that Jesus IS the wisdom and power of God. In Christ is contained all the wisdom and power [signs] in the universe! Paul says God destroyed the wisdom of unregenerate man and that Gods foolishness is wiser than men’s greatest achievements apart from God. Wow, what an indictment on enlightenment philosophy. Man goes thru stages of learning and knowledge [renaissance, enlightenment. Industrial, scientific revolution] these are not bad achievements in and of themselves. Many of the greatest scientists and scientific discoveries were made by men of faith [Newton, Pascal, Faraday, etc] the problem arises when men think that sheer humanistic reasoning, apart from God, is the answer. Right now there is a movement [11-08] going on where some atheists bought ad space on the sides of buses that say ‘why believe in a god? Do good for goodness sake’. So they had both sides [Christian /Atheist] debate it. The simple fact is, sheer humanism cannot even define ‘what good is’. ‘Good’ becomes a matter of what serves me best at the time of my decision. Without God and special revelation [scripture-10 commandments] good can be defined by Hitler’s regime as exterminating one class of society for the benefit of the whole. Only Christian [or Deist, Jewish, Muslim] beliefs place special value and dignity on human life. It is a common misconception to think that all the enlightenment philosophers were atheists; this was not the case at all. Locke, Hume and others simply believed that thru human logic and reason people could arrive at a sort of naturalistic belief in God. This would form the basis of Deism, the system of belief in God but a rejection of classic Christian theology. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers of our country were influenced by this style of belief. Now, getting back to the Greeks. Paul says ‘God destroyed the wisdom of this world’. What wisdom is Paul talking about? The enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century had nothing on the Greek philosophers going all the way back to a few centuries B.C. Plato, the Greek wrestler turned philosopher, had one of the most famous schools of Greek philosophy. At the entrance of the school the words were written ‘let none 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.
(945)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. Their wisdom often times was based on sheer fantasy.
(946)1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-10 Paul tells them that because of their immaturity he has ‘fed them milk, not meat’. He continues to correct them on their penchant for ‘men worship’. He says ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase’. He even says ‘we are nothing, its Gods Spirit that counts!’ I guess poor Paul wasn’t up on the contemporary self esteem movement in the church? Paul says ‘as a wise masterbuilder I have laid the foundation and others have built upon it’ also ‘ye are Gods building, Gods garden’. I have studied this concept of the ‘wise masterbuilder’ a lot over the years. The Apostle is known for his wisdom. Jesus said ‘I have sent you [Jerusalem] wise men and prophets’. The Apostles are the ‘wise men’. If I remember I will try and paste some entries on the reality of the apostolic ministry today. That is the teaching from scripture on the ongoing apostolic ministry. Don’t mistake it for the original ‘apostles of the Lamb’. They were special eyewitnesses of the resurrection. The ongoing gift which is spoken about in the New Testament plays a different role, yet we can glean things from Paul and others on this ministry gift. Paul was primarily a ‘foundation layer’ he spent no time building ‘buildings’ or human institutions, but he knew the reality of foundation laying. His proclamation of the gospel had the inherent ability to change a region for Christ and his kingdom. He had the wisdom to build into the communities a self sustaining mentality. A few months to a few years was the amount of time Paul spent in these communities. When he left them they were for all practical purposes self sustaining communities of Christ followers. How in the world did he do this on such a shoestring budget? The reality of Jesus and his resurrection was tremendously good news. Paul started them right. In today’s church world we seem to lay all sorts of other ‘foundations’. Faith, prosperity, healing, the ‘house church’; all good things in their proper place, but the reality of Christ seems to take second place. Also, Paul did not institute the pastoral office that we have come to depend on in the modern church. He did establish Elders, but he did not leave a ‘professional minister’ as the primary functioning ‘elder’ in their midst. Why is this important to see? Because when people are given ‘crutches’ they will use them! If momma eagle never kicks baby eagle out of the nest, then baby eagle will wind up on food stamps [Don’t feel bad if you are on them, I am just using this as an example]. In essence Paul built into the first century churches a self sustaining mindset. They were the church and they had the responsibility to represent Christ in their locals. They couldn’t pawn it off on ‘the pastor’. Paul would also do some writing. These letters would circulate throughout the communities and were regularly read by a literate believer in these churches. I know it’s common to think that the early believers ‘had bibles’ but this wasn’t the case. Paul’s letters were part of the early ‘canon’ but you wouldn’t have total agreement on the canon until around the 4th century. But these letters played a major role in ‘foundation laying’. The modern believer is primarily educated thru the sermon. Sermons are okay, but without literature, the job won’t get done. Say if your doctor, or mechanic or tax man told you ‘I have never been educated in school, but every Sunday I attended a lecture at the local lecture hall. I did this for 50 years. So let’s get on with the operation.’ Ouch! But we approach Christianity with this mindset. Paul wrote letters, short booklets if you will. These letters could be looked to as a stable source of doctrine for the early church. They would eventually be canonized and would be passed down to us 2 millennia later. We are reading from one right now.
[These 2 entries simply give scriptural evidence for the ongoing function of Apostles/Prophets today]
(739) ACTS 1- Luke, the writer of this book, feels the need to document the ongoing work of Jesus and his revolution. He already wrote a gospel and believes this to be the beginning of the story. In essence, the reality of Jesus and his resurrection are just the start, we have much more to do and become on this journey. Most writers jump to chapter 2. We have churches and music groups called ‘Acts chapter 2’. Why does Luke seem to wait till chapter 2 before getting to ‘the good stuff’? Chapter one records the 40 days of Jesus showing himself alive after his death. Luke feels this singular truth to be important enough to simply stand alone [I do realize the early letters did not have chapter and verse divisions like today]. The real physical fact of Jesus bodily resurrection is without a doubt the foundational truth of the gospel. The outpouring of the Spirit and the whole future of the church depends on the reality of the resurrected Christ. Paul will write the Corinthians and tell them if the resurrection were not true then they are the most miserable of all people. Luke tells us Jesus gave instructions for the Apostles to wait at Jerusalem for the Spirit. Thy will be witnesses of him to all the surrounding nations after the Spirit empowers them. We also see Peter emerge as the key spokesman for the group. He quotes freely from the Psalms and reads their own history into the book. He sees the prophetic verse from David on ‘let another take his office’ as referring to Judas betrayal and death. They cast lots and choose Matthias as the one to replace Judas. Peter shows the importance of Judas replacement to come from one that was with them thru out the earthly time of Jesus. Someone who saw and witnessed Jesus after the resurrection. Scholars have confused this with the ‘ascension gift Apostles’. Some scholars have taken the truth of the early Apostles having the criteria of being actual witnesses of Jesus, and have said ‘therefore, you have no Apostles today’. Paul will teach in Ephesians that after Jesus ascension on high he gave gifts unto men ‘some Apostles, others Prophets, etc.’ The New Testament clearly speaks of Apostles as an ongoing gift in the church. Barnabas will later be called an Apostles [Acts 14:14] as well as many other references in the original Greek using the same Greek word for Apostle. But here we find Peter seeing the need to replace Judas. Other scholars think Peter might have jumped the gun. They see Paul’s apostleship as the possible person the Lord picked out as the replacement. You do find Paul referring time and again to his Apostolic authority as one ‘born out of due time’ who saw Jesus on the Damascus road. If Paul was simply an ascension gift Apostle, why would he refer time and again to his authority based on being a witness who also saw Jesus? It’s possible that Paul was in this group of ‘Apostles of the Lamb’ who had extra authority based upon their testimony of being eyewitnesses. So in chapter one we see that Jesus appeared for 40 days giving instructions to the early leadership and told them to wait at Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We see the incarnational purpose of God, Jesus was and continues to be the express image of God to man. He was not some ‘phantom’ like the Docetists will claim, but a very real physical resurrected Lord. Luke begins the early history of the church with this reality being important enough to stand on its own.
HEBREWS commentary copyright 2007 John Chiarello www.copruschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com P.O. box 181256 C.C. Tx. 78480
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‘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.
(948) PROOF FOR GOD FROM THE LAW OF CAUSALITY- One of the foundational laws of man and physics is the law of causality [cause and effect]. In essence this law teaches us that every effect has a cause. Nothing can just happen on it’s own, some previous thing [or series of ‘things’] had to precede the event. This is basic scientific reality that cannot be denied. Now, this truth allows for only 2 possible scenarios to explain the existence of man and the universe. One idea says ‘there was no initial cause, or being who started the ball rolling. All you have had is an infinite number of past caused events’. This idea is contrary to the laws of logic and math. For instance, today we live in a certain time in history [11-2008]. There are real phenomena that surround us. Existence is without a doubt real. Now, for us to logically have arrived at this point in time, you had to have had a beginning point. If you hold to the old earth theory, you say the earth ‘happened’ around 5 billion years ago, the universe around 15 billion. Logically, this leads us to a future point in time where we can ‘be here’. There were so many events of the past that brought us to this time. No matter how you measure this, it can be measured. Now for the concept of an infinite number of past causes and events to have occurred, logically you could never arrive at ‘now’. Why? Because how many previous billions of events have to have occurred to bring us to the present? If there was never any starting point, then today could never have arrived! [I don’t want you guys to think I am nuts and making all this up, many brilliant thinkers use this as proof for Gods existence. It is an argument made that is consistent with the laws of logic]. In essence the only workable solution to this problem is there had to have been a ‘prime mover’ [Aquinas]. Someone who actually ‘caused’ the first event. Now don’t make the mistake that some smart men have made. They mistook the law of cause and effect to mean ‘every thing, or being had to have had a cause’. This is not what the law says. It says ‘every effect had a cause’. These two are not the same. So the belief that there was an infinite, eternal being who was around forever allows for there to be an initial ‘causer’. This idea is in keeping with the current accepted science of ‘big bang cosmology’ [that every thing started at a specific time in history]. This view allows for there to have been a definite first cause, which according to the laws of logic allow for us to ‘be here today’. Got it?
- 1st CORINTHIANS 4: 1-7 Paul says we are ‘stewards of Gods mysteries’. This hidden knowledge of the gospel that can only be revealed by divine revelation has been committed to us. These great treasures of God’s wisdom are not products of our own intellect, therefore there is no reason to glory in men! Paul says stuff like this in Romans 4 ‘if it is by grace that Abraham became righteous, then there are no grounds for boasting.’ Now, because of this reason we ‘ought not to think of each other in an exalted way’. All men [apostles, prophets, teachers] that you have received truth from are simply ‘carriers of a gift freely given’. When you check out a book from the library and it contains great truth, do you exalt the librarian for it? Of course not, she is just a ‘steward of the book’. So Paul says this about him and Apollos and all other human teachers. Paul also teaches that we all will be judged according to the motives and intents of our hearts. He could care less about the private judgments that others made of him, he realized that all men would give an account some day. Therefore why waste time trying to impress people, it is about the most useless thing a person can do. Why? Because all men are like grass, we are here today and gone tomorrow. How much effort would you make in trying to impress your lawn? It’s all wasted time. Paul is not degrading human dignity, he is battling with the mindset of men worship that the church was falling into. Jesus himself said he would not commit himself to man because he knew what was in man [John’s gospel]. What’s in man? Do you ‘know yourself’? Have you ever tried to impress people? Did you later realize what a useless waste of energy this endeavor was? Well all men are like you [and me!] so why waste your time doing something that has no lasting value. Paul said it concerned him very little, he knew God would some day see all of our motives. He focused on stuff that mattered for eternity.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 4: 8-20 Paul tells them he’s glad they have an abundance of material things, though he as an apostle is lacking. He’s happy about their sterling reputation [among the elite, though a bad reputation as believers- see chapter 5!] though he is mocked and treated badly. He even says ‘till this hour I labor, working with my own hands trying to make ends meet’. I don’t want to harp on this too much, but I am trying to show you one of the themes that we overlook in today’s pastoral ministry mindset. When we taught the book of Acts [chapter 20] I showed you how Paul purposely worked to leave an example TO THE ELDERS at Ephesus. He called them over to Mellitus and gave them these instructions as he was about to depart. Here we see Paul telling the Corinthians, in a letter [he is not with them at this time] that he is STILL working with his own hands. We often think Paul only worked while at Corinth, in order to not take offerings from them. But a careful reading of the New Testament will show you that Paul made a habit of working all thru out his life. He never became ‘a fulltime apostle’ who was supported thru his apostolic gift. Now we also see Paul send Timothy to them as a ‘carrier’ of doctrine and order. Paul wrote 3 pastoral [I prefer to call them apostolic] epistles. Titus and 1st and 2nd These brothers were Paul’s apostolic co-workers. They deposited the faith [basic Christian truth] into the communities they were overseeing. Paul knew he could trust them to ‘set things in order’ [an apostolic characteristic]. Some teach that in today’s ‘church world’ you can’t ‘have a church’ without the interplay of an apostle. That basically you need an apostle [in person] to interact with your community to keep things in order. Now, I think apostolic men are needed and helpful, but we also need to realize that we live in a day of mass communication like never before. The web, telecommunications. All sorts of stuff that Paul didn’t have. So let’s not be too dogmatic on stuff like this. I am sure Paul would have used these things if he had them. The basic thrust of Paul having a Timothy who could be sent to a community was for the purpose of seeing and impacting them in a ‘real time’ way. Paul was hearing rumors about their conduct, he is writing these letters to them. But he really needs to have ‘boots on the ground’, he needs to know firsthand what’s going on. Today this real time knowledge could be gained with a simple phone call, or e-mail. Paul also says Timothy will bring them into remembrance of his ways/teachings that Paul teaches ‘every where in every church’. Paul was depositing a consistent message of ‘faith and rule’ with all the churches he was planting. This of course didn’t mean the gentile churches had no individual expression of church life, but it did mean there were some consistent ‘rituals’ they were to follow. Things like we read in Acts ‘continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’ simple instructions on living as a community of people. The historic church has a tendency to use these verses to say ‘Paul taught high church liturgy’ well, not really. The ‘radical house church brothers’ [they describe themselves this way!] tend to teach that any consistent rule, or way ‘to act’ violates the ‘no leader rule’ [no pastor] and prohibits the free expression of the ecclesia. Well, this sounds noble, but Paul told the Corinthians ‘Timothy will show you my ways that I teach in all the churches’. It’s not wrong to have some basic order and instructions on ‘how to act, function as the New Testament ecclesia’.
- MORE PROOF FROM SCIENCE- Yesterday I went to pick up my daughter from the airport and picked up a science magazine to read while waiting. The magazine was the December 2008 issue of ‘Discover’. They had a real interesting article on the reality of ‘fine tuning’ in the universe and how the only viable alternative [apart from God] to try and explain this fine tuning is this theory of multiple universes. The article kept referencing God! The interviewer went into all the unbelievable scientific discoveries that have been made in the field of Physics these last few years. He explained how these truly unbelievable measurements that must exist in order for life and man to exist, that these measurements have no naturalistic rational explanation of how they ‘just happened to be exactly right’ [I explain fine tuning in the Evolution section]. The article quoted other scientists as saying ‘even though the concept of a multi-verse is very, very doubtful, yet it is the only excuse for not having a creator in your system of belief’. The person being interviewed admitted that he did not want to accept the God explanation. The interviewer challenged him on the absolute shallow idea of a multi-verse [this is absolutely not true science!]. The scientist admitted the doubtfulness of the whole theory, but then said ‘what other options do we have? It must be true, because there is no other explanation apart from God’. The article was very revealing. The obvious bias of the defender of the multi-verse concept came thru clearly. The other scientists admitted the possibility of God as being the only true answer to the problem. They even showed the utter foolishness of the multi-verse theory as being true science. The fact that the ‘God question’ came up over and over again made me stop and look at the cover of the magazine to make sure I wasn’t reading this article from Christianity Today [Okay, I am exaggerating for effect]. The interviewer [also a scientist] explained the anthropic principle to the tee! This principle being the fact that the universe and all of its unbelievable components seem to be existing for the sole purpose of serving man. Returning to the old idea that things exist for mans benefit, man isn’t simply a blip on the cosmic radar screen. This concept was supposedly ‘undone’ by the Copernican revolution when he revealed that our Solar system was Heliocentric as opposed to Geocentric [the earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around]. But all the recent developments in cosmology have turned the tables back to the idea that the universe really does exist, and has been designed for the purpose of mans survival. The multi-verse concept is a theory without any proof. Even if it were proven to be true, it still does not explain the obvious problem of ‘where did this universe spewing machine come from? How in the world did we ever arrive at a time in history where some unknown, non existent universe duplicator simply popped into existence from nothing?’ the multi-verse in reality is a desperate attempt to not believe in a creator. Even if it were proven true, you still haven’t really solved the problem.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 5:1-7 Okay, now we get into some tough stuff. Paul tells them that he has heard about a situation where one of the brothers is sleeping with his step-mom [fathers wife, though probably not his mother]. And the rebuke is they are not repenting over it, but instead are kind of proud of the whole thing! Paul says to ‘deliver him to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Now I already showed you the way I view this verse. I tried to follow the other times where Paul speaks this way in this letter and when using this type of language I see him speaking of physical death [chapter 11- sleep-death as judgment to a believer who sins]. I often ‘day dream’ how bout you? I’m not sure if it’s the lord at times trying to tell me stuff. One of my noble fantasies is I can picture myself as the sole Christian preacher who has survived some nuclear holocaust and I am responsible to train the survivors. In this scenario [I am kinda ad libbing here, I don’t day dream this much!] I have both Catholic and Protestant believers. Although I am tempted to raise this new generation of people as Protestants, I instead teach the Catholics true Catholic doctrine [though I don’t fully agree with it all] and I teach the Protestants their stuff. Now, I think this little day dream in some way speaks to what I need to do at times on this blog. I need to honestly tell both sides! In this verse ‘commit to satan for the destruction of the flesh’ some do see it a little differently. You can read ‘flesh’ as meaning ‘fleshly nature’. Paul does use the word this way at times. You can’t really make the distinction by going to the Greek. Instead you have to simply look at the context. So this view would be saying ‘deliver this believer to the enemy, don’t allow him to remain ‘in the camp’ and continue to receive the benefits of the believing community. As you ostracize him he will feel the effect of not being with you, he will come to his senses and leave his sin’ [which in this scenario is ‘his fleshly nature’] so the ‘destruction of the flesh’ in this interpretation would fit in well with Arminians. Now, do I believe it this way? No, but I sure feel noble, sort of like the Protestant preacher in my ‘day dream’. [p.s. if you tell anybody about this day dream, I will deny it!]
- Yesterday I managed to catch a few TV shows that were good. National geographic did a special called ‘the first Christians’. It was excellent. They covered more historic truth in one hour than you would get from years of sermons. They basically taught the New Testament word for ‘church’ [Ecclesia] and showed how because the early Christians did not believe the ‘church’ was a building, that therefore they spread rapidly without lots of money. They then covered the historic development of the ‘church building’ and the effect this had on them. They also got into the ‘end times’ scenarios that are played out over and over again by today’s prophecy teachers. They interviewed true theologians who put Johns Revelation in historical context. Just an excellent job overall. I also caught the show ‘Journey Home’ on E.W.T.N. [the Catholic channel]. I do like the show, it often gives good historical stuff. Last night they were a little ‘too Catholic’ [I know, what should I expect]. They had a good brother on who left ‘non-denominational Christianity’ and became Catholic. Now, most of these brothers are very intelligent believers who make this choice out of sincerity. They usually study the early church fathers and realize the ‘Catholic tone’ of these early believers. I simply felt the brother who spoke last night was a little too critical of his former church experience [Willow Creek]. I then caught Scott Hahn [an excellent Catholic scholar and apologist], he always has stuff that interests me. He brought up an argument I have heard before on how the early church saw the ‘real presence of Christ’ as being in the Eucharist. Others have made this argument before from the Catholic perspective of Jesus being with us, as opposed to the detractors arguments that he misled the early followers to think that he would soon return and set up a literal earthly kingdom. I have heard and do understand this reasoning. In essence it defends Jesus and his followers by saying ‘Jesus didn’t let down the early church by not returning and ‘being with them’ he was with them all along thru the Eucharist’ good intentions. I would prefer to argue the same point thru the fulfilling of the Fathers promise and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus says in John’s gospel ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you’ it is understood by most theologians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually refers to the Spirit as ‘One just like unto myself’. The new testament very Cleary speaks of the Holy Spirit as Gods presence tabernacling among us in a real way. So in my thinking I would prefer to argue the real presence of Christ as being among the early believers as fulfilled thru the Comforter. Overall it was a good night of viewing some good teachers. I also couldn’t help but notice how I have been skipping over the ‘more popular’ preaching shows of the day. I did click on one of the prophecy guys, he was defending ‘the rapture’ and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the good theological discussions from the earlier shows, and the ‘silliness’ of what this brother was teaching. I don’t want to demean you if you hold to the rapture theory, it was just such an obvious ‘step down’ from the level of theologian to the level of popular prophecy preaching. In our current study of Corinthians we just went thru the verse ‘though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have only one father’ [Paul referring to himself]. I couldn’t help but get this sense of the modern seen. You could flip thru all the religious broadcasting of our day and get every possible conceivable viewpoint on some subject, ten thousand of them! But there is a consistent voice of truth and wisdom that comes to us from both scripture and church history/tradition. I think we would be better off sticking with ‘the father[s]’.
- NOW IT’S A PARALLEL/BUBBLE UNIVERSE! I watched the first TV special I ever saw on the multi-verse theory. I think it’s the first one of its kind by the history channel. It was very eye opening. It seems as if its defenders have been told ‘your initial argument is nonsensical’ and they have made some adjustments. As you read down thru the Evolution section you will see that one of the arguments against a multi-verse is that it is a ‘non physical’ argument. It is metaphysical. This meaning that you could never truly prove the existence of another universe thru the science of Physics. Why? Because the original definition of ‘the universe’ was every thing that exists in the time/space continuum. If by definition, all that can be seen or detected is ‘part of our universe’ then how in the world can you detect something outside of it? [they have some ideas on this, but its pure speculation as of right now] Once you detect it, it, by definition is in our universe! Well the brothers now realize that they fell into this obvious contradiction, so they seem to be moving the goal posts a little. In the special I just saw, they now seem to be saying that our universe is simply one ‘bubble of universes’ that’s floating around in space [before, space and the universe were synonymous!] so they seem to be simply shrinking down the definition of universe and making it mean ‘our closed existing time space continuum, which is simply one of many’ Ahh, you guys are cheating with his one! But hey, how many viewers realized this? That’s the problem with these theories, they come up with them for the purpose of having another explanation for existence, but they then get into more trouble trying to keep their theory alive. Remember, the reason this theory started in the first place was to come up with some type of explanation, apart from God, to explain the fine tuning of the Cosmos [read my sections on fine tuning under Evolution]. The unbelievable fine measurements that have been found to be exactly right to support life have no other real explanation apart from a creator. The multi-verse theory simply says ‘well, if you have millions and billions of unseen universes [pure speculation!] then the odds on one of them getting it right just went up’. So this theory was originally floated for this reason. Now, even if this theory were ever proved [according to the new definition of the universe!] it would simply mean that instead of trying to figure out how ‘our universe got here’ [the original question] now we have to figure out how they all got here! It really proves nothing. But I thought it interesting to see how these giants of Academia now realize that they were violating the basic laws of logic by espousing the theory in its original form! [In essence, all these so called floating, bubble like universes would have originally fallen under the heading of ‘the universe’. You wouldn’t have seen them as a bunch of separate universes. But they had to change the definition in order to keep their argument in the boundaries of logic and common sense]. They also borrowed from Einstein’s theory on worm holes. But Einstein surmised that worm holes might be these tunnels in space/time that one could travel thru and exit at another dimension, a different location of the universe. He did not use this idea as traveling from one ‘bubble universe’ into another, like the proponents of the multi-verse were doing. The show then got too silly to even give it a speck of serious thought. They then theorized that there are possible duplicates of us, and duplicates of other sports teams and presidents and all types of stuff. They thought it possible for the Giants to have won the super bowl in one universe, though losing it in ours [and you call this science!] they even said that this theory has moral implications. How did they come up with this? One of them explained that you could be ‘good’ in one universe, but if you realize that this holy altar image of yourself is doing good somewhere else, then this might effect your choice of being righteous in ‘this universe’ WOW! As we continue our study thru the book of Corinthians, keep in mind Paul’s teaching on the foolishness of men’s wisdom, I think we just saw a good example of it. There is this stature that we give in our modern day to any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ that comes down the pike with any nonsensical idea. We see them as a special class, the Academics can’t be wrong! After all it sounds intellectual. A few centuries before Christ you had the great philosopher ‘Philo- Betto’ [O wait, that was Clint Eastwood’s character in ‘every which way but lose!’] I mean Plato. Truly Plato and Aristotle and Socrates have had tremendous influence on Western thought. You would be hard pressed to find other later philosophers who have had the same influence [maybe Immanuel Kant]. Plato built this great school of learning in ancient Greece. He bought the land from a man by the name of ‘Academe’. Eventually we would call this pursuit of knowledge ‘the Academic world’ or Academia. Hey, don’t be intimidated by these guys.
- 1st CORINTHIANS 5:6-8 Okay, lets get back to Corinthians. ‘Your glorying is not good, get rid of the old leaven. Don’t you know that a little yeast can affect the whole lump? Get rid of it, you are all unleavened, Christ is our new Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [my own paraphrasing]. A few things. I want you to see something here, over the years I have read and studied lots of great theologians. It is common for these brothers to go back to the reality of the early church fathers belief in the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist [Lords supper]. It is also becoming less common [in theological circles!] to defend the symbolic view of the Lords Supper. I believe Paul is presenting the idea of all believers spiritually sitting at the ‘table of life’ on a daily basis and receiving from Christ’s new life in a spiritual/symbolic way. He clearly says ‘let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [clearly symbolic!] Peter writes of the new sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Jesus speaks in an interesting way about this in John chapter 6. The Jews ask him ‘show us a sign, Moses gave us bread to eat from heaven. If you’re from God then prove it like Moses’. I find it interesting that in the key chapter of Jesus being the bread that comes down from heaven, the conversation turns to Moses. The beginning of the chapter does say the Passover feast was getting close, but the imagery is Moses and Manna. Moses represented the Old system of law and works, John’s gospel tells us that ‘the law came from Moses, but grace and truth from Jesus’. Jesus contrasts himself with Moses. He says ‘I am the real bread that has come down from heaven, if men eat my flesh and drink my blood they will live’. Now we must understand the tremendous offence this statement caused. The Jewish people had Levitical laws [commands in their law] that forbid the drinking of any type of blood, never mind the blood of a person! But yet Jesus would speak this way to them. In the conversation the hearers acknowledge the difficulty of the saying, Jesus will say ‘the flesh profits nothing, it is the Spirit that gives you life. The words I am speaking to you are Spirit and life’. At the last supper [which was the symbolic end of the Passover and the beginning of a new celebratory meal centered on the final scarf ice of Jesus, the Lamb of God] Jesus seems to be saying ‘from now on, as long as you do this, you are showing my death until I come again’ [we get this from Paul later on in Corinthians]. As you put all of this imagery together, you get the sense of the New Covenant being one of an ongoing continual New Covenant meal from which all believers daily eat from and ‘keep the feast with the new leaven of truth and sincerity, not the old leaven of sin and wickedness’. You clearly see a symbolic element in this language. Now, I do not discount the importance of the actual ordinance of the Lords Table. I recently defended the Catholic idea to an ex Catholic who is now Protestant. They said ‘how can people believe something so silly’ I had to say that many serious intellectual believers accept the Real Presence doctrine by faith in the literal reading of Jesus words. Luther himself believed it, he made no bones about it when he slammed his fist on the table in his dispute with Zwingli and said ‘this IS MY BODY!’ Standing for the literal interpretation of the sacrament. John Wesley, the founder of the great Methodist movement, wrote many hymns speaking of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So make no mistake about it, many good believers hold to the literal belief. I just wanted you to see that it is also in keeping with the scripture to see the entire Christian walk as one huge ongoing ‘feast’ that is kept with spiritual sacrifices and symbolic language. Jesus is the bead that came down from heaven, those who would stay with ‘Moses bread’ [law] would die, those who would eat from this new table would live forever.
- EMERGENT STUFF- yesterday I spent most of the day reading up on the Emergent movement and its trends. I am not one of those critics who never actually reads the books that these brothers put out. Nor am I one of the guys who simply reads to find fault. A few years back I read ‘The sacred way’ by Tony Jones. I enjoyed the book. I incorporated some of the ideas [Jesus prayer] into my prayer time. And I even begin my intercession time with the historic crossing of myself [in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit] this was nothing new to me, I did grow up Catholic and was confirmed and made my communion in the church. Now, what do I see as a little dangerous [others see a whole lot that’s wrong]. Some of the teachings say ‘Jesus really didn’t come to start a new movement, he was a Jew who was simply incorporating others into Judaism’. Also lots of talk on the Sabbath and the religious rhythm of the ancient church. Fixed time prayers and stuff like that. Okay things that many believers practice. But all of this type of talk needs to include why so many Evangelicals do not practice these rituals. One big reason is because the New Testament has a theme of grace that teaches us that Jesus did institute a ‘new religion’ [new covenant] that fulfilled all the types and symbols of the old. Paul would rebuke the early believers for wanting to return back to these things [Galatians, Colossians]. He would say ‘you are observing days and seasons and old covenant rites, I fear for you’. Paul did not teach the Sabbath as an ongoing practice for the Gentile churches. There were SOME symbols left to us [Lords Supper, baptism- I wouldn’t argue with other Christians who have a few more] but the overall Ethos of this New kingdom was not one of liturgy and symbol, it was one of fulfillment. I liked Tony’s book, but some of the ideas could easily lead a new believer down the road of legalism. If we put [or offer] too many ritualistic practices back into the New Covenant community of grace, then we are in danger of going back under a legalistic mindset. Now, what about the issues of slavery and women in the church and homosexuality [gee, you think I might be biting off a little too much?] This conversation says ‘just like preachers used scripture to defend slavery, but later the church needed to shape her overall view by the broad themes of scripture, as opposed to any single verse. So likewise we need to approach the issue of women in the pulpit and the ordaining of homosexuals thru the same lens’. Okay, I see some merit to this argument with the ordaining of women [some!] but the issue of sexual morality is different. The scripture never said ‘slavery is good, freedom is bad’. To the contrary scripture teaches the opposite. Now I have mentioned how you could justify slavery from certain passages, but freedom itself is never explicitly condemned. The scripture specifically condemns the sin of homosexuality, no bones about it [not just the Old Testament either]. Does this mean we should be mean and discriminate against the gay community, no. But we need to be open and honest about the way scripture deals with this issue. Some challenge the idea of scripture being authoritative in this way for our day. Well that’s an argument some make, but the Orthodox view of scripture doesn’t see it like that. So basically I think we need to be careful when telling new believers that Jesus never intended for the old rituals to pass away, he was starting a new revolutionary kingdom movement that would be free from the former restraints of the law. This is basic to the whole teaching of the NEW covenant.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 Now Paul clarifies what he meant when he said ‘don’t associate with those who sin sexually’. He wants to be clear that his instructions on ‘not being with sinners’ is not misunderstood. After all we are called salt and light, Jesus himself was accused of spending too much time with the lost. So Paul says ‘what I meant was don’t keep ongoing fellowship with a brother who is practicing unrepentant sin’. He also says ‘if you thought I meant all sinners in general, then heck you wouldn’t be able to live in society this way’. Some believers have taken a stand on ‘separation from the world’ in such a way that they have no unbelieving friends. Others seem to view the unbeliever as the enemy. Sort of like we are in this culture war and the enemy is YOU! I can’t even watch the O’Reilly factor [Fox news] too long, he says he’s fighting this culture war and then in the ads for upcoming shows he shows the raciest pictures on any news show. What’s up with that? I feel we need to make the distinction between separating from a sinning brother [for his own good] and having friendships with unbelievers. People you can influence down the road. Paul also says if we judge our own [by shunning them for their own good] that this is a type of ‘present chastening’ that believers do experience. But those who are ‘outside the camp’ [unbelievers] are left to be judged by God. We see this same theme in chapter 11 ‘when we are judged we are disciplined by the Lord so we will not be condemned with the world’ [at the final judgment]. I believe that this idea is one of the best arguments for eternal security [once saved, always saved. Though I don’t like this language, you get the hint]. The concept of believers being presently dealt with for sin, even to the possible point of physical death, seems to indicate that they will not face a future judgment like the lost [eternal damnation]. When we recently did one of our Old Testament studies, I overlooked a verse that said to King David ‘I will raise up one of your sons [Solomon/Jesus- dual Messianic prophecy] and he will build this new temple/people. The way I will deal with the people under this new covenant is, if they commit sins, I will chasten them, but I will not utterly take my mercy from them’ [my paraphrasing- it is said to the actual son, Solomon/Jesus, but in the New Covenant revelation of the church actually being part of the Body of Christ, this is how you could apply it]. You can also read this idea in a few other places. I think Jeremiah uses it ‘I will give them a new heart and I will put my Spirit in them’ and he also speaks about not being totally rejected if they commit sin under this new covenant. So the point is, if there is a mechanism under this new covenant whereby sin is dealt with in the present time, and if this is compared to the other choice which is ‘judgment at a later time’. This would seem to indicate a type of ‘in house discipline’ that says ‘if you openly sin now, God will judge you now. He does this for your own good, so you won’t face the judgment of the unbeliever at the end’. So the fact that some were sinning, even pretty badly! Did not mean that they were expelled completely from the benefits of the covenant. As a matter of fact, temporal excommunication itself was one of the benefits! I don’t want to be too dogmatic on this, I just want you to see a repeated theme in scripture that says God will deal with his kids in the here and now [no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous- Hebrews] but this in itself is a blessing that is designed to ‘produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby’ Hebrews.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 1-7 Paul rebukes them for taking each other to court. He tells them ‘don’t you have any wise people among you who could handle this? Why go before unbelievers!’ he also tells them ‘plus, why even fight for your rights, if you think you have been wronged in some way by your brother, then simply see it as part of the cost of carrying your cross’. Paul contradicts the prevalent mindset in much of Christianity today. He doesn’t teach ‘get what’s yours, know your rights!’ he teaches the ethos of self denial, of living with the expectation of giving up your rights and dreams. Of taking loss, if it glorifies the Father. Now we get into some ‘stuff’. Paul appeals to them by saying ‘don’t you realize that we shall judge angels some day, we shall judge the world’. A few years back there was a debate going on in theological circles. Some theologians popularized a new way to look at God’s sovereignty. This new system was called ‘Open Theism’. Scholars like Clark Pinnock and others held out the possibility that God doesn’t foreordain all future events, they actually went further and said ‘he doesn’t know all future events’. Well of course this sparked off a firestorm among the Calvinists. Does scripture teach that God is sovereign and does know all that will happen? To be honest about it, yes. But the idea of open theism was saying ‘because God has chosen to give man free will, he, by his own design, has chosen to limit his knowledge in the area of knowing all of mans future choices’. In essence that God purposely ‘does not know’ the future outcomes of decisions that have not been made by humans. If free will is real [of course the Calvinists say no] then God must limit himself to knowledge in these areas. I personally do not believe this, but I think I needed to share it to explain this section of scripture. Paul does tell them they will judge the world and angels. In second Peter 2, the apostle says the fallen angels are being held for a future day of judgment. In Matthew [19-?] Jesus says those who follow him will play a part in a future ruling over human government. These scriptures do indicate that believers will play a role in future judgment scenarios. So if we ‘judge angels and the world’ we should be able to arbitrate between ourselves! Now, in the world of theology you have sincere questions on ‘is it fair for God to judge people who have never heard the gospel’ or ‘if God is truly sovereign in all things, even in predestinating certain people to salvation, then this is unfair’. Many have turned to universalism, or a belief in ‘no hell’ in order to quell these questions. I want to simply float a scenario to you. Jesus says ‘whosoever sins you remit [forgive] they are forgiven. Those you retain [not forgive] will be retained’ while there are differing views on these verses, I want you to see how these scriptures, in keeping with all that I just showed you, might leave us room for another possible way out of all the so called questions on Gods ‘fairness’. Say if at the judgment, we are all gathered [Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics,…] and say if we are all waiting to see who’s right ‘I’ll show that Arminian…I’ll show that Catholic…’ and we are at the day where the future destinies of millions are at stake. What will God do? It’s possible that much of the final decision will rest in the hands of the church. I know it sounds heretical, but keep in mind all the verses I just quoted to you. Say if all of our pompous pontificating [wow!] amongst varying theories of the atonement and universalism and all the other stuff. Say if Jesus turns to us and says ‘You are now going to make the most important judgment of your lives, you shall judge the world and angels’ and all of a sudden all of our scrutiny of God’s fairness turns on us. We see in the crowd of masses, faces of people who we hate. People who have been demonized by history [Darwin, Hitler]. Those we always wondered about [eastern religions] and now much of their final destiny rides on us. Even the possibility of fallen angels being forgiven! [Hey, maybe Origin was right?] The whole point of this scenario is to simply say we might have been asking the wrong questions all along. Now for sure, no one gets in without Jesus and his blood! But there are also a few other verses [Peter] that seem to indicate a second hearing [or first!] of the gospel before the final day. The point being how willing are you to really carry out something like this? Are you really ready for the great responsibility of having someone’s destiny depend on how forgiving you are? I really don’t believe 100 % in this scenario I just floated. But Jesus does put us in positions of responsibility all thru out our lives. He does say ‘whoever’s sins we don’t forgive, these sins will be held against them by your own choice’ we keep people in ‘chains of bondage’ today! Never mind the future. God has committed to us great responsibility as believers, if we are still fighting each other over insignificant things [taking our brothers to court, if you will] then we are truly not ready to ‘Judge the world’.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 8-20 Paul paints a ‘canvas’ of those who will not inherit the Kingdom. The list not only includes the big ones, but also the ‘average Joe’. Homosexuals, covetous, straight people who commit sexual sin; just the whole gambit. I do want to stress that Paul is not politically correct, he does categorize homosexuality as sin. He is not simply saying ‘non monogamous homosexuality’ but all types. I know there is an honest effort being made to try as much as possible to be more inclusive of other people’s views and lifestyles. I am for this approach as much as possible, but we also need to be honest about sin, all sin. Now covetous is that strong desire to amass wealth, it is the daily longing and confessing and believing for more material abundance. Yes folks, it’s what many of us have been duped into thru wrong teaching. I had a homeless friend who used to tell me how his dad, who was retired, used to wake up every day and simply consume his day with the stock market and how his retirement was going, he didn’t realize that he made the funding of his retirement [an okay goal] the main thought pattern of his life. I also just saw a story similar to this on some business channel. We need to be ‘ware’ of covetousness. Now Paul makes special mention of the destructive nature of sexual sin, he says ‘it destroys you’. I have been reading Proverbs the last month or so and there are many warnings about sexual sin. It says ‘he that does this destroys his own soul’. A few years back I watched [or read?] a local story of a professor who came down with a disease called Dementia. As they shared his story they described the progressive nature of him slowly losing his mind, and how his family eventually brought him back home [he was not married, his parents took him in] as they shared the sad story, they kinda of tactfully said ‘one of the possible signs of this disease is obsessive compulsive sexual behavior’. They basically were saying part of this mans history included obsessive sexual sin. I wonder if the dementia in some way is a result of the behavior, as opposed to a symptom. There was also as study done years ago that showed the difference in the brain scans of Homosexuals and Heterosexuals, they seemed to have found some real physical brain distinctions. But once again, is it possible that sexually engaging in certain sinful behaviors is actually ‘destroying the soul’, or causing a change in the brain? Paul singled out this sin [not just Homosexual behavior, but all sexual sin!] as causing actual damage to a person’s physical make up in a way that was more damaging than other sins. I think we all need to heed his warning. [note- sexual sin is a common struggle in life. Many believers do struggle and have fallen into this sin. Paul actually is addressing these sins because of the prevalence of the problem. I don’t want to condemn any one who reads this site and struggles this way, Paul is offering hope and forgiveness thru out this letter. He seems to be extra harsh with the Corinthians because of their lax attitude towards this sin].
- MATT 24:36-39 what in the world does ‘as it were in the days of Noah’ mean? Let’s go on a rabbit trail today. The other day I took my daughter to the Laundromat [our dryer broke!] and had some ‘down time’ to kill. So I grabbed a few news papers and sat in the truck while listening to Christian radio. I heard an old time brother who has broadcast on the station I am on for years. They are good Christians, from the ‘tribe’ of dispensationalism. The fundamentalist ‘King James only’ type. They taught a little on the verse above. I also recently saw a TV evangelist [may there tribe decrease] deal with the verse. The TV brother, who by the way also had the same type of fundamentalist background, taught his own spin on the verse. He said ‘just like in Noah’s day, you had aliens/fallen angels visit the earth and cohabitate with women, so Jesus taught that near the end time there would be an increase in u.f.o. sightings’ [ouch!] The radio brothers have taught that just like Noah entered into the ark, so the church would be raptured before Christ comes, because Jesus said ‘just like the days of Noah’. If you read the passage [Matt. 24:36-39] Jesus plainly tells you what he means. He is not talking about aliens or ‘raptures’ he is simply warning the people about the suddenness of the coming judgment day. Jesus is saying ‘just like in Noah’s day, the people were marrying and partying and living it up, right until the day when Noah entered the ark, and then the flood came and caught them off guard. So shall it be in the day when the son of man returns’. Basically Jesus is saying the people of Noah’s day didn’t give heed to the warnings of Noah, they probably looked at him as some nut! But their lethargy and sinful state put them in a position that caught them off guard. Sure enough the judgment that Noah warned about did come. So Jesus is warning people not to be caught off guard like the people of Noah’s day. Now, why would preachers take these types of verses and teach aliens and raptures? For the most part this branch of Christianity means well, there are times where I have learned interesting facts and stuff from them. But there is an approach to scripture that says ‘because Gods word [King James] is perfect [true] therefore we can find all these hidden meanings that are not in the original context’. Is this what the historical doctrine of verbal inspiration teaches? Not in a million years. The reformers taught that scripture still needed to be seen thru the historic churches understanding. They did teach that all believers had the right to expect God to speak to them thru his word, but they did not teach the type of private interpretation as seen above. To the contrary you had other radicals who were reading the book of Revelation [or more commonly known as ‘the Revelations’J] and began seeing themselves as the end time witnesses who were to establish the New Jerusalem on the earth. They would mount a violent rebellion and get killed! These groups were straying outside of the magisterial reformers ideas on scripture. Though it seemed silly to hear some of the recent preaching on Noah’s day, these types of ideas can become dangerous if they lead us away from the actual meaning of Gods word. Even though these brothers highly value the doctrine of verbal inspiration [their view of it] they do a disservice to Christian learning when thy do stuff like this.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 7:1-15 Paul addresses divorce. It is interesting that Jesus himself actually raised the bar from the Old Covenant practice to the New. In most other areas he emphasized grace as opposed to law ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ but in this area Jesus said ‘Moses made an exception under the law for divorce, but from the beginning this was not Gods plan’ and Jesus restricted divorce to the cause of adultery only. Here Paul gives some direction. First, you shouldn’t divorce. You also shouldn’t be married to an unbeliever. Well, what should happen to those who were unbelievers when they married, but now one is a believer? Paul says if the unbeliever is ‘pleased’ to stay in the union, then that’s fine. Well what does ‘pleased’ mean? If the unbeliever is physically abusing his spouse, then that doesn’t seem ‘pleasing’ to me. Paul will say if the unbeliever departs, let them go. The believer should not feel condemned by this. He/she had no control in this case. But if there is a divorce, let the one who left remain unmarried. So what happens if you were forced into it, can you re marry? Paul does not specifically say. He does say to the one who left the marriage, they should not remarry. Divorce is a tricky issue. When attending the fundamental Baptist church they taught that if one were divorced they could never be ‘a Pastor’ [even though no one was ‘a pastor’ in this way in the first century church!]. Many teach that Paul’s instructions on Bishops/Elders said a divorced person should not be an overseer. Paul actually said ‘they should be the husband of one wife’. This most certainly could simply be saying they shouldn’t be in a plural marriage. This was common in the first century, so you could take it this way. Overall I find it strange that someone could have been a murderer [Paul] or any other type of sinner, but the divorcee’ seems to be the only sinner that is excluded. The other problem is how much of ‘a believer’ were you at the time of your divorce. There have been well known preachers who initiated the divorce from their wives, they remarried and later wanted this to be treated as any other sin, just forgive and forget. The problem is if you were wise enough in the lord to have known better, then true repentance would entail making things right. Whether that’s reconciliation or simply remaining single, but it sure seems like these types of brothers who went into the whole remarriage thing with their eyes wide open, they should be held to a higher standard. Overall, we should not be in bondage to things that were out of our control. Those who were victimized and the partner left you, you should not be condemned for something that was out of your control. Believers who initiate the divorce from someone who was willing to stay in the marriage, they should not remarry. There have been too many cases where believers divorce other believers, without biblical grounds, and then remarry someone from the church. These situations are not permitted. If the believing spouse was simply ‘difficult to live with’ then that doesn’t cut it. In situations where there was actual physical abuse, well I don’t believe the Lord wants you to stay in the house under these circumstances. But the only biblical excuse for divorce, according to Jesus, is adultery. In all of these gray areas, wisdom must be applied. The high profile ministers who have initiated their divorces and remarried, without the proper biblical grounds, should not be simply ‘forgiven’ and permitted to continue in their public role in ministry. True forgiveness and restoration would entail some sort of repentance and a public change in the situation. Like Paul says ‘to the rest speak I, not the Lord’. I am giving you my opinion on some of this stuff, but I too think I have the Spirit of Christ.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 7:16-24 ‘Were you circumcised when you were called into the Christina life? Then don’t become uncircumcised’ [that would be quite a feat!] ‘Were you uncircumcised when called? Don’t get circumcised’. What’s Paul saying? Basically he is keeping the decrees that were made at the Jerusalem council [Acts 15]. He is stressing the importance of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. To the Jew, he is not saying ‘keep trying to become justified by the law and sacrifices’ but he is saying ‘I am not trying to wipe out your culture and heritage, I am trying to bring you into the fullness of what the Prophets have foretold’. This is Paul’s ongoing defense in the book of Acts ‘I stand condemned because I believe that what the prophets said would happen, did!’. Paul says the thing that matters is ‘the doing of Gods commandments’. When we studied Romans I showed how Paul did say ‘the hearers of the law are not justified, but the doers shall be’. Here again Paul stresses the importance of the Christian life being one of true conversion. Those who believe are changed and become doers of Gods law by nature. The mechanism of conversion is Faith, the outworking of that conversion is obedience. So even though Paul is not putting the law on the gentile converts, yet he does teach that they will by nature keep the law [Romans again]. Now he says ‘were you a slave when called? Seek not to become free. Were you free? Don’t become a slave’ and ‘be not the servants/slaves of men’. We actually have hit on this a few times in recent months. Once again Paul says ‘don’t see this new faith as an opportunity to mount a civil disobedience campaign’ but at the same time he makes it clear ‘don’t put yourself under servitude either!’ The New Testament does not justify the institution of slavery or racism! The basic ethos of this new kingdom is freedom from bondage, it was only a matter of time before this new movement would shake the foundations of society and uproot this evil. Make no mistake about it, the anti-slavery movement was instigated by the people of God [William Wilberforce, Charles Finney and many others].
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 7: 25-40 let’s be a little unconventional today. This passage deals with Paul’s counsel on celibacy and marriage. The historic church has had a bad rap on this issue. It is common today to say the church devalued marriage [and sex] and therefore we should exalt it. Sometimes this attempt at trying to correct the perceived imbalance puts a stumbling block in the way of those who are truly called to live the single life. Though marriage is an honorable thing, a true gift from God, yet living the celibate life can also be considered a very noble thing. It is rare in contemporary evangelicalism to leave this option open. Paul does say this option is not only available, but a noteworthy calling! He also makes it clear that only those who are called to this single lifestyle should attempt it. The church should not force celibacy on people. Now, do our catholic brothers force it upon the Priests? In a way, yes. But don’t forget that no one is ‘forced’ into the priesthood. Some feel like the scandals of catholic priests who abused children can be blamed on forced celibacy. The problem with this idea is many protestant ministers have also fallen sexually, and they were not celibate! The point being we need to be careful when we brand any Christian denomination with an accusation. Now, Paul also makes an interesting statement that we need to look at. He says ‘for the present distress I give these guidelines’. Is it possible that Paul’s seeming harshness on marriage was due to the fact of some type of distress that he saw coming? Possibly the Neronic persecutions? If so, Paul could be saying ‘because of the upcoming severe persecution I recommend everyone just laying low for the time, if married, seek not to be single and vice a versa’. This is possible, we need to keep this in mind when reading this section of scripture. But most of all I think the modern evangelical church needs to retool her message in this area. Marriage and sex are good, God ordained these things in their proper place. But living single and celibate is also considered a very noble calling, we do not normally reflect this balance in the present atmosphere. Also as an aside, a few years back it was common to teach ‘the world/public schools have taken sex and taught it to our kids. They have usurped the job of the family/church’ while there is some truth to this, the problem was some well known TV evangelists began to discuss sex in the Sunday morning setting that was improper in a way [If you local Pastors who read this have done this, be assured I am not talking about you!]. I remember watching a national minister speak openly, with grandma’s and children in the service, and say ‘now speaking about sexual climax’ Yikes!! Just because the family/church dropped the ball on these issues, this doesn’t mean there are no barriers at all while dealing with these issues. Those who do this type of stuff seem to be saying ‘sex is not a dirty thing, therefore we need to bring it out into the open’ while this is true to a degree, there are also age appropriate subjects that should be taught in a private setting. If the church feels the need to delve into these subjects, we need to be careful that we are not crossing boundaries when doing it.
- MORE PROOF FOR GOD- Okay, what’s up with ‘dark matter’? In the 20th century the amazing breakthroughs in science showed us that what we thought was a limited universe, was actually a growing universe that was expanding at a faster rate every day. The further out you got, the faster it was expanding. This discovery [Hubble] worked in harmony with Einstein’s theories. This discovery also created a problem. If the universe is so much more vast than previously thought to be, then the amount of known matter needed in the universe in order to maintain the proper gravitational force was not there. Basically you need so much matter to exist in order for this newly discovered expanding universe to hold together and function right. The problem is that the matter is not there![some say it is still not detected]. So the theory of ‘dark matter’ [unseen, undetected matter] has been floated. This invisible matter is supposedly the single greatest matter in existence, though we have no proof that even one tiny particle exists! Ahh, when stuff like this happens, we need to pay close attention. Why? Well some who defend the young earth theory of creation use this to back up their claim of a young universe. It’s kinda technical stuff, but this ‘dark matter’ has to be there to defend the old age theory [for some!]. Another problem is we have absolutely no proof that this dark matter exists. It is simply believed in because the naturalistic explanation demands it! Sort of like coming to a part in a puzzle where a piece doesn’t fit, so you simply make something fit. Now, the bible does teach that the vast universe is held together [a key role of so called dark matter] by Christ’s absolute power. The other explanation for how the vast universe is able to function smoothly, without the needed matter to create the huge amount of gravity, is that God himself is holding all things together by his omnipotence. In essence, we need God for this puzzle to fit. I am not saying the idea of dark matter is totally false, but as far as we know today, there is no proof that it exists. We as believers should not take an anti scientific stance on everything, to the contrary, true science always backs up the Christian world view [in general] but we also need to be suspicious when science floats an idea that can be explained by the existence of a creator. If the idea is simply out there, with no proof at all [the multi-verse] then we certainly have the right to challenge whether the whole thing is a bunch of ‘dark [invisible] matter’!
- 1st CORINTHIANS 8- Once again Paul will deal with the issue of what’s clean or unclean, the Christians convictions. Corinth not only had low sexual standards, but also much idolatry. This led to a problem of whether or not believers should purchase the meat sold in the market that was used for idol worship. After the sacrifice was made, whatever good meat was left could be sold on the streets. Now, Paul says the believer knows there is only one true God, so with this knowledge you are not sinning because you know the meat really wasn’t used to worship other gods, because there are no other Gods! But he also says that every man does not have this knowledge. So just like he taught the Romans, he teaches the Corinthians that in all of your freedom, the highest standard is whether you are building others up or tearing them down. If you have a free conscience to eat the meat, then fine, it is no sin to you. But if this liberty is offending the minds of those who are weaker in the faith, then your freedom just became a stumbling block and worked against the main goal of building others up. So the real question isn’t ‘can I do this with a clean conscience’ but ‘does my practice offend or build others up’? Many years ago I had a friend who smoked cigars, he was a believer and simply saw nothing wrong with it. We had a mutual friend who found out about it and bought some cigars and gagged on them. His conscience was emboldened to ‘eat the meat’ and by doing it he sinned. Why was cigar smoking sin to the weaker brother? Because he really wasn’t doing it out of a pure heart with a clean motive. Though the cigar smoker felt he had the freedom to smoke [it wasn’t an every day thing] yet his freedom caused another to fall. So Paul consistently takes this position in his letters. Some day we will get to other verses like ‘the things the gentiles offer to idols are being offered to demons, so don’t partake with them at the same table’ this is dealing with a different thing, I’ll explain it at another time. Paul also says ‘knowledge puffs up, but charity builds up’. One of the side trails believers can easily fall into is thinking the Christian life is simply an exercise is learning things. That is knowledge for knowledge’s sake. While Paul was not advocating ignorance, he was dealing with carnal believers who walked in pride. He was showing them that those who think they stand should be careful lest they fall. Paul was calling them to a higher purpose than just learning scripture and applying it for personal satisfaction, he was calling them to live sacrificially, to take the wrong done to you [legally in court stuff]. To give up the freedom to ‘smoke cigars’ if you will, for the sake of others. Paul was teaching them that it was possible to be right and have the answers to back up your position, but if you are truly not dieing to self, you are simply getting ‘puffed up’.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 9:1-14 Paul defends his apostleship and gives a strong defense for the New Testament doctrine of financially supporting Christian leaders. Now, I never want to be one of those types of teachers who skews or bypasses scriptures that seem to contradict previous teachings. It’s common for good men to do this, all leaders need to avoid doing it. Recently I added my comments to a debate that raged in the blogasphere. You had Frank Viola put out the book ‘Pagan Christianity’ [good book, I read and do recommend it] and another good theologian, Ben Witherington, gave a good critique [I also recommend Bens site, you can find both Frank and Ben’s sites on my blog roll]. Part of the debate hinged on the financial support of elders/ministers. I must admit I fell on Ben’s side in this argument, though I probably would agree with Frank around 90 % of the time on all the other stuff. Ben argued for the biblical mandate to support elders, frank seems to teach the support of apostles [itinerant workers] is okay, but does not leave room for the support of elders who live in the community. Now, you really need to read all I have written under the ‘what in the world is the church’ section of this blog to get my full view on all of this stuff, but this section of Corinthians makes this stuff pretty clear. Paul says ‘I have the right not to work and only live off of the offerings of the people’. So Paul defends this practice, but he also says ‘I choose not to use it’. He also uses two interesting examples from ‘the law’ [Old Testament] to defend the financial support of leaders. ‘The Ox who is treading out the corn shouldn’t be muzzled’ and ‘the priests who serve at the altar get to eat the meat from the sacrifices’. What is the most obvious example that he does not use? The tithe! I would say this is one of the best proofs for the tithe not being a normative practice of the early church. But Paul does use the other examples to say its right to financially support those who labor among you. But Paul has also given examples to elders [read my Acts 20 commentary] to show them that they are not in this for the money! Paul will actually defend the practice of working and not taking money from the believers. So we see a wide range of freedom in this area. I feel the biblical example is it is fine to financially support Christian leadership who are dedicating their lives to teaching and ministering the word. It is also fine to not use these ‘rights’ as a Christian leader. But nowhere are we taught a type of Levitical tithe system for the support of Christian leaders. Why? Paul’s main message was one of grace and coming out from the requirements of the law. To have used the tithe as an example to give financially would have been counterproductive to his whole message. Eventually believers would come to view ‘the church’ and ‘the priest/pastor’ as the single head of ‘the church building’ who would be supported like a Levite who served as a priest under the old covenant [bring all the tithes into the storehouse type concept]. This legalistic view of ‘the church’ is prevalent today in much of Christendom, both Catholics and Protestants seem to cling to this limited view of the church. The modern house church movement is giving the old view quite a run for its money! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Paul said its okay to financially support Christian leadership among you, just don’t see it as a tithe that is supporting some type of Christian New Testament Levitical priest!
- PROVERBS- Up early praying and stuff. A few years back when I started writing this blog I never thought I would write so much! I just took the spot where I was reading thru my yearly schedule and began teaching it. It’s really easy to be honest. Sometimes I just do a brief reading and then sit down and write [actually all the time- note that I always pray/meditate for at least one hour prior to writing. Scripture [actually Proverbs!] says ‘write the commandment on your heart [teachings of your father- Gods Word] and bind the tradition around your neck’ [teaching of your mother- church history and stuff]. When you do this it will ‘keep you when you lay down, guide you when you go out, and speak/talk to you when you wake up’. I am not advocating slack studying before preaching, I am advocating that you fill your mind and spirit continually, then when ‘the spot light hits you’ your ready!]. This keeps me from my old routine of reading and meditating slowly. So I try and read other devotional sections of scripture at the same time. I am doing Proverbs right now, I like the wisdom literature. The Old Testament can be divided into three sections; 1- Wisdom literature 2- The law 3- The Prophets. The ‘keeper’ of the law is the Priest, the Prophets are of course the Prophet. The wisdom literature; Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job and Psalms [James in the New Testament] are associated with the ‘Sage’ or wise man [Apostle]. So Maybe during our ‘down time’ [days where I purposely don’t teach! Because it’s so routine to just get up, pray and teach that it can become a rut. I don’t want to brag, but I am two years ahead of schedule on all our radio broadcasts. I have around 630 individual radio messages already done!] So maybe I will just hit high points from these devotional readings. I recently read ‘LABOR NOT TO BE RICH, CEASE FROM YOUR OWN WISDOM’. I originally felt like just quoting it and saying ‘look! What is he saying now? Hear we go again on his anti prosperity campaign!’ And then responding ‘why brothers, I didn’t say anything, I just quoted scripture’. Well, I guess I just did it. ‘WISDOM BUILDS HER HOUSE, UNDERSTANDING ESTABLISHES IT AND BY KNOWLEDGDE SHALL ITS CHAMBERS BE FILLED WITH ALL PLEASANT AND PRECIOUS RICHES’. Over the years I have had friends who were really knowledgeable, but there knowledge was only available for a short season. Why? They didn’t have the wisdom and understanding to put systems in place that would be the structure that could contain the knowledge. Then you have those who are wise, they can get structures up. But then a year goes by and they are working on another structure! The old ‘house’ is either left for someone else to deal with, or they simply ‘walk away’ from the mortgage [spiritually speaking] and start all over. Then you have those with wisdom, knowledge and understanding. They get things going, they establish systems in place that can maintain and keep things functioning for the long term, and they make sure all these strong systems and ministries are ‘filled with precious riches’. It’s all too common for some very stable ministries to have the structures and systems in place for the long term, but then propagate a message that is ‘less than precious’. Lets ask God today for the grace to function in all three of these divine attributes. When it is all said and done, only God can provide the increase!
- WHAT’S UP WITH THE CORPUS CHRISTI POLICE DEPARTMENT! I have hesitated to add this one, but the time has come. My wife just woke me up to tell me that earlier in the evening a drunk driver slammed into my daughters car while parked at her house and slammed into 2 other vehicles as well. Sure enough they called the police and they still haven’t showed up [as of our last call]. Many years ago when first moving to Corpus I had called the cops over my daughters car that was vandalized, I waited for around an hour and no cop showed. I then drove into town, to where the supposed kid who vandalized the car worked [a high school thing] and re-called the cops. Sure enough a no show again. I finally drove to the police dept. and walked in the front door. No one was around! I called 911, from the police department, and some girl answers and I tell her I have been trying to get a cop for around 2 hours and no one will show. She asks where I am, I tell her I am at your police station right now! They finally send a secretary from the back room to take the info. I had also called once about a salesman that wouldn’t leave the front door. To be honest I almost got into it with him. Sure enough I called the cops and they said ‘wait inside, don’t go out’. I assumed this meant until they sent a cop. I guess they just meant until you can solve the problem yourself, sure enough no cop showed. I recently was talking to a local guy who told me they were robbed at a business years ago, they called the cops and never even had someone show up to do a report. I worked for the Fire Dept. for 25 years in Kingsville, to be honest we [the city] would send a cop for all of these incidents. I know of no other city that does not respond to these types of calls. This has happened way too many times for me to think it’s just a one time thing. I needed to write this entry because I believe this is a real problem for Corpus Christi. [www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com- I will be emailing this to the city, so I added my blog site].
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 9:15-27 I have a letter sitting here from some northern radio station. I guess these guys hear us some how? It’s a great offer to be on 140 stations for next to nothing [$140.00 a month]. I have had radio stations write us before. I choose to stay small so I can be consistent in not taking offerings. I am sure if I took offerings I could easily expand like this, but I think I need to set the example for others. This fits in with the following.
Now Paul will say ‘I would rather die than take money from you’ [and you guys think I’m an over reactor!] and also ‘I don’t take money from you because I want to make the gospel free of charge’. Remember, this is in the same chapter where he says it’s okay to support leaders financially. But yet he also makes these strong statements. Does Paul contradict himself? Some have tried to harmonize these statements by either saying Paul wasn’t really teaching the financial support of elders, or by saying Paul only restricted taking money from the Corinthians. Both of these are not true [Read my Acts 20 study]. Paul was hard on whatever group he was addressing. If he is speaking directly to the local saints, he says ‘you should make sacrifice and support those who labor among you’ but to the elders/leaders he says ‘I worked with my own hands while among you [elders!] to give you an example not to expect the people to support you’ [Acts 20]. He appeals to both sides to lay down their rights and give themselves away freely! He also says he adapts to every type of situation, he ‘becomes all things to all men, that he might save them’. He also brings his body under discipline so that after preaching to others, he himself will not be ‘cast away’. In my Proverbs reading I just came across ‘he that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls’. God wants you to succeed and accomplish things, the enemy wants to sidetrack you. Allow God to have the upper hand, let the fruit of ‘self control’ [one of the fruits of the Spirit] abide in you. Now remember, Paul says ‘they do it to obtain a corruptible crown’ [material, temporary stuff. Money included] but we do it [discipline ourselves] for an ‘incorruptible crown’. The scripture is filled with examples that contrast money [material rewards] with true spiritual riches. In these examples the scripture teaches us to expend our time and efforts in building a spiritual heritage as opposed to a financial one. Yet some will even use this scripture ‘running the race’ and apply it to stuff! Ahh, when we do stuff like this we are ‘reading/quoting scripture’ without truly knowing it. Jesus told the religious leaders ‘you search the scriptures because by doing this you think you have eternal life, but you will not come to me that you might have life’. It’s possible to spend your whole life searching scripture [for what you want] and still miss the chief cornerstone! [The main point]
- CORINTHIANS ‘woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel’ ‘they which preach the gospel should live by the gospel’. Let me do a quick review before we jump into chapter 10. Over the years of re-learning the style and function of the New Testament church, it took time to read these scriptures without superimposing my preconceived ideas upon the text. For instance, you could easily read these verses and simply fit them into the ‘church building’ [as the church!] mindset. I know of, and have partaken of, the excitement that preachers experience when they ‘preach the gospel’. It’s a fulfilling thing. But the problem is much of the present day church follows a program where one main person becomes the attraction of the community. We live and hear and vicariously learn thru the growth experiences of a single individual. Now, we don’t realize that this is not the main intent of meeting together as a community. God originally intended for his people to share as a community of grace. There are specific warnings in the New Testament to avoid the Christian community’s penchant to identify around an individuals giftings [we actually just covered some of these in this study]. But when we simply read ‘they which preach the gospel should live of it’ we think this is justifying the present day context. It really simply meant that those in the community with the ability to read and teach should be taken care of while they are giving themselves for the benefit of others. The first century believer’s could not all read, the majority probably were illiterate. This created a need for those who were literate to actually read Paul’s letters out loud in the assembly. These sincere men were not modern day full time Pastors! This is why it’s important to read the scripture with historical context in mind. When I meet with the brothers, or travel to another town. I usually simply ask the guys ‘what’s the Lord been saying, do you have a word to share’? And sure enough, by the time our fellowship is over most everyone feels edified because they gave of themselves for others. One of my homeless friends is an excellent teacher. Believe me, he knows more scripture than many Pastors. He excels in this environment. There is really no need for one person [like myself!] to dominate the conversation, or to think that my calling entails me being the primary voice of the community. Sometimes when I find myself at some Christian function, I can tell that when people find out that you speak on the radio, that they kinda want you to preach. I always [yes always!] avoid it. Not because it would be wrong to teach, but the modern church has made such a profession out of it, that the average saint never really expresses himself on a regular basis. God never intended the church to be a place where people learn and grow and experience most of their Christian lives thru the experiences and gifts of one person. I just wanted to challenge you today with these few verses. When you just read them did you see them thru the old mindset? Don’t feel bad about it, just allow the Lord to ‘re-wire’ your brain as we continue to teach thru the New Testament. We find stuff like this all the way thru.
- THE PLAYPIPE AND THE ‘RED LINE’- Well it’s been a while since I gave an example from the fire Dept. I was thinking of this the other day and still get a laugh out of them. On our rookie tests at the fire dept. the captains and chief would make up questions to test the guys. One question would ask ‘how many parts are there to a playpipe’ [a type of nozzle for the fire hose]. The answer would say something like ‘5’. One of the expected ‘parts’ was ‘the playpipe itself’. Well that’s like asking ‘how many parts to a car’ and the answer being ‘the wheels, motor, windshield, and the car itself’. The ‘car itself’ can’t be a part of ‘the car’. What you could say is ‘the body/chassis’. So the poor rookies who would get the question wrong were actually right. The funny part was trying to explain this to the captain. In his mind he couldn’t see what he was trying to say was ‘the shaft’ [the actual pipe part of the nozzle]. The other funny thing was on one of the fire trucks we had what was called a ‘booster line’ [or red line]. Most of the modern trucks had red hose for this line. So it was common to call it ‘the red line’. The problem was one of the old trucks had a black hose for the ‘booster line’. So the question would ask ‘what color is the red line on unit 104’. So the poor rookie, who wasn’t really around long enough to memorize all the hose colors, what put ‘red’. You simply would think this was a gimme question, a trick question. It would be like asking ‘what color is the red truck’. The problem was the poor rookies would answer ‘red’ and to their dismay they would get it wrong. The ‘red line is black’! Once again, trying to explain this to the test makers was like trying to convert the Pope to Protestantism! The captain would insist ‘the red line is black’! Not realizing what they should have said was ‘what color is the booster line’.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 10:1-4 it’s actually Christmas morning, 2008, as I write. Paul says ‘all of our forefathers were under the cloud, they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and sea’. Note- 2 baptisms ‘Cloud’ [Spirit] ‘Sea’ [water]. Let’s do a little thinking here. How can Paul refer to the Jewish fathers as the Corinthians forefathers? Is he expecting a large Jewish group to read this letter? [Like Romans- both Jews and Gentiles were in mind]. Is he addressing them like the author of Hebrews, who is speaking directly to a nation in transition? While it’s possible for a few Jewish believers to have read/heard the reading of this letter. Yet I think Paul is simply being consistent with his letters to the Galatians and Romans, where he taught that all who would believe were the ‘children of Abraham by faith’ Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’. Now, I like the way Paul ‘spiritualizes’ here. Moses was the prophet who typified Jesus. The people were baptized [joined] to him both thru the good times and the bad. There was quite a rough history between Moses and the rebels! Times where they wanted to change leadership. Times where God even said ‘I have had it with this bunch, let’s just wipe them out and start over’. They had history. Also Paul says ‘they all ate of the same spiritual meat and drank from the same spiritual rock. Christ’. Again, Paul seems to teach the symbolic, as opposed to literal, view of ‘eating/drinking Christ’. Israel did have some physical ordinances in the wilderness. The Passover and the bread from heaven [Manna] already happened. But Jesus himself [John 6] would say ‘Moses didn’t give you the real bread, I am the real bread!’. So Paul’s use of the ‘Rock’ is purely symbolic. The story relates to the time where God gave the children of Israel water from an actual rock in the wilderness. Moses spoke to/struck the rock and water came out. Paul sees this as a symbolic picture. He is saying ‘this foreshadowed Christ, the true rock who would be the ‘Rock of ages’ who would be struck on the Cross and water would flow from his side’. Once again, this leaves us some context to interpret the Lords supper in a symbolic way. Was Paul teaching the Corinthians to go out in the fields and actually drink real water from a rock? No. He was simply saying these physical symbols would be fulfilled at a future time, and that time was now! All who believe in Christ are partaking [spiritually] of the water of life, the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we will get into the examples that were left to us from these stories. I just want to mention that the Apostle Paul freely uses the Old Testament [his only bible at the time!] and applies these stories to both Gentile believers and 1st century Israel. The writer of Hebrews [who I think was Paul] says ‘just like the forefathers missed out on the promise by unbelief- entering the promised land- so too there is a danger that you, 1st century Israel, might miss out on eternal life by not receiving the Messiah by faith’. In this context, Israel of the Old Testament represents Israel in the first century. But when addressing a gentile church [Corinth] it is also okay for Paul to say ‘just like Israel faced physical death by being disobedient, so you too have had premature physical deaths in your community by rebelling against God’. In this comparison Israel [Old Testament] is simply being used as an example of God judging his covenant people for their disobedience. I feel these distinctions are important, they help us to keep the New Testament in context.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 10:5-13 Paul warns the Corinthians not to fall for the same temptations that Israel committed in the wilderness. ‘Don’t sin sexually, don’t complain about stuff [ouch!] don’t be idolaters [lovers of your cash flow!]’ basic sins that effect us all. He also says something interesting ‘you are now those upon whom the end of the world [age] has come’. Not the ‘end of existence’ but the time period where Gods fullness has come [Galatians 4]. I find this interesting. The first century Apostles saw the breaking in of the Kingdom of God, thru Christ, as the event and ‘moment’ that all human history hinged upon. There was a real sense of ‘this is the special kairos season that all men have been waiting for’. The New Testament teaches that even the angels were waiting to see this day. One of the errors of dispensationalism was the idea that the important, main event was still some future happening [the second coming]. While it is true that this event will happen, and it will be glorious. Yet there was a sense in scripture that said the time of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection was the act of reconciliation that turned the destiny of man. Paul in essence was saying to the Corinthians ‘you don’t understand the full import of all that the Father has called you to. You are part of the most important movement in human history, all humanity has been waiting for this season, the ‘ends of the ages’ have come to this point. Don’t blow it for heavens sake’! Got it? Let’s grasp the fact that we too are part of this ‘time period’ [the new covenant kingdom age] and realize that our forefathers are watching from the stands [Hebrews]. Let’s not blow it [I was going to say ‘like the Cowboys’ but this gets too many locals mad].
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 10: 5 ‘But with many of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness’. As I just sat down and was debating on how much to cover, I felt the Lord wanted me to stop with this one verse. Let’s review a little. Does this experience of being ‘scattered in the wilderness’ define past experiences for you? [Or present!] Historically the church has always had to deal with wilderness times. St. John of the Cross called this ‘the dark night of the soul’. After Mother Theresa’s death we found out that she struggled with doubt many times thru out her life. The historic church has been ‘scattered in the wilderness’ over truly insignificant stuff. I find it ridiculous that one of the main reasons the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] churches split in 1054 a.d. was over the silly distinction of whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father [the historic creed] or the ‘father and the Son’. This is considered the official cause of the split, though there were many other factors as well. In a day or so we will cover a verse that says ‘God is the head of Christ’. I had a friend that used to point out the fact that many Baptists would refer to ‘God and Jesus and the Spirit’ he would think this was in error because they would leave out ‘the Father’. To be honest he was consistent with Trinitarian thinking [I am one by the way!] If the ‘sole’ definition of God in the New testament were ‘3 separate persons who equally posses the Divine attributes’. Then the phrase ‘God is the head of Jesus’ would not make sense. It would be like saying ‘God [Father, Jesus and Holy spirit] are all the head of Jesus’. What am I saying here? Basically the historic church came to certain ways of framing the argument that were limited in their application. Does the New testament teach the Trinity? Yes. Does the word ‘God’ primarily refer to ‘the father’ in its language? To be honest, it does. Though the reality of the Trinity is there, yet the normative language of ‘God’ is referring to ‘the Father’. So my Baptist buddy was right in seeing a contradiction when Baptists said ‘God, Jesus and the Spirit’. If they were true to all the historic language, then they should have said ‘the father’ not ‘God’. Because ‘God’ would be the all encompassing language of ‘3 distinct persons who all posses the divine attributes’. But in fact, my friend was wrong. Why? Because the language of scripture mostly means ‘God the Father’ when simply saying ‘God’. Now why go into all this? Because the historic church has been divided over the language used. Arian, the Catholic Bishop/Priest, said that Jesus is ‘not God’. That ‘God the Father is God’. He was rightfully condemned, and the Trinitarian language would prevail. The problem is some of the language of the creeds and councils that would follow were not totally accurate. Some of the Creeds would say ‘Jesus was eternally begotten [always begotten]’ this statement was for the purpose of refuting those who said ‘Jesus had a beginning’ [Arianism]. Now, did Jesus ‘have a beginning’? John’s gospel says Jesus was with the father from the beginning, and that ‘the Word was with God, and was God’. Jesus had no beginning! But, does this mean he was ‘eternally begotten’? No. He was begotten by Mary 2 thousand years ago. Begotten refers to the incarnation, not the preexisting Son who was with the father from all eternity. So the well intended phrase ‘eternally begotten’ was wrong. Why even discuss this? Because most of Christian Orthodoxy would still condemn certain aspects of the Syrian and Ethiopian churches over this. We at times are ‘scattered in the wilderness’ and our ‘bodies’ [denominations, divisions in Christendom] are a sad representation to the world. [NOTE- I want to restate what I have said in the past. I believe in the Trinity. But I also want you to see how other Christian perspectives have viewed these things in the past. There are large groups of ‘historic churches’ [not Gnostics and stuff like that, the so called ‘lost Christianities’] who lean towards Arianism. Most of the invading barbarians who sacked the Western Roman empire were converted to this ‘brand’ of Christianity. So while I hold to the historic orthodox view, I wanted you to see that we too have been inconsistent at times].
- PROVERBS 27:1 I made some plans to go to Kingsville last week. The morning I woke up I felt the word of the Lord to me [during prayer] was ‘Boast not thyself of the morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth’ [James]. Sure enough I got sidetracked and had to cancel. The next day I read Proverbs chapter 27, the spot where I left off last. I am kinda just reading a chapter at a time over a few month period. The first verse is the same one I just quoted from James! God does speak in stereo. I also read a good article from my January  issue of Christianity Today magazine. It was an excerpt from a new book titled ‘Brand Jesus’. Exposing the dangers of ‘marketing Jesus’ as a product. It was good. I just felt like the word of the Lord today was for us to be careful when we ‘boast of tomorrow’. When we plan great goals [which is not wrong in itself] which seem to be ‘Christian goals’. As I am writing this entry I can hear a Christian song from my TV in the other room. The singer is singing about the temptation of being a singer and glorying in the spotlight! It seems funny that he is sharing this struggle [of self glory] thru this medium. The point being it’s easy to ‘Christianize’ our self motivations. To approach ‘Jesus’ as a brand product that can do something for you. Improve you in some way. Maybe he can carry us to stardom and fame, hey he wants us to fulfill our desires doesn’t he? Well actually not the way the contemporary church preaches it. A main theme of New Testament Christianity is learning to lay down your desires and wants for a greater purpose. Now, this greater purpose will wind up being more fulfilling than what you thought you wanted. That’s why ‘your desires’ are not a good measurement of the purpose of God. He that seeks to save his life [get what you think is best] will lose it. He who learns the secret of giving up his life [carrying the Cross, self denial] will find it. What are you ‘boasting about’? Where do you ‘see yourself’ ten years from now? Remember, we as believers do not measure success and fame the way the world does. Our reward is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior. I know this sounds ‘corny’ and old fashioned, but sometimes we need to be reminded about this type of lifestyle. We spend so much time boasting about our dreams and goals, Jesus gets lost in the background as some product who can help me achieve ‘all that I can be’.
- THE NEW ATHIESTS LOSE AGAIN! I watched a good debate last night between an atheist [Christopher Hitchens] and a believer. I like Hitchens, but the shallowness of his arguments were very revealing. Richard Dawkins [one of the so called ‘new atheists’] has said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Oh really? During the debate Hitchens challenged the ‘morality’ of the Christian church. He rightfully exposed the hypocrisy of Christian leaders who abused children and the many other sins of the church. He says ‘how dare these immoral Christians challenge my morality. I am more moral than many of them’. Now, where does Hitchens come up with his standard of ‘morality’? The very fact that morality exists as some existential character measurement is simply making one of the classical arguments for God. One of the proofs for God is that man has this moral conscience that tells him what is right or wrong. This moral code that is implanted in the conscience of humankind is one of the historic arguments for Gods existence. Poor Hitchens made a big boo boo. Second, the whole argument of Hitchens [and most every other atheist] is one of naturalism, materialism. That is they claim that the believer argues his point from the mindset of ‘faith’ while the atheist argues his point of view from the hard facts [Dawkins so called intellectually fulfilling position]. The main problem with this view is when the atheist is asked to explain the most fundamental question of science ‘where did all things come from’ his response is one of the most un-intellectual arguments that can ever be made. When Hitchens was posed the question, he simply said ‘all things came from nothing, and I have no intellectual curiosity or need to say any more’ [and they call this being intellectually fulfilled? Gee, maybe my daughters play station game would fulfill them!] What’s the problem with this response? The problem is the Christian answers the question with the only scientifically feasible answer that can ever be given. He says ‘there was a preexistent actor who entered into the physical realm and caused the effect of what we now know as creation’. The Christians response is in keeping with all the known laws of physics and reason. If science teaches us anything, it teaches the impossibility of something coming into existence from nothing. This is thee most attested to scientific fact in all of human history. When we study ‘nothing’ and put it under the microscope, we never, ever get ‘something’. Now when we study ‘something’ [any material thing that can ever be studied] there is one scientific fact that can be applied to all the ‘something’s’. That fact is that some other thing caused, or preceded the ‘something’. That is it is scientifically impossible to get an entire creation and universe and all things that exist out of nothing! But this argument is the most prevalent argument used today by the intellectually fulfilled atheists! Now, many brilliant men realize the stupidity of this position. Some of the intellectually fulfilled atheists have proposed the possibility of other extra terrestrial beings who might have ‘deposited’ some type of ‘space dung’ [I am not kidding!] when their craft flew thru our solar system, and that this ‘dung’ might have spawned life on our planet [who ever thought they could lower their family tree from a monkey?]. The very fact that many scientists are actually espousing the possibility that there might be other civilizations that spawned life on earth shows you the dilemma of proving, from a materialistic perspective, that all things came from ‘no thing’. To put it bluntly, these scientists [some of whom are atheists] realize that the argument Hitchens and all the other ‘fulfilled’ thinkers are making, are sheer nonsense and stupidity! How can any thinking person espouse the belief that all things came from nothing? I don’t want to go on with this, but I simply wanted to show you that in the debate I watched last night, the atheist espoused arguments that were nonsensical. It is all too common today for the rejecter of God to give the impression that Christians are idiots, while they are intellectual. This just simply isn’t being ‘intellectually honest’ [or fulfilling].
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 10:15-17 ‘The cup that we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of Christ’s Body? We are all one bread, we all partake equally of Christ’s Body and Blood. We exist as a community because of him’ [my paraphrase]. Here in my study I have various volumes on church history. I own catholic volumes, protestant ones, and even some from ‘the out of the institutional church’ perspective. Over the years I have learned that most believers tell their story from their perspective. This is not a wrong thing, nor is it a purposeful act to distort history. It’s just natural to see ‘your world’ thru your lens of past experiences. Around the 17th century the Jesuit priests were some of the first Christians to write systematic church histories. Though you had many scholars who were informed on the subject, the Jesuits were the first to try and bring all the previous centuries together and present them in an orderly way that could be understood and read by the average student. There is some debate on how accurate some of these first ‘tellings’ of history were. For instance, some classic church histories [both catholic and protestant] show an early 2nd century development of belief in the Eucharist as being the literal Body and Blood of Jesus. Also most volumes focus on church figures such as Iraneus , Tertullian, Augustine [4th-5th centuries] and many other good men [I know I spelled these names wrong!]. There seems to have been a basic belief that this history is the only ‘history’ of the first few centuries. The problem with this approach is we now have archealogical evidence from the first few centuries that would support the idea that the early church might not have been as ‘institutional’ as previously thought. For instance, most histories say the development of the monarchial episcopacy [single bishop over ‘a church/region’] was early. But the evidence discovered shows that as late as the 2nd, possibly early 3rd centuries you had bishops who were simply elders/overseers in the early church. Burial places were uncovered that showed multiple ‘bishops’ all buried in one spot. The evidence seems to indicate that these were all men who served at the same time. Not one bishop dieing off while others took his place. This would mean that some practicing Christians never fully accepted the institutional idea of the single bishop. But you really couldn’t find this out from a wide reading of all the different church histories. Why? Were the Jesuits who put together the first cohesive history trying to deceive people? Of course not! They were seeing church history thru ‘their lens’. Now, what in the world does this have to do with the verse on communion? The word for communion here is a translation from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which simply means ‘fellowship’. The church at Corinth practiced ‘communion’ as a love feast. The early believers had their ‘communion service’ as a type of buffet type fellowship where they all shared and came together in real friendship. Now in the next chapter we will deal with some of the problems that arose out of this practice, but the point today is I want you to see that when Paul says ‘we are all one bread who are partaking from one loaf’ he is simply saying ‘just like when we all get together and share in the communal meal, this is the same way we all spiritually live off of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are ‘one bread’ [people/communion] because we all derive our life from Jesus, the true bread that came down from heaven’ [John 6]. I simply want to give you the flavor of what Paul is saying. It’s easy to read these verse’s from the sacramental perspective. To see the focus being on the actual bread and wine of the meal. I think it’s better understood from the broader communal idea that I just espoused. Our entire New Testament is the most verifiable collection of first century documents ever to be found. Though we as believers take them as Gods word, they also show us the most accurate historical picture of what the early church believed and practiced. I think the reformers of the 16th century were right in stating that the final authority should be the word of God. They did not reject church tradition, but they said the final arbiter in controversial issues was Gods word. Even the great Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was known for his desire to ‘get back to the original sources’. He was helpful in urging the Catholic Church towards reform by going back to the Greek New Testament [most scholars were using the vulgate version, which was the Latin translation. The Latin did not do justice to the Greek!] Well today’s point is our New Testaments are accurate first century documents on early church belief and practice. I think Erasmus cry to ‘get back to the sources’ would do us all some good.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 10: 18-33 Paul ‘re-uses’ a previous analogy of the priests partaking of the meat from the altar. Here he uses it to describe the reality of fellowship and being joined to that which you worship. Now he deals with the idea of the meat from the idol worship that was sold ‘in the shambles’ [market place]. He already said this meat was fine. But here he says ‘the things the gentiles offer are being offered to demons, so I don’t want you joining in with this type of demonic worship’. It’s not a matter of the meat, or the idol! It’s a matter of being unequally ‘yoked together with unbelievers’. This is a theme that Paul discusses in this letter. It not only applies to marriage, but also to any type of intimate fellowship with an unbeliever. Here’s where a distinction should be made. Yesterday one of my homeless buddies stopped by. His name is Tim [carpenter Tim]. I mentioned him before. Tim’s a great friend who I have known for many years. He just stopped by to say hi, he told me he caught my radio show on Sunday and really enjoyed it. They get a kick out of being real friends with some so called ‘radio preacher’. I think it’s hard at times to connect the ‘radio guy’ with the simple brother who takes them out to eat and stuff. Tim is a believer who works regularly [thus the name carpenter Tim!] He does not take the free handouts and stuff that are offered to the local homeless population. But I have helped Tim as a friend and brother in the Lord for many years. I asked if he has heard anything about Bill ‘painter Bill’. I have known Bill just as long as Tim. These are the original homeless guys I met in the early 1990’s. Bill is in his 70’s, Tim is around my age [I am 46 years old as I write]. Bill was a bitter homeless person. Just too many years of going thru stuff. Over the years we had become real good friends. I think he sees me as one of his best friends. A few weeks back I heard he was on a respirator and they though he wasn’t going to make it. It sounded pretty bad. As of right now I don’t know if he’s alive or not. A few months back I was giving Bill a ride home. He had a temporary place to live at the time. He did ask if I had a few dollars to spare. I don’t remember if I did or not to be honest. But I told Bill I don’t make the same amount of money since I retired. Just to let him know that’s why we haven’t gone to eat recently. He also asked me if I wanted to get the free eye checkup from the mission. They had some locals donate their time and they would get the guys free glasses. I told him that’s all right, I don’t want to take stuff that’s meant for the homeless [I also don’t eat the free meals]. They get upset that I don’t use the system. So as we arrive at Bills trailer he asks if I could come in for a minute. I told him sure. He handed me the free glasses he recently got, he asks me to try them on. I did. He than offers them to me. I told him no thanks, though I appreciated the offer. Bill was willing to give me his glasses. When Paul the apostle deals with having fellowship with unbelievers, he is not telling us to have no contact with the lost world. He is showing the Corinthians that they were not to be partakers of evil things along with the world. We are here to reach out to the world, not to have fellowship with evil things, but to be like Jesus. He was accused of being ‘a friend of sinners’. Do you have any ‘sinner friends’?
- PROVERBS 28: 22 and 27- ‘HE THAT HASTETH TO BE RICH HAS AN EVIL EYE AND CONSIDERS NOT THAT POVERTY SHALL COME UPON HIM….HE THAT GIVES TO THE POOR SHALL NOT LACK’. I just finished making a radio program and wanted to share some stuff from my Proverbs reading. I still have the original cheap second hand desk that I bought over 20 years ago in Kingsville. I think I paid 20 bucks for the thing. Though it’s ancient and looks ‘crappy’, it still gets the job done. Over the years I have learned that it can be exciting to amass wealth. Yes even believers can ‘sanctify’ the pursuit of wealth, that is justify it’s pursuit by thinking ‘I am going after money and riches so I can fund kingdom ventures’! While God certainly uses rich people to do his will, the overall ethos of the kingdom is one where you choose not to pursue the wealth of the world, you instead pursue ‘spiritual riches’. This contrast can be found all thru out scripture [read my section on ‘word of faith- prosperity gospel’]. Paul actually tells Timothy ‘those that desire to be rich will fall into a snare’. Notice, Paul doesn’t say ‘unless they desire riches for kingdom things’. He simply says the pursuit of wealth is a deadly game, don’t be ‘wise in your own eyes’ and think that you can tame the monster! Recently the stock market had another one of the worst crashes in history. How many ‘pursuers of wealth’ had ‘poverty come suddenly upon them’? Another verse says ‘don’t set your eyes on wealth, they make themselves wings and fly away’. Ouch! As I sit here and type this entry I will be dropping of 3 months worth of radio messages in a little while. I made them from a cheap recorder purchased from radio shack. I store them in my cheap desk that I bought years ago. I am sitting on used furniture that I bought 25 years ago! I furnished my study/office with it. But yet I have a study filled with excellent books that I purchased over the years. Year’s worth of radio teachings that cost me next to nothing to make. I gave one of my homeless buddies a little money the other day. I take no offerings and spend a little under half my monthly retirement income on ministry stuff. To my amazement the Lord has allowed us to have real impact in a large region, and it’s done on a shoe string budget. ‘He that gives to the poor shall not lack’. Don’t seek to become rich, the scripture forbids it. Give to the down and out, give your life away. Be a servant of people, God will reward you and you will have enough to get the job done.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 11: 1-16 at first I was just going to skip this section and say ‘I know you didn’t get your moneys worth, but wait, you guys didn’t give me any money!’ But this would be a cheap shot. So what do we do with portions of scripture that are difficult? I have heard this taught in a way that says ‘Christ is the head of the church [both men and women- true] and any distinction between a man being ‘the head’ of the woman only applies to natural families’. The problem is Paul mixes the analogies ‘Christ is the head of a man, a man [husband] is the head of the woman [wife], and God is the head of Christ’. To dissect these verses into a ‘secular/religious’ division is next to impossible! So what do they mean? I believe the New Testament does teach a type of functional difference between men and woman. Now, Paul teaches that women ‘can prophesy’ in ‘the church’. He says so in these verses! In Romans 16 Paul refers to Junia as an apostle and Phoebe as a deaconess. In the Old Testament Deborah was a mighty judge. Peter says that both sons and daughters will prophesy [Acts 2, quoting Joel]. I could go on. Then why make a distinction? Paul gives his rationale in this section. Believers show the order and submission of the Godhead when they willingly take their God ordained positions in society. When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, God is glorified. When wives submit [oh no, I can’t believe I said it!] to their ‘loving’ husbands they show the role of Christ’s willful submission to the Father. And yes, Paul also teaches we all submit to each other in love as well. Those who see all of Paul’s teaching on women as a cultural thing will have a problem with the inspiration of scripture. But on the other hand the strong fundamentalist/literalist also has a problem here. Should we mandate the wearing of ‘coverings’ [hats] when women prophesy? I don’t think so [some do think so!]. But most fundamentalists have no problem chalking up the ‘hat wearing’ portion to culture. Also in this debate, one of the obvious questions is ‘can a woman be a Pastor over a church’? Or Bishop or whatever. Remember, no one was a ‘Pastor over a church’ like we think until around the 4th So before we judge whether or not it is fair to restrict women from certain roles ‘in the church’ we need to understand what roles there are ‘in the church’. Did you ever wonder who was marrying and burying the people for the first few hundred years of Christian history? It is quite obvious that Paul and the first century Apostles/Elders were not doing it. So when did the ‘clergy’ pick the practice up? During Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, the church took over the rites and ceremonies from Rome. The Roman ‘philosopher/speakers’ could be hired to speak a eulogy when someone died, they could conduct wedding ceremonies. They for the most part were ‘the Pastors’ of the day! Now we simply took the job from them. Does this mean all Pastors are pagan funeral directors? No. It simply shows us that when we ask the question ‘why can’t women be pastors like men’. Maybe the question should be ‘were men ever supposed to be pastors either?’ [in the contemporary use of the term] So in this little excursion into history I think we all have some lessons to learn. The people of God are made up of men and women and Jew and Gentile, scripture says in Christ there are no more distinctions like this. We are all considered the Body of Christ equally. Yet this does not mean [in my view] that everyone does the same job as everyone else. The New Testament clearly says ‘are all Apostles, all Prophets’. God has distinctions in this Body. Do these distinctions carry over to the woman/man issue in functionality? It seems so to me to a degree. Those who are striving for more equality in function for women, I think the best way to approach it is not to by- pass all these difficult portions of scripture. But to take the approach that as the church grows she allows the greater overriding truths of scripture to over shadow any personal advice given by Paul to a specific church in the first century. Now I don’t fully take this approach myself, but to a degree many of us do accept this approach when dealing with the ‘hat/covering issue’. So instead of just showing you my view, I wanted to paint a little broader picture. Ultimately how you come down on this is between you and God. Women most certainly can and do function in Christ’s church today, they always have and always will.
- TRIALS/END TIME STUFF- As I was praying this morning I was meditating on what verse to share. Sure enough as I was listening for guidance, I remembered that right before I woke up I had a dream. In the dream I picked up a green Gideon’s bible and read from James. I think it was ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life’. I have been reading a scholarly work on the book of Revelation. Much better than the more popular ‘prophecy teachers’ stuff! The author is a little too Preterist for me, but overall very good. Preterism is the view that sees all of the prophetic end time passages thru a historical view. They teach that everything already occurred, even the final resurrection and judgment verses! I think the modern popular view is too futuristic, that is they seem to take most of the book and try and ‘news paper prophecy’ the thing. I see John’s work as primarily dealing with kingdoms in conflict. The kingdoms of the world warring against the kingdom of God. So he most definitely has Rome and her emperors in view. But this does not mean that John’s vision is limited to Roman leaders. The book can have meaning for believers in every age as they deal with ‘Babylon’ [the world] and the ‘kings of the earth’. So I see both a present reality [present for John’s actual readers who lived in the first century] and a future application. And of course I see the second coming of Christ and the final judgment as future! Now John was ‘on the island of Patmos for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus’. John was a partaker, along with the suffering church, of the trials and difficulties of the first century church. His banishment to Patmos [an island off modern day Turkey, in the Aegean Sea] , most likely by the emperor Nero, was for the purpose of ‘the word of God and testimony of Jesus’. He was being persecuted for the faith, but also for the purpose of receiving and writing down God’s word. Jesus says in John 17 ‘I sanctify myself and ask that they would be sanctified too. I sanctify myself for their sakes. I have given them the words you gave me.’ [my paraphrase] Jesus had a task to get certain words from the father to the elect, he fulfilled the task! John had some trials and things to deal with, it was part of the cost. I felt the Lord wanted to encourage some of you today, you are going thru stuff ‘because of the word of God and testimony of Jesus’. You are being ‘targeted’ because of your destiny! In the gospels Jesus says ‘when the word comes then tribulation and persecutions arise’. One of the strategies of the enemy is to come against you hard ‘after the word comes’. Once God has revealed and made plain to you the purpose and vision, then the enemy works overtime to stop you. He doesn’t want you to ‘deliver the word/purpose’ to those that the father has given you out of the world. Your trials and difficulties are a direct attempt of the enemy to stop you from getting the message out! Don’t take it personal.
- WILL JESUS RULE FROM A REAL ‘ALTAR’ SOME DAY? Watched an interesting show last night. The brother was sharing on the ‘Davidic kingdom’ and all the scriptures associated with it. I am familiar with the man, I used to get a Christian paper from him years ago. It’s obvious that he has a tremendous storehouse of ‘knowledge’ he can take you all over the bible and quote all types of stuff. He comes at you from the fundamentalist/dispensationalist viewpoint. He laid out the case that all the promises of God to David have to be literally fulfilled thru David. He even espoused that David himself might actually be the one reigning from the Millennial throne! [most see Jesus in this role- but to be fair, those who see Jesus do spiritualize the promises to David [Solomon] and apply them to Christ, which is what they despise doing!] Any way the brother espouses the idea that Jesus might actually be sitting on the Mercy Seat during his millennial reign. I have taught you guys what this seat is in the past. It was the actual lid to the box [Ark] that held the tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was a place [altar] where the blood of the yearly sacrifice [Day of Atonement] was placed. If you will it was the ultimate picture of sacrifice and altar that could be found in the Old Testament economy. This example will show you the danger of not being able to rightly understand and interpret scripture. Right now, as I write, there is another all out war going on between Israel and Palestine [Hammas]. Truly bad stuff. Of course I condemn all terrorism, make no mistake about it, Hammas are terrorists! I also see the right of a nation to defend itself against terrorism. But the overall viewpoint of the believer should be ‘we are not of this world, we represent Jesus, the prince of peace. He offers salvation to all mankind [Jew, Arab] and we do not advocate a view of Jesus that has him coming in a militaristic way, in a way that says ‘he will return and lead the Israeli military to victory and actually kill your women and kids’! [a view that does more harm to true evangelism than any other thing! How would you feel if I was trying to convert you to be a follower of some king who was going to come back and kill your natural family?]. Now, first of all we need to know the underlying intent of all the sacrifices and ‘altars’ in scripture. They all point to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for man on The Cross. They are SYMBOLIC! That is Hebrews teaches that they have all been fulfilled thru Jesus and any future idea of a restoration of animal sacrifices or altars would be considered blasphemous! This is one of the reasons Protestantism does not celebrate the catholic mass, they feel the catholic teaching is a ‘re-doing’ of the sacrifice [the catholic theologians deny this]. Either way any idea that there would be a restoration of the altar system is anathema! Now, for you to see Jesus actually sitting on the ‘mercy seat’ while literally ruling from a restored Temple with renewed animal sacrifices, this has to be one of the most heretical ideas you could ever espouse. The New Testament teaches that any return to a sacrificial system, after the Cross, is doing ‘despite unto the Spirit of grace, treading the Blood of the Covenant [Jesus blood] under foot’. The language used to warn against a return to the animal sacrifice system is very strong. The dispensationalists belief says ‘God will put a ‘hold’ on the church age and return to a ‘kingdom age’ in which he deals with Israel again as a natural nation’ they see Jesus violating his own teaching that ‘my kingdom is not from this world’. This view places Christ back into a law system, in which Jesus will oversee a restoration of a literal temple [another violation of the symbols in scripture] and from this literal system, he physically wars against, and kills Arabs and Muslims as he directs their military. Now, can you see how destructive this view can be? Can you see what a violation it is to the spiritual kingdom of Christ who is the final sacrifice for man? When revelation says ‘a Lamb is sitting on the throne’ don’t you see it as a symbol of Jesus in a position of authority? Hebrews says Jesus entered into the true Holy Place [heaven- Gods presence] and presented his Blood to the Father on our behalf. Any view of him returning and reinstituting a literal reign from an earthly ‘holy of holies’ while actually sitting on a physical altar is blasphemous! I believe in a literal second coming. The church historically has had differing views on the millennial rule. But wherever you come down on these issues, you must not present Jesus future reign in a way that violates the fundamental truths of reconciliation and salvation [i.e.; him sitting on an altar from a physical holy of holies!] the types and pictures in scripture that have been fulfilled are not to ‘make a comeback’. The New Covenant and Kingdom of God thru Christ are one of where all men are offered forgiveness and peace thru Christ. Whether or not there ever will be a restored temple and sacrificial system in Jerusalem is questionable. But no matter what your view on this is, be assured that Jesus is not going to come back and rule while being seated on some sacrificial altar! This would violate one of the most fundamental teachings of the New Testament. [Note- it is possible that natural Israel will rebuild and reinstitute a sacrificial system, but this would only be a sign of condemnation. A result of their denial of the one sacrifice of Christ. Any return of Jesus would not be to vindicate their restored system, but a judgment on them for rejecting the one and only sacrifice and returning to the law!]
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 11:16-34 ‘When you come together IN THE CHURCH’ [king James version] ‘when you come together AS THE CHURCH’ [new king James version]. In this section of scripture we see a real good definition of ‘church’ and also a bad one. The word for church is found over 100 times in the New Testament [114? – if I remember right] in every occasion, bar none, it refers to the people of God. Sometimes it refers to them as ‘coming together’ or simply as ‘the called out people of God’ [that is they are all spiritually gathered as a community in Christ]. The word never refers to a ‘church building’ [there is one reference in James that can seem to indicate a place to meet. James is speaking to Jews, the synagogue [or Jerusalem temple] as a building is different from the term for church in Paul’s letters!]. In the example I just gave you from the king James versions, it shows you how Gods people viewed this term for church [Ecclesia/Ekklesia] as time rolled along. The original translators of the King James saw it as ‘a place you meet in’ the new version saw it ‘as when Gods people come together’. You say ‘what’s the big difference’? Well I am sure the original translators meant well, but in actuality there is a big difference between ‘being an organic family’ or ‘being a building’! As Paul addresses the Corinthians he says ‘your coming together is not for the better, but for the worse’. They were using the gathering as a means of self gratification. ‘What can I get out of this’ type thing. I do see a parallel in much of today’s ‘church meeting’. Do we see Christianity thru the lens of ‘what am I going to hear this Sunday that I can implement in my own personal life for self improvement’? This mindset prevails in today’s church environment. The ethos of Jesus was contrary to this. He challenged his followers to lay down their rights and desires and seek another kingdom, one that was not measured by the standards of this world. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for seeking ‘their own wealth [benefit] and not the other’s’. He also told them to examine their hearts before coming together so they would not be judged. I have heard the new generation of church thinkers [which I am one myself!] kind of mock the old time churches by saying ‘Oh they tell you communion is some dangerous thing that you must approach with a holier than thou attitude’. Most mean well when they level this charge, but the ‘old time churches’ are not without scriptural support for this approach. Paul did say ‘you guys are too flippant in your attitude towards the Lords table, you need to straighten up and take more seriously your corporate call to those around you’. Understand, the celebration of this ‘love feast’ was to ‘show the Lords death till he come’. Who were they ‘showing it to’? The entire ‘unchurched’ community around them! Their selfless lives of being the community of God, loving and sharing of themselves as a spiritual family, was for the intent of having an effective community wide witness. They reminded not only themselves, but those around them ‘of the Lords death’. It was truly a corporate witness! Our Catholic brothers might not be as wrong as most Protestants seem to think. The Catholic Church sees the Eucharist as the central witness and part of their meetings. The Protestants see the preaching of the word from the pulpit. Though the Protestants are sincere in their efforts to teach the word of God, there is a tendency to become ‘pastor/pulpit’ centered, as opposed to being ‘Christ centered’. All in all Paul rebukes and corrects them based on their self centered actions when meeting together. He also sees ‘the gathering’ as ‘the church’. Not the place their meeting at! It’s easy to confuse this when reading ‘when you come together in the church- in one place’ it sure seems like he can be referring to a church building. Take my word for it, he’s not.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 12:1-6 ‘There are different gifts, ministries and out workings of the Spirit’ [my paraphrase]. In this section we see an idea that I feel gets lost in the current paradigm of ‘doing church’. When Paul addresses a church [community of believers] he is speaking to all the believers in the city. When we think ‘church’ we assume it means ‘church’ as ‘going to the church [building] on Sunday’. Therefore we tend to read these types of verses as ‘there are different gifts and functions in ‘the church’- the Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, door greeter’ well you get it. The better reading would be ‘there are various expressions and ways the Spirit works and administers thru/in the community’. For instance, those who labor in ‘Para-church’ ministries are often considered noble, but not ‘a church’. But according to this passage, they would be just as much ‘church’, a legitimate part of the local body, as the home meeting [of course we know in Paul’s day there were no church buildings]. So the broader view of church as community would see these verses saying ‘where you live there are a variety of gifted ones whom the Spirit of God lives and operates thru. These saints all express the community of the Spirit in various ways. All these expressions are just as legitimate as the other, it is one Spirit manifesting himself in diverse ways for the overall benefit of all the believers in your city’. When we label what the Spirit is doing thru other ‘administrations’ as ‘Para-church’ we violate this passage of scripture. When we limit the various expressions and gifts to ‘the Sunday church meeting’ we actually are violating the intent of these verses. In your city you have doctors, lawyers, and all types of trades. While it is fine for them to operate out of a building and to keep regular business hours. Yet you wouldn’t describe them as separate, individual little ‘cities’ who all operate out of your town. You would see all of them as various gifted people who ‘operate out of your city’. So this is the broader view of what I think Paul is saying. Now he will also give directions on how these various gifts work in the meeting, this of course is part of it. But we need to see the broader view of what the Spirit is saying. Jesus expected his disciples to go out into the highways and hedges and ‘compel them to come in’ [not into the church building for heavens sake! But into the Kingdom] Paul taught that the Spirit accomplishes this in many different ways thru ‘the church’ [people of God].
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 12:7 ‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EVERY MAN to profit EVERY BODY’. I want to share a criticism that sometimes gets made against me. I know ‘the critics’ mean well, and are actually sincere men. It’s just they have been ‘shaped’ by the present system of ‘church’. The criticism goes like this ‘sure John has an effective teaching ministry [blog/radio] but if you need someone to come pray for you, lets see if he will come’. The idea is that the true legitimate ‘elders’ are those you can ‘call for’. James says ‘if any one is sick among you, let him call for the elders of ‘the church’. They see ‘the church’ as the actual 501c3, building, Sunday meeting [storehouse] type thing – they are simply seeing thru their ‘lens’. What James is simply saying is ‘if someone is sick in your community/local body of believers, call for the elders [more spiritually mature ones] and let them pray for you and anoint you with oil’. Now, I have personally spent many thousands [yes thousands!] of actual man hours on the streets helping people. I have helped and given to some of the local homeless population who attend some of these ‘churches’, out of my own pocket. Yet these same homeless brothers are encouraged to give ten percent of their money to ‘their church’. What am I saying here? I know the men who level this type of accusation are often intimidated by peer pressure and stuff. But the verse above says ‘the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every believer to profit every one around them’. The biblical view of ‘church’ would simply require all believers to ‘administer the gift’ in a way that would profit all those around them. There is no need to make these types of distinctions between ‘the elders of our church’ or ‘the spiritual leaders in our region’. They mean the same thing. So see your gift as a freely received charism that should be used unselfishly for the benefit of others. Also some Pastors do seem to come around to ‘my view’ after many years of hearing us. They might then try and do some city wide ministry, open to all the body. Then if the results are not good, they can become discouraged also. Understand, many of these men took many years before they could really see what we were saying, don’t expect a majority of local believers to see things that took you years to see! The paradigms don’t come down that easily.
- CORINTHIANS 12: 8-10 this section deals with the various gifts of the Spirit. The list is not exhaustive, Paul speaks in Romans and Ephesians about other ones as well. Instead of diving into a definition for each gift, lets look a little at the various ‘modes’ and characteristics of the Spirit of God. In revelation we have a scripture that many seem to stumble over, it says ‘the 7 spirits of God that are before his throne’. Some associate Isaiah 11 with this. In Isaiah 11 you can find 6 distinct characteristics of the Spirit of God, some see 7. Or you could say ‘God has 7 actual Spirits’. Does God have 7 spirits? Or 25 or 10,000? God is the creator of all spirits. He is the Father of lights! In revelation you have Jesus holding the ‘7 stars’ in his hand, which are said to be angels. Then you have the ‘7 angels of the 7 churches’. I showed you before why these angels are not ‘Pastors’ they are angels! [You can find the post somewhere under END TIMES STUFF]. Revelation has 7 seals, bowls, candlesticks. The book is a prophetic book that has angels revealing and operating and functioning. The 7 spirits before God’s throne are probably the 7 angels spoken about in the book. Hebrews says the angels are ‘ministering spirits’. Well let’s get off the rabbit trail. In Isaiah 61 we have the famous verses that Jesus read and applied to himself in the New Testament [Luke 4]. Jesus opens the scroll and reads about the Spirit of God upon him, the eyes of everyone in that place were fixated on him. Notice how both in Isaiah 11 and 61, one of the main purposes of the anointing was to administer justice to the poor and oppressed. Much of Evangelicalism has opted out of this responsibility. There was an overreaction to the social gospel of the late 19th, early 20th The social gospel had a tendency to overemphasize good deeds, without focusing on conversion. But the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century neglected the social justice aspect of the kingdom, thank God for the Catholics who picked up the torch. The point today is the purpose of the gifts, which we will get into tomorrow, is not simply for self glory and edification. Or should I say the purpose of the anointing. Jesus made it very clear that his mission involved justice for the poor and oppressed, he did not limit his ministry to ‘the church’.
- SPOT THE TREND LINES- One of the themes of proverbs is reproof, correction. Proverbs teaches us that correction/reformation are noble things. Fools despise it, wise men take it to heart. Over the years of dealing with controversial issues in the church, I have found different responses from good men. Most leaders do not initially appreciate correction, they [we] have a tendency to want to use our knowledge and experience as an excuse to not receive correction. We often defend our positions by thinking ‘look how many other men/leaders are doing it [it being whatever area you feel threatened in] so I am at least in good company’. While there is some truth to this [being in the majority] this doesn’t work well when there is a groundswell of reformation on the horizon. For instance, during the 16th century Reformation, I am sure the new reformers looked and acted like contrarians at the time. There were many good catholic priests doing their best to serve the Lord in the limited understanding of the ancient church. I am sure many of these men simply steered clear of Luther and his ‘rebels’ but ultimately God was wanting change! So today we have certain undercurrents of reformation, sure not all the current trends fall into this category, but some do. So leaders should be open to correction or reproof coming from a broad range of influential men. Over the years I have spotted ‘trend lines’, certain changes that I see/hear from a wide range of Christian expressions. When I see them coming ‘from afar off’ I try and make the adjustment before the trend ‘hits the fan’. This is another wisdom nugget from Proverbs, a wise man sees the change coming and prepares himself, the simple pass on and make no adjustments. Another important characteristic is the ability to ‘not change’ too fast or too much! ‘Meddle not with those who are given to change’ reformation takes time and is a process. If I learn or see some knew area of truth that most of my contemporaries don’t see yet, then it would be foolish to think that God has called me to ‘straighten them all out’. God often shows you ‘the trend lines’ so you in wisdom can plant certain seeds that will keep the other leaders on track as the train moves along. In essence your job isn’t to say ‘see, I know more than so and so’. Your job is to be open to avenues of influence that eventually bring ‘correction/course change’ to the rest of the body. I felt like the word for today was for us to re examine the reproofs that we might have heard over the years. Does it seem like we keep hearing the same reproof from different voices thru out our lives? Maybe there’s more to it than just a bunch of disgruntled believers. Wise men take note and seek God for his timing in the course change, foolish men make no adjustment.
- NO, I AM NOT CRYING! AND YES, THEY WILL SHOOT YOU! Many years ago me and my wife took a road trip to New Jersey from Texas. I have driven it many times since. One of the problems with a trip like this is it’s easy to make it all the way to Jersey, but once you get close to the area where I grew up [the New York city area] the exits and roads are a mess! I think the Newark airport has been under road construction since I was born! So as we were nearing the area to exit for the final 10 miles of the 1800 mile trip, I get off at a Newark exit and wind up on some bad streets. Now, as a boy I would have enjoyed the threat. But being married and stuff, I knew it wasn’t too good to be driving the Newark streets at night. But I tried to find the turn around to get back to the right spot. As I am driving I have the vents open and pointed at my face. The cold air keeps me awake during the long drives. My wife sees I am a little ‘p-o’ed’ about the whole thing. She notices my eyes are tearing [from the cold air!] and asks ‘are you crying’. Now, most men are too proud to stop and ask for directions, how do you think we respond to stuff like this? Heck, I used to pride myself as being a tough guy! So I tell her ‘are you kidding me, I have the darn vents open’ [something to that effect]. Then she says ‘why don’t you stop and ask for directions’? Now, I am a few miles from home, I don’t want to ask now for heavens sake! So I tell her ‘if you roll down your window here they’ll shoot you’ [or slit your throat?] Sure enough she made sure the windows were up tight.
- TRIBUTE TO SHELBY [January 2009]- A few posts back I mentioned my homeless friend ‘painter Bill’. He was very sick and I thought he might have died. Sure enough he made it, with some extra equipment! [They put a pace maker in him]. But sad to say my friend Shelby passed away this week. I have known Shelby for a few years, he was around 70 and had an interesting story. He at one time owned and operated an independent news paper. He got in debt and eventually lost his business and property. Though I never saw Shelby drink, or drunk, yet the word was he battled with alcoholism. After I befriended Shelby he went thru a ‘mini revival’ type period. I took him with me to Kingsville and Bishop for fellowships with some of the brothers. He went thru a period of renewal and excitement about the things of the Lord. It kind of surprised some of the local pastors who knew him. He would give testimonies about the simple things we were doing, to him it meant a lot. He shared with me how in the 70’s he ran a ‘hippie bus ministry’ for a church somewhere in Texas [Austin area?]. How they had some miracles and stuff happen. One time they were driving to some revival or something, they needed money for fuel. They stopped at some Pentecostal church and before they could say anything some Pentecostal/Prophet type brother said ‘the Lord sent you here so we could give you the money for your trip’. One of those common prophetic things that happens every so often. At one time I added Shelby’s articles to my tape/book catalog [I think it’s still on there?] though it was a simple thing, it meant allot to him. The last few months I didn’t get with Shelby as much as I wanted to, I think he got a little offended about it. You can tell when the brothers are mad, they don’t hide it like the ‘rich folk’. They let you know. I let it slide and eventually he got over it. The last few months he also had a renewed vision for starting a Christian paper. I was going to help him, kept an eye out for a used typewriter and stuff [he didn’t want to mess with computers]. He shared with me the plans on getting a used car and starting the paper from his room. He was living at the time with some Christian friends of mine who have a communal type home. I had Shelby over a few times to the house, he saw my cats and dogs and loved them. We have a little blind dog named Molly, he would always ask about her. Shelby just started getting Social Security about a year ago, though he was eligible, he put off applying for it. He was getting around 700.00 a month and he was trying to get a permanent place to stay. I am glad that Shelby had a personal revival in his life right before he died. The few simple things we did together made him proud. He would tell his daughter about it and stuff. I had the sense that after many years he began hoping again, sort of like the Lord was going to use him after feeling hopeless for many years. Shelby was a good man, a good friend of mine. Goodbye my friend.
- PROVERBS 31: 8-9 ‘Open thy mouth for the dumb [voiceless] in the cause of ALL such as are appointed to destruction [abortion, poor, unjust death sentences]. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy’. This chapter is famous for the second half, the virtuous woman. I have been praying parts of this chapter 3-5 times a week for around 20 years now. I pray the part ‘your wife we be like the merchant ships that bring their goods from afar’ over my wife. I also pray ‘your wife will be like a fruitful vine by the sides of your house, your children like olive plants round about your table’. For some reason the ‘plant’ imagery stuck in my head as a good prayer reminder. The other day, before Shelby passed away [my homeless friend] I was going thru the pictures on my cell phone. I happened to come across a picture I took of Shelby. I have a few pictures from the fellowships and stuff. This one was taken with Shelby and a few other homeless brothers at a park in Kingsville. Sure enough I put the picture as the ‘wallpaper’ [the first picture that shows up as you turn on the phone] on Sunday. He passed away on Wednesday. My daughter says ‘don’t put my picture on your phone’! Actually I kind of see it as a prophetic thing. In some way the Lord was telling me my friend was going to become a ‘memory’ real soon. Also a reminder for prayer. The day I found out about Shelby’s death I took a few homeless people around town to run errands and stuff. We stopped for coffee and one of the brothers insisted on paying this time. He had around 10 bucks and really wanted to. I paid, he left a 2 dollar tip. During the day they were trying to accomplish small tasks that can become real obstacles in their lives. I took one of the guys to the driver’s license place, he got his I.D. but could not get his license. They have a very old charge against him about not appearing for court on some minor thing. He never got the notice, they sent it to his last known address, he hasn’t lived there for years! He simply can’t fix this problem, he has no resources and ability to fix it! I of course helped him with the ride and some money and stuff. But when these guys get into these seemingly small obstacles, when you’re homeless and without a phone and regular transportation, they seem hopeless at times. Now, what do you think happens when the entity they are dealing with decides to mess with them? I canceled a credit card a few years back. I paid the balance and specifically said ‘make sure you cancel the card, I don’t want to keep getting notices that I owe an annual fee and stuff’! Sure enough, a few months go by and they send me a notice that I am delinquent for around 70.00 dollars [not an old balance, but a new annual charge!] and if I don’t pay it the fine will go up. What happened? Someone decided to simply ‘screw me’ [sorry]. The point being, when you are homeless you have very little ability to correct any wrongs done against you, the entity that is messing with you always wins. Society seems to think ‘they got what was coming to them’. The reason God wants us to speak up for all those who are ‘voiceless’ is because this is part of the purpose of Gods anointing. Jesus clearly was anointed for this purpose [Isaiah 11, 61. Luke 4]. There are times when the voiceless are ALWAYS innocent [abortion] and times where they did ‘get what was coming to them’. But Jesus requires us to treat the poor and hopeless with respect and concern. Every now and then I catch a show on E.W.T.N. [the catholic channel] the name of the show is ‘the church and the poor’. It’s the ministry of some priest [Wen Ho Lee? Something like that] who was a Jesuit priest living in the states and having a comfortable life. Then the Lord challenged him to give it all up and move to some foreign land and give his life away for the poor. His message is soul stirring. He often tells the people during the Mass ‘do you think coming to church and going to confession and doing religious things are the main requirements for a Christian’? He then goes on and shares the judgment scenarios that Jesus gave in the gospels. He shows how Jesus couches the judgment of man based on his treatment of the poor and down and out. He sounds like me! God requires us to speak up for those who cannot, he requires us to give our lives away. As you read thru this chapter [Proverbs 31] you will see that kings [leaders] are not supposed to get drunk [like Paul’s admonition to elders]. Why? So they don’t forget to do justice and look out for those who are under their care, specifically the down trodden. God wants us clear and sober minded for a divine purpose, to be social activists on the behalf of those who ‘have no voice’.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 8-11 Instead of giving you my definition for each one of the gifts of the Spirit, let me just give you a sense of where I’m coming from. Over the years I have learned the normal Pentecostal understanding of these gifts. I also have learned the ‘anti-Pentecostal’ view. I take a little from each camp. The strong Pentecostal view usually sees all the gifts as ‘supernatural’ I do too! But to them this means the gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge can’t be ‘regular wisdom or knowledge’. Okay, so what are they? Some teach that the ‘word of wisdom’ is simply a prophetic word about future stuff. The ‘word of knowledge’ is simply prophetic insight into ‘past stuff’. To be honest I have no idea how people come up with stuff like this [well, actually I do have an idea]. I see Paul as operating in a strong gift of knowledge, though Paul was trained and had a good education, the Spirit took all of his ‘head knowledge’ and quickened it. I see James as having a strong gift of wisdom, his epistle is the only New Testament work considered to be part of the corpus of wisdom literature. Of course the gifts of healing[s] and prophecy are supernatural, but wisdom and knowledge can be ‘supernatural’ without having to fall into some prophetic type category. If it’s wisdom and knowledge from God, then it is supernatural! I have known Pastors who had the gift of wisdom, sometimes they would come to the same conclusions as me, but they took a different route to get there! They might not have ‘seen’ all the knowledge portions of scripture that I saw, but the wisdom they operated in caused them to arrive at the same place. Some teach that after the Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost [Acts 2] that you no loner had miracles, dreams and visions or angelic visitations. Why is this wrong? The book that records more miracles and angels and visions than any other book [except for the gospels] is the book of Acts. In essence, one of the major New Testament books on these manifestations shows them to be a result of the Spirits outpouring! The point being these things didn’t end after Pentecost. I realize both camps [Pentecostal- non Pentecostal] have had their wars over this stuff. I find that both sides can be just as legalistic and judgmental in their views. I think one of the major ‘signs’ of being ‘Spirit filled’ is a life based on free grace. When people grasp the gospel and are filled with the Spirit, they should be free from living their lives out of a state of condemnation and guilt. Many ‘Spirit filled’ churches operate in the gifts [their view of them] but are just as legalistic as the non Pentecostals. To me this is not what it means to be ‘Spirit filled’. Overall we should be open to the working of the Spirit in supernatural ways. We should avoid making this the goal or identity of our Christian walk, but we should not reject or despise prophetic/supernatural things. They are available and necessary at times for completion of the mission.
- JAMES 1: 2-4 ‘Count it all joy when you fall into various temptations [trials] knowing that the testing of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work [completeness, the end of ‘a thing’] that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing’. When I first started this blog, I was surprised that brothers from Africa quickly found out about us. I kinda thought that all the invites from the continent were part of the scams that go on incessantly on line. I can’t tell you how many ‘Dear brother, I am a Christian millionaire trying to free up my millions in the U.S.’ or something like that type pleas that I get. It usually gives them away when they spell something like ‘Godd blees yeo’. Yes, I admit I have responded at times by saying ‘I hate to inform you but I am an undercover F.B.I. agent, we have traced your computer to its location. YOU WILL BE EXTRADITED TO THE U.S. SOON!’ I quickly ask the Lord to forgive me after I send it off. But the African contacts were legit. The reason I am even mentioning this is because I feel the Lord has a purpose for messages like ours to go out to the nations. Not ‘my message’ per se, but the basic return to a Christ oriented gospel. Africa has gone thru a few decades of becoming ‘Christianized’ by the American gospel. The most prevalent strain of American Protestantism on the continent is the prosperity message. I don’t know if you knew this or not, but it is common to find African churches that are saturated with the prosperity gospel. Now, after all I have written and taught over the years on the abuses of this type of message, yet I do not see this development as totally ‘from the devil’. I believe it to be possible for the Lord to have used the basic message of self reliance, believing God to improve your economy, a basic message of ‘you can do it’ as a foundation for future growth. That is many Africans needed to be told ‘God does have a future and a hope for you and your continent, start believing and trusting God to turn things around’. But after the ‘elementary teachings’ of this type of message are laid, then the ‘more mature’ message of Christ’s calling needs to come in and build upon the basic self help gospel. So, James says ‘count it a blessing when you go thru stuff, God is working things in you, he is bringing you to a point of completeness in your life. Don’t look at all the trials as things from the enemy that must be rebuked, God allows trials for your personal growth and development’. There is a Christian message that teaches us that the Lord brings us to maturity thru difficult things. The basic message of ‘self help’ has an ethos that says ‘Confess, rebuke and apply all the bibles procedures and you will grow’. Much of this message has you rebuking the God ordained tests! Yes, we don’t like the tests. When the big test day comes along [or all the little ones] it can be nerve racking. So modern psychology says ‘lets avoid the pressure that tests put on people. Lets just tell little Tommy ‘you spelled the word the way you felt it should be spelled’ [Ouch!] I want to encourage you today, God has brought you thru some things for your own growth and benefit. You might look back ten years from now and think ‘Thank God I went thru those tough times, they allowed me to avoid going thru years of teaching and believing a limited gospel’. To all my preacher friends who read this site, God wants to ground you guys in some basic Christian truth, things that are foundational to our call in the kingdom. It is all too common for successful ministries to be built on self help principles. After many years go by this self help message can become too self centered, the people need to be taught ‘count it all joy’ once again.
- THE BILLIONAIRE SUICIDES- ‘Let the brother of low degree [not rich] rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. … so shall the rich man fade away in his ways’ James 1:9-11. These last few weeks have had a strange thing happen. After the recent fall in the stock market [1-09] there were 3 billionaires who killed themselves. I also watched on the news last night how a stock guy faked his death by crashing his plane, they found out he parachuted out first! Some of the news media said ‘I don’t understand these billionaires killing themselves, sure, they lost billions but they still have money’. This is the deceit of riches. These rich guys were in it for the game, not simply to have enough money to live off of. They fell for the addiction of the game. After losing great sums of money, they weren’t thinking ‘well I still have enough to make it’. No, they were thinking ‘I can never get back to where I was, I will never win the game now’ which to them meant having more than the others ‘in the game’. James said the rich will fade like the grass, they allow their lives to feel secure by the amount they have. When they lose that sense of security they feel all is lost. James was one of the lead elders at the Jerusalem church [Acts 15] he had spiritual oversight to a large group of poor believers. These were the same poor Christians that Paul was taking up offerings for [1st Corinthians 16]. James understood the temporary nature of worldly wealth. I find it notable that James lived and grew up with Jesus, he was his brother. What were the important messages he picked up by living with Jesus most of his life? He understood the shallowness of the rich man. James said ‘they will fade like the flowers on a hot day’. The billionaires took their lives because all that they were living for was gone. The hot sun came up and they were found wanting.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 12-26 Paul uses the analogy of a body to describe the church. Keep in mind that the ‘church’ in Paul’s writings mean ‘all Gods people in the region/city’. Not just the gathered assembly! It’s important to make this distinction because much of the talk on the restoration of the organic church versus the institutional church focuses too much on the way believers meet. Here Paul is saying ‘you are all individual distinct members in the local community, you express Christ in various ways, though you have unique gifts you also are part of one corporate expression of Christ in your city’. The distinct gifts function in your community, not just in the meeting! [Whether it be the Sunday building type thing or the living room!] Paul also tells them to be on the guard for the ‘one member dominating the group’ expression of church. If everyone is centered on one particular gift then the corporate expression of the Body of Christ is diminished. Or if everyone saw ‘full time ministry’ as being a modern Pastor then you would have too many sincere believers all seeking to serve God in a limited way ‘if all were an eye, ear, mouth [speaking gift]’ then where would the Body be? I find this chapter to be a key chapter in the current reformation of modern church practices. As Gods people strive for a more scriptural expression of ‘being the church’ we need to keep this chapter in mind. Now, a word for the strong organic church brothers. The fact that Paul encourages a corporate expression in the church does not mean the gatherings of Gods people must be leaderless. Paul includes the concept of Elders in his writings. To be sure these men were not to dominate the meetings, or be the weekly speaker on an ongoing basis. But some hold to a type of idea that the way the church is supposed to testify of the ‘headship of Christ’ is by demonstrating a human leaderless church. That is God ordained the local bodies of believers to have no functioning human leaders in order to show forth Christ’s headship. To be honest I don’t see this in scripture. I see leaders in plurality [never a one man show] and Paul was not afraid to tell Titus and Timothy to ‘ordain’ [recognize!] Elders in the church. But the overall instruction in this chapter is God wants all of his people to function on a regular basis in the Body of Christ. This of course includes the gatherings, but it is not limited to them. The primary way we ‘show’ the world the Lordship of Jesus is by the selfless love we have one for another. When we daily live charitable, sacrificial lives, this demonstrates the ‘headship of Jesus’ over the church. The way believers meet has some effect on this, but most of Jesus instructions to the disciples was on how they would go out into the world and bring the great message of the kingdom to society. The primary ‘battlefield’ of the church militant is the world, not the meeting place!
- IS MODERN ISRAEL THE SAME AS ANCIENT ISRAEL? Why bring this up now? At the time of this entry [1-09] we have another one of those endless wars in the Middle East. Israel has been bombed over the past few years on a regular basis from Hamas. Hamas are the rogue ruling authority in the Gaza strip. Israel made a deal with the Palestinians to give them the strip of land, in return Palestine promised not to use the land against Israel. What happened? After the Palestinians took the land, they elected Hamas to be their ruling authority! Hamas are terrorists, make no mistake about it. So after a few years of regular bombings from the Gaza strip into Israel, Israel said ‘that’s enough’ and started a military campaign to up root Hamas. To be honest, they are using the exact same justification as the U.S. action against terrorism. Now, Israel as a modern state is quite a miracle. Or are they? After the destruction of their temple and the loss of their national identity in A.D. 70 they have been without a homeland for 2 thousand years. In the 20th century  Israel once again became a state with a homeland for the first time in nearly 2 thousand years. Most evangelical Christians in the U.S. equate modern Israel with the promises made to Abraham by God in the Old Testament. God promised Abraham that he would give the land to him and his seed. In Deuteronomy 28 we see that the promise of Israel keeping the land was contingent on their obedience to his covenant. The history of Israel in the Old Testament shows them violating Gods laws at various times and God allowing them to be taken captive and losing their land. So the promise of inheritance was based in part on their obedience to God. Now, after W.W.1 the League of Nations made an agreement with modern Israel to give them a homeland. This promise was not carried out until after W.W.2. The United Nations agreed to give them the land and the British carved out a portion of the land and Israel became a nation once again. Let me make myself clear, as a nation Israel has a right to exist. After the initial taking of the land, the neighbors had various wars with Israel and in every case Israel won and took some more land. How Christians view the present status of the modern nation state is important. Most believers look at every modern conflict thru the promise of God made to Abraham thousands of years ago. The normal reaction by the fundamentalist/evangelical preacher is ‘God promised them the land, and by golly if Israel has to kill some poor Arabs to keep it, then that’s Gods will’! This is where we need to be careful. As an ally of the U.S. Israel is a small lone Democracy in a tough region of the world [there are other democracies, but they don’t border Israel]. Our country does have a responsibility to back up our allies. Israel does rule herself in a modern way with a rule of law and a humane judicial system that are rare for the region. So all in all they are a good ally who has a right to exist. But should believers equate this right with some biblical promise made to Abraham by God? Remember, God himself said that the promise of them dwelling in the land had to do with their obedience to him. Modern Israel is a religious nation. But they are also cultural. Many Jews presently living in the land do not practice Judaism, they simply see themselves as ethnic Jews. Those who do practice their faith practice a form of Judaism that can be called ‘Rabbinic Judaism’. This form of Judaism is what the Pharisees practiced during Jesus day. They elevate the traditions of the elders to a degree equal to [or greater than] the Old Testament law. If you remember Jesus rebuked this religious mindset when he told the Pharisees ‘by your tradition [the tradition of the elders] you make void the commandments of God’. So first of all, modern Israel is not in good standing with Jesus! [At least on covenantal grounds]. Second, did you ever wonder if the modern religious defense of Israel coincides with the actual Promised Land mentioned in scripture? If you go back and read the actual borders that God promised Abraham, you have a region extending to parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and a few other spots. In essence, many of the defenders of Israel’s right to the land, are not even talking about the actual borders mentioned in the bible! What does this mean? If God conditioned the obtaining of the land on the obedience of natural Israel to his law, is modern Rabbinic Judaism fulfilling it? If the promise of the land by God to Israel are what most evangelicals are fighting over, are they using scriptural borders to define ‘the land’ or are they using a 20th century land agreement made by human nations after the world wars? I believe Christians should stand for the right and freedom of all people [including modern Israel!] to exist and practice their religion freely. I believe modern Israel has as much right to the land they inhabit as any other nation who dwells on territory that used to belong to other people groups. That is if any nation engages with other nations in an aggression, if the nation who attacked you loses, you bet your gonna lose some land. That’s the way the ball bounces. The point of this entry is to simply call the American church to rethink the attachment she places on Gods promises to Abraham when making these arguments. A case could be made that modern Rabbinic Judaism is in fact still rejecting the law of God and does not fulfill the requirement, given by God himself, to ‘dwell in the land’. We as believers need to be careful when we simply jump headlong into these world affairs in a way that says to the world ‘God is on this nation’s side, and anyone who challenges their borders is in the wrong’. Understand, the ‘borders’ in these scenarios were carved out by human nations coming to certain land agreements. Be careful when you equate modern borders with Gods covenantal promise to Israel. We all need to pray for peace, we need to act justly in the world. We need to be against all racism, even anti Semitism! But we also need to stand true to the New Testament Ethos of all ethnic barriers being destroyed in Christ. We don’t want the world to think that King Jesus is going to return and physically war to protect a border made-up by the United Nations! This type of end times teaching can get us into real trouble.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 12:27-31 Lets talk about ‘the fivefold ministry’ [some say four]. In the 90’s there was a real interest in this subject. It comes from this portion of scripture [and Ephesians 4]. The basic teaching is/was that God was restoring all these ministries [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers- some see this as one combined gift] and that this restoration was one of the final things to happen before Christ’s return. I read and bought lots of books on church planting and how Apostles are gifted to ‘plant churches’. This teaching really wasn’t a new thing. Back in the 1800’s you had Edward Irving head up an apostolic movement called ‘the apostolic catholic church’ [Irvingites]. You had interesting folk like John Alexander Dowie who would start a modern city of God called ‘Zion’ in Illinois. Brother Dowie saw himself as an apostle and felt the Lord led him to start an apostolic city. You can still visit the city today. It was also common for many ‘up and coming’ preachers to begin seeing themselves as ‘apostles/prophets’ and actually advertise their callings in this way. Well of course the old time brothers who reject the gifts all together, saw this as another sign of the end time apostasy. You also had a strange phenomenon take place. It was common for ‘apostolic/prophetic’ people to be taught ‘the missing ingredient is covering and authority’- the churches are weak because they are under pastoral authority, they don’t have apostles ‘covering them’ [ouch!]. So it was not uncommon to have respected men kind of stepping over the normal boundaries of relating to churches and to say things like ‘you need to do this’ ‘you over there, be quiet. I don’t give you permission to speak’ and stuff like this. These sincere men thought it their responsibility to act this way. They felt this was a part of the restoration of apostles. Now, do apostles exist today [and prophets]? To be honest with you, yes. If you read this section along with Ephesians chapter 4, it is next to impossible to teach that they passed away in the first century. These scriptures make it clear that after Jesus ascended he gave ‘some apostles, others prophets’ they are included in the list of evangelists, pastors and teachers. If you lose one gift, then you lose them all. Also the timing of their ministries is given ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith unto a perfect man’. These gifts are all given to build Gods people up until we come to fall maturity. We aint there yet! So it’s pretty obvious that these gifts exist. Those who believe they don’t exist usually refer to the fact that the apostles of the Lamb [a category unto itself] did pass away. They will show you the truth of these apostles having to have been witnesses of Jesus actual resurrection. But these are a different category of apostles. The ones in this chapter were not even ‘made’ until after Jesus ascended on high. The same for the prophets. So, what do these strange fellows do? In all the books and stuff I have read on these movements, I feel some have been too limited in their definitions. Some taught that they were primarily itinerant men [traveling church planters]. Of course Paul was the master at this. But you find James as a stable pillar of the church at Jerusalem. Peter did travel, but he was no Gentile church planter like Paul! And Timothy in the New Testament had an apostolic type gifting, yet he was a protégée under Paul. So for the most part apostles do carry a special ability to ground Gods people in truth. Those who are called to ‘plant churches’ need to be more in tune with the example of Paul. Many modern day ‘apostles’ see church planting as going to a region and organizing Christians to meet in certain ways. I have heard it said ‘I have planted an organic church’ ‘I have planted a home group’ or of course the standard ‘I have planted a building based church’. The main ‘church planting’ of Paul was bringing the gospel to UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS and evangelizing those groups. Now of course he did give instructions to them on ‘how to meet’ [like in this book we are reading!] But don’t confuse ‘church planting’ with organizing believers around a new way to meet. All in all God gave us these gifts to build each other up and bring us to maturity, a place where we are no longer dependent on these gifts to function. I feel one of the greatest dangers was the strong authoritarian mindset that some of the apostolic brothers had, they meant well, but they stepped over their boundaries at times.
- JAMES 1:13-15 ‘LET NO MAN SAY WHEN HE IS TEMPTED “I AM TEMPTED BY GOD” [TEMPTED TO DO EVIL] FOR GOD CANNOT BE TEMPTED BY EVIL, NEITHER DOES HE USE EVIL TO TEST PEOPLE. BUT EVERY MAN IS TEMPTED BY HIS OWN SINFUL DESIRES. HE IS DRAWN AWAY BY THEM AND TRAPPED. THEN WHEN LUST IS COMPLETE IT LEADS TO SIN, AND SIN WHEN IT IS FINISHED GIVES BIRTH TO DEATH’ [my paraphrase] James already showed us that tests are good things, but here he makes a distinction between a test and sinful lusts. It is never Gods process to test people to lust. This desire is imbedded in sinful man. Proverbs warns us to avoid ‘the harlot’ it says many strong and mighty men have been slain by her ‘by her a man is brought to a piece of bread’. How come strong men have been pulled down by her, not weak men? The point is once you allow the process to begin [being drawn away by your own lusts] then no matter how strong you are, you will lose! James teaches us that this process is a ‘three fold cord’. Scripture says 3 fold cords are not easily broken. I just finished a regular prayer time, to be honest praying for around an hour and a half seems very easy. It wasn’t that way at the beginning of my Christian life, but after doing it for around 20 plus years, it’s a simple routine. I am now in ‘stage 2’ of my normal daily routine; I am writing/teaching. Stage 3 will be when I clean the house [yes, being I am retired I do about an hour of cleaning every morning] during this time I review future radio messages and also listen to good teaching on c.d.’s or radio [theological stuff]. All in all I get a good 3-5 hours of daily prayer/teaching/studying in. Yes I also read both scripture and books as well [once again the books are usually scholarly works of some sought. I try to avoid simply reading stuff that’s popular in the Christian bookstores ‘how I lost weight, made a million’ or whatever]. The reason I share this is to tell you that after you establish godly ‘3 fold cords’ [habits of righteousness] it’s hard to break them! Now, the same goes for ungodly cords. I have known [and experienced!] ungodly habits in life. Sinful stuff that’s hard to break. I have also noticed how many of my good friends who are addicted to hard drugs, many of them are extremely smart, they have talents, and all in all they could have been successful in life. But the enemy [and their choices] hooked them at a young age. People learn habits early in life. If you take someone at the age of 18-23 and train them in some addiction/habit, it sticks with them for life [until they allow God to break the cords]. Many of my buddies established habitual sin habits and these have dogged them for life. We all struggle with stuff and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just ‘those people’. Now James tells us that God can break this process. James teaches us the wisdom of being ‘doers and not hearers only’. God breaks stuff when you decide to act and function toward his purpose on a daily basis. James will say ‘true religion is visiting the fatherless and widows and keeping yourself clean from the world’. Note the order, first commit to do good works, then avoid sin. There is a scripture that says ‘commit your works unto the Lord and your thoughts will be established’ [Proverbs?]. We learn the lesson of establishing habitual patterns of righteousness to go along with our head knowledge of truth. Do you have ‘cords’ that you are struggling to break? Have you established righteous cords [habits] that flow thru out your week? I don’t want to be legalistic about this, Jesus is the only one with the power to deliver a person from sin, but there are practical righteous habits that God wants you to engage in on a regular basis. You might not pray and study for 5 hours a day! But you can have a regular devotional time [even if it’s only 30 minutes a day] and stuff like this will make a difference. Learn to nip it in the bud when it comes to temptation, once you allow lustful desires to rule, it always ends up in death, even strong men are brought down by it.
- CORINTHIANS ‘DO ALL SPEAK WITH TONGUES’? – Before we leave chapter 12, let me overview a little. Paul mentions ‘do all speak with tongues’ and the presumed answer is ‘no’. I love my Pentecostal brothers, but some have developed an interesting doctrine that says ‘God wants all to speak with tongues’ though here it is obvious that all don’t! I am familiar with the classic defense of this. It says that in the beginning of the chapter the gifts are individual gifts that all believers can have [true enough] but that later in the chapter the ‘tongues’ that all don’t operate in is speaking of some sort of ministry gift of tongues. That Paul is basically saying ‘you can all prophesy, speak with tongues, etc..’ but you are not all going to have public ‘ministry gifts’ in these things. Okay, I got it. What’s the problem with this defense? Simply that when your done making the case, the brothers usually wind up saying ‘therefore, we should all speak with tongues’! Any argument [case] made from scripture, needs to use the plain language/thought flow to interpret that which is not plain. I believe all the gifts are for today [though I would disagree on certain Pentecostal definitions of them] but I also believe we violate the New Testament when we teach that certain gifts are supposed to operate in every person. Sure, you can find tongues and other gifts as signs in the book of Acts that believers were filled with the Spirit. But this doesn’t mean that those who don’t speak in tongues are not filled with the Spirit. Paul’s teaching here is that we are all baptized into Christ by the Spirit and we are all ‘drinking in the one Spirit’ but yet he empathically says ‘you all will not have the same gifts operating’. I think it is a violation of scripture to develop a doctrine that says ‘unless you function in a certain gift, you are not Spirit filled’. I do not see the classic Pentecostal division between ‘public tongues’ [that everyone doesn’t do] and ‘private tongues’ that you must have in order to have proof of being baptized in the Spirit. I do see the division to a degree, but I feel the Pentecostal brothers are being legalistic when they make this case.
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 13:1 ‘THOUGH I SPEAK WITH THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS, AND HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM BECOME AS SOUNDING BRASS OR A TINKLING SYMBOL’ Over the years I have seen how the church can ‘have a voice-make noise’ without actually effecting change. Last night I watched some Martin Luther King stuff. Without ‘sucking up for political purposes’ I must admit that Martin is at the top of my list of personal heroes. Martin spoke with a revolutionary purpose in mind, he was not ‘delivering sermons’. One time I spoke at a friends church, I only spoke for around 15 minutes [much like my radio show] and the pastor said ‘no wonder John doesn’t have a church/ preach regularly, you have to at least speak for 45 minutes’ [something like that]. Though after the message I had good comments from the people, the sincere pastor felt like we didn’t ‘put the time in’ in order to fulfill the Sunday morning practice of ‘church’. Were did we get our modern sermon from? [The actual format]. If you go to Bible College you can take a course called ‘homiletics’ this course will teach you the structure of speaking and putting a message together. If you study Greek rhetoric you will find that this science existed in the Greek intellectual world before Christians embraced it [the actual format and structure taught in homiletics comes right out of the Greek system of rhetoric, to the tee!]. I find it funny how many modern pastors seem to measure a persons degree of ‘being scriptural’ by this measuring rod. ‘Well brother, didn’t they preach in scripture’ you bet they did. We see Jesus reading from the scroll in the synagogue. Paul and Peter were master ‘preachers’ if you will [though Paul himself was no ‘golden tongue’] basically the biblical concept of preaching/teaching was more of a spontaneous thing. It’s certainly not wrong to borrow the sermon from the Greeks [which we did do] but we don’t want to fall into some mindset that sees modern ministry [pastoral] as being a professional speaker. Here Paul says there is a danger of believers becoming like ‘sounding brass and tinkling symbols’ we can lose the reality of simple communication. We also can lose the prophetic edge of speaking into society over issues of justice. If we become too mundane and ‘professional’ then the world simply views us as another program to simply pass over when clicking the remote. Both Martin Luther King and Charles Finney were known for their social activism. One of the charges [actually true] made against them was that they held to liberal theological positions. Finney was effected by the higher criticism of his day [the trend in the universities to deny the supernatural elements of scripture] he embraced certain doctrines that could be viewed as heretical [things on the atonement and mans sinful nature]. King’s critics make note of the fact that he also accepted certain types of bible interpretation that viewed some of the miraculous stories as ‘myth’ [not fake, but simple allegorical stories that were not literal but simply meant to convey a spiritual theme]. Things like Jonah and the whale, or Ballams talking donkey [or the talking snake in the garden!] Some intellectual brothers view these stories this way. Is there any validity to these views? Actually yes. I personally hold the ‘literal’ view with stuff like this, but ‘literal’ does not mean the bible does not contain different styles of writing. You do have poetry, allegory, symbol and other types or forms of grammar in scripture. Even the strong literal brothers will contradict themselves when they fully accept the ‘Lamb on the throne’ as not being a literal Lamb! [or when they interpret the scorpion like demons in Revelation as Black Hawk helicopters] So scripture does use allegory and symbol. But why did Luther and Finney associate with the more liberal trends in theology? I feel it was because of the strong anti social gospel that the fundamentalists embraced. The more conservative thinkers who rejected the liberal trends in teaching, would also reject social activism. Luther and Finney simply gravitated towards those who were like minded in their concern to speak into society. Basically they didn’t just want to be theologically correct [though they might have been in some of there views] but they wanted to be able to effect change in society. They wanted to be more than just a tinkling symbol that could tickle your ears.
- ABORTION- Today is the first official day of President Obama as being our new president. I did not plan on writing this entry, but as I was praying earlier for him I felt the Lord release me to do this. I have prayed, by name specifically, many times for our new president [a few times per week over the past few months] I believe when we respect and honor those in office, that God allows us to speak to certain issues. A few years ago Senator Barbara Boxer [Ca.] was at some floor debate on an issue over abortion. Another senator [Sam Brownback?] put up a picture of an aborted child. The picture was clear and plain to see. There was no doubt that the carcass was that of an innocent child. Brownback simply asked her ‘is this a human being or not’. Her answer was that making a judgment like that was not her right or responsibility. If a person can not discern what makes up a human baby, then how in the world can they make any judgment issues over any thing? Yesterday, the inauguration day of our new president [1-20-09] the stock market dropped more than on any other inauguration of any other president. Now, do I think that there is a connection between one of the underlying defenses of abortion [financial gain, convenience] and stuff like this? To a degree, yes. When a society chooses to overlook the actual dismemberment of thousands of little children at the altar of convenience [i.e.; I can’t afford the child. What responsible person would bring a child into the world? Etc.] When we make these types of judgments, then we reap judgment. I know the progressive Christians say ‘I wish the church would get over her love affair with the fetus’ [would you say I wish the church could get over her love affair with the slave during the civil war?] but the fact remains, there is no other single social justice issue of our time equal to the tragedy of abortion. The fact that a sitting U.S. senator could not say that the picture of a beautiful little baby was ‘a human being’ shows you the deception that we have succumbed to in our efforts to be ‘progressive’.
- DAY 2- Today the president will overturn the ‘Mexico city agreement’ [that’s the word in the media] this agreement was created under Reagan and forbid federal tax money to support pro abortion organizations in foreign lands. Say if I visited your family and you had 5 new borns. Now I want to like you, you are a Christian who believes the dismembering of human babies in the womb is murder. I am also a Christian but I have convinced you that my goal is to also protect your 5 baby’s lives. I convince you that the way to go about it is to not outlaw the actual murder of your kids. Okay, it sounds strange; would you be into outlawing the murder of innocent Jews during the holocaust? Or outlawing the enslavement of the Black race? If it were fundamentally wrong, which it is, then I want it outlawed. ‘You mean to tell me you would OUTLAW the murder of babies’ you bet ya! Just as much as outlawing Hitler’s gas chambers. Now, even though the parent with the 5 kids wants to ‘reduce the number of murdering his kids’ somehow he has been duped into believing that the way to protect his kids is by not outlawing, or fighting against the murder of kids! So the parent agrees to support the ‘pro abortion’ candidate, he has convinced you that his progressive thinking is the way to reduce the murder of your kids. Then the next thing you know people are knocking at your door wanting to kill your kids. These people have been hired and funded by the well meaning man who convinced you that he cares for your kids just as much as you. Don’t ‘kid’ yourselves, he is dangerous to the life of your kids. I realize that in today’s environment even describing this hideous act as murder is ‘old fashioned’. Have you seen the pictures of aborted kids? I have. They look exactly like the preemies in your local hospital nursery. The only difference is some of them are burned, others chopped up. Some look like they were killed by less traumatic means. All perfect little babies, simply dead. I am not a ‘fundamentalist, evangelical, bible toting, sin hating’ stereotypical Christian. But we need to realize that the expansion of our tax dollars to pay for and fund organizations in foreign lands that engage in this act can have no other effect that bring a curse on ‘our tax money’. If we believe that we can engage in this type of monetary genocide and at the same time turn our economy around, then we are fooling ourselves. Our nation will reap a financial disaster like a hurricane. [1-22-09]
- 1ST CORINTHIANS 13: 2-3 ‘and though I have the gift of prophecy [Pentecostal, prophetic expressions] and understand all mysteries and all knowledge [Orthodox, Reformed, intellectual creedal churches] and though I have all faith that I could remove mountains [the Faith camp] and have not charity [Agape- love] I am nothing’. Whew! Thank God us mission/outreach type guys are not in there. ‘And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor [ouch] and have not love it profits nothing’. I love the various expressions of the church, I feed from the Reformed brothers teaching, love reading and studying Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I of course favor the outreach/hands on type ministries, but according to this text we can have all these things and still be missing the mark. Our intellectual type brothers are engaging the culture and defending the faith, but without love we don’t even put a dent in the culture. The apologists are great at refuting the new atheists, to be honest about it the Christian intellectuals are head and shoulders above the atheists [Craig Lane and men like him] but I have noticed that we don’t really change that many minds even when all the proof is on our side. And I cant tell you how many well meaning missions and soup kitchens I have been too, but often times there is a disconnect between the people being served and the ‘servers’. You get the feeling sometimes that the well meaning helpers are simply punching a time card. We all need to reevaluate our motives. People can tell when we are in ‘ministry’ for the love of the business. Or for the self glory and adulation that comes with our service. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they truly were in it for the recognition of men. They wanted others to see that they were ‘successful in the ministry’ so they could receive recognition in public. Paul tells the Romans ‘he that shows mercy, let him do it with love [cheerfully]’. It’s easy to fall into a rut and simply be functioning out of a sense of duty. Now duty can be a good thing, there are times where we just need people to report for duty! [The harvest is plenteous, but the workers are few] but we need to examine ourselves and make sure we are functioning out of the Love of God. Often times the various ministries and expressions of the church are simply God ordained ‘places’ where we can connect with people. As we interact with the lost world, lets do our best to win the arguments, give proof for the legitimacy of Christianity. Combat false ideas and mindsets that are imbedded in our culture, but lets leave room for the other side to get in with us. Understand that they have a ‘missing piece’ [Augustine’s hole in the heart] and we are the only ones that can show them how to fill it.
- CORINTHIANS 13:4-10 Okay, what exactly is this love that we need? Paul has told us that all religious activity apart from it is vain. Paul here simply gives us a picture of the way it acts. You can read this section and substitute your name for the word love ‘love puts up with stuff and is kind’ ‘John puts up with stuff and is kind’ [ouch] ‘It does not boast or show off’. ‘It does not seek its own benefit’ a ‘what’s in it for me’ type mentality. Love is being just like Jesus. James tells us ‘if you fulfill the royal law of scripture, you do well’. The law is to love thy neighbor as yourself. Paul also shows us why love outshines the other gifts of tongues and prophesy and knowledge. He says ‘we know in part, prophesy in part. But when we are made perfect and mature at the appearing of Christ the partial gifts will no longer be distinguishable. Only love will rule’ [my paraphrase] I find it interesting that Paul says knowledge itself will cease. Will actual knowledge cease? What exactly is ‘knowledge’? When we use this term in society what we usually mean is the degree of ones learning/education compared to someone else. If you have a masters and I have a high school diploma, we see a difference. We measure knowledge by the amount we have as compared to others. Now, at Christ’s appearing when we all ‘shall know, even as we are known’ this fine distinction will ‘pass away’. We still will have knowledge, but as a tool that we use to measure one another, it will cease. It wont make a difference how much of the ‘knowledge pie’ [know in part] you possess, at that time everyone one will have ‘all pie’. Knowledge is a funny thing, our understanding of it has developed thru the centuries. During the enlightenment era the concept of ‘what does it even mean to know’ was tackled. One of the famous sayings was ‘I know/think, therefore I am’ [Descartes? Hey, I forget sometimes] the study of ‘how we learn/know things’ is called epistemology. The enlightenment produced a way to approach knowledge that can be called ‘modernism’ mans modern way of knowing stuff. In essence, there exists real truth that a person can know and learn. There is/was a challenge to this mode of thought. Many in the Emergent church movement would grasp on to another theory of ‘knowing’ loosely defined as being in the category of ‘post modernism’. Some challenged the actual ability to know a thing. The emphasis is on who is actually viewing/learning the thing. The terms ‘metta- narrative’ are sometimes used to describe this dynamic. There is some truth to the fact that our context, who we are and where we are coming from, can shape the actual stuff learned. But the question is ‘does our perspective actually change the thing, make it real or not’. Some in the field of Cosmology have grasped on to this post modern theory and have surmised that the very act of human beings studying and examining a thing can in and of itself cause the thing ‘to be’. You can see how this theory would be helpful to the atheist. ‘Where did every thing come from?’ ‘it is a result of human kind’s thoughts and inquiry’ [Ouch]. This sounds a lot like the metaphysical cults that espouse that reality is a product of what you think, confess. That man has the power to create reality simply by the act of studying a thing. Well this is of course a challenge to the truth of God. Jesus and the Cross aren’t ‘real’ because men ‘put their mind to them’. They are real whether or not man ever thought about them. ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar’ Romans. Paul tells us that all these varying degrees of knowledge will some day ‘pass away’. We will all stand before a self existent God and give an account of our lives. This day is coming whether you ‘think about it or not’.
- CORINTHIANS 13:11-13 WHEN I WAS A CHILD I UNDERSTOOD AND THOUGHT AND SPOKE LIKE A CHILD, BUT WHEN I GREW UP I PUT THOSE THINGS BEHIND ME- Paul shows us that we presently see and understand things thru ‘a glass’. God gives us insight and glimpses into Divine truth, but we need mercy because we all have limited sight. Over the years I know I have ruffled some feathers. Whether it be our teaching on what the church is, tithing, end times stuff. How New Testament believers should view the nationalistic promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant. I have found that the problem usually isn’t solved by simply proving something from scripture. For instance someone might become convinced by an ‘avalanche’ of information, they might actually see what I am saying. They can even articulate it to a degree [sometimes better than me!] but at the end of the day the answer to the problem is we all need to ‘grow up’. We need an overall change in the way we view things thru a legalistic lens. For instance, the tithe issue. Over the years I have taught the concept that believers are not under this law. Those of you who have read this site for any length of time know this. But I have also taught that it is fine to put 10% of your money into the offering on Sunday. It’s okay to support those who ‘labor among us’. But there are also many examples in the New Testament warning Gods leaders to not be in it for the money. Now, if we took seriously the mandate in Malachi to tithe. If we want to actually bind the believer’s conscience in this way ‘how are you robbing God? By not bringing in the tithes!’ Then we need to also look at the context. Israel as a nation was mandated to ‘tithe’ of their goods [not money] in three ways. They gave to support the Levites, also for the poor, and then they gave a tithe for religious feasts. In essence this ‘tithe’ was a total of around 30 % of their annual income, not 10%! [This by the way is right around what I spend on a monthly basis for the ministry stuff I do]. So, if we were telling people ‘you are going to be cursed if you don’t pay 10%’ we are actually misreading this verse. Also, how many believers think they are going to be cursed if they don’t ‘tithe to the poor’? Most modern preaching on the tithe simply puts it in the category of the Sunday offering. Most of this type of giving goes to support salaries, building upkeep, light bills, insurance for staff. I could go on and on. A very minute portion of this money [in general] goes to the poor. Certainly not a third! Also the portion that went to the Levites could not be used to purchase anything that would be owned by the Levite. They were forbidden to own any type of personal inheritance as Levitical priests. How often does the modern concept of tithing include this? The whole point is if we are going to bind peoples consciences in this way [which we shouldn’t] then we need to make sure we are at least teaching it right! Why bring this up? This is simply a good example of what Paul is saying. ‘When I understood in a limited way, I spoke and acted in a limited way’. The answer to the problem is simply ‘becoming mature in our thinking and speaking’. Recently I read an article from a U.S. congressman, he was speaking about the situation between Israel and Palestine. He sided with a military interpretation of the Old Testament promise to Abraham to ‘posses the land’ and used that to influence his political activism for war. How ‘mature’ is this type of thinking? Did any of the JEWISH apostles do this? No. So instead of trying to ‘crisis manage’ every single doctrinal problem, we really need to mature on an overall basis and view these doctrines thru the paradigm of Jesus and his life and work. Are we imitating his ethos when we do these things? Was this the primary message and life of Jesus when he walked the earth? How did he respond to Roman oppression and unjust govt.? Did he advocate military action in defense of the promises of God made to the nation of Israel? If we as the 21st century church do not ‘rightly divide’ these things, then we are of all men ‘most miserable’ [1st Corinthians 15].
- HAS DARWINS ‘TREE’ DIED? This week the Texas school board voted down a standard that was in the school system for 20 years. They got rid of a clause that said when teaching evolution, you should teach both the strengths and weaknesses of the theory. Certain lobbying groups wanted this out because they felt it gave an open door to intelligent design theorists. So they gave it the boot. When stuff like this happens it’s usually reported as ‘another victory for intelligence versus backwoods creationists’. I read a statement from a scientist who is an agnostic [not a Christian]. He shared how many scientists have abandoned Darwin’s theory based on the facts. In the last 25 years or so science itself has dealt a real death blow to evolution. The poor brothers are in a real bind. Some realize that Darwin was way out of his ‘skill set’ compared to today’s understanding and knowledge. These scientists see the absolute silliness of many of Darwin’s thoughts and ideas, but they also realize that to associate yourself wit the ‘anti evolution crowd’ is to heap upon yourself ridicule and scorn. The science is on their side, evolution doesn’t just have ‘weaknesses’ it has basically been overthrown by science, but you don’t dare say this out loud! [The movie ‘Expelled’ by Ben Stein deals with this]. Now, what is Darwin’s tree all about? Darwin surmised that the more we learn and ‘unearth’ over the next few centuries after he espoused his theory, that what we should find [if he was right] was a sort of ‘tree’ paradigm. The evidence would show simple cell organisms evolving and growing into multi-cell organisms and you would see a pattern of all life [plants, animals, humans] having evolved from a single original cell. The symbol for this was Darwin’s ‘tree’ analogy. Now, what has science found? Science has discovered no tree, to the contrary we have found that the ‘tree’ concept is actually false. Religion hasn’t proved this. Bible toting backwoods idiots haven’t shown this. But atheistic, agnostic, unbelieving scientists have discovered this. Do you now see the dilemma? These poor brothers don’t know what the heck to do! [Also many believing scientists have seen this, the point I am making is this discovery is not religious in nature]. Basically science shows this; around 3.8 billion years ago [for the sake of this argument I will use ‘old earth’ age, I realize that this is a very hot debate among many groups] the first life showed up on our planet. It was a single celled organism called ‘Blue-Green Algae’. Now, if Darwin were correct, you would be able to trace following eras as slowly evolving from simple cell to multiple cell life over a very long period of time. Well what does the evidence show? Science says [not religion!] that in the Cambrian era we have what has come to be known as the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ [around 400-500million years ago. The dates vary depending on whose ‘science’ you are using]. This evidence showed us that the basic structure and systems of multiple celled organisms showed up all at once. No ‘tree’ or evidence of things slowly evolving over millions of years. We went from ‘Blue Green Algae’ [3.8 billion years back] to a whole strata of life [known as Phyla- things like sponges, certain vertebrates and stuff like that] in one giant leap! Nothing evolving from the 3.8 billon year mark to the 4-500 million date of the Cambrian Explosion. This is verified fact amongst the majority in the scientific community. This is just one of hundreds of ‘weaknesses’ to Darwin’s theory. The evidence is not there! We know this! But when the average citizen reads a story like this in the paper, he simply thinks ‘there go those bible thumping ignoramuses trying to outlaw true science’, they really don’t have all the facts.
- CORINTHIANS 14:1-20 Lets deal a little with ‘Tongues’. I have written before on the various ways believers view this gift. Much has been taught over the years that can be seen as extreme from both camps [the Pentecostals and the non charismatics]. Is Paul speaking about the same gift as seen in Acts 2? If not, then does that mean the only legitimate ‘tongues’ are the Acts 2 expression? If a distinction is made, then Paul obviously put his stamp of approval on the second type of tongues by actually writing about it here! Ecstatic utterance was not exclusive to the early church. Paul earlier taught that the pagans engaged in this type of speech when worshipping false idols. This does not mean that true spiritual worship has no ecstatic type elements to it. The gifts themselves are seen as divinely inspired speech [the speaking ones]. Isaiah 8:1 says ‘TAKE A LARGE SCROLL AND WRITE ON IT WITH THE PEN OF A MAN’. God was telling Isaiah that he would use his actual writings as inspired instruments from him. Scripture also speaks of ‘the tongue of a ready writer’ we are called ‘living letters’ by Paul himself. Paul doesn’t challenge the legitimacy of this type of gift, but he does stress the importance of approaching all the gifts from a standpoint of unselfishness. If when the believers are gathered, they are all functioning in self edifying gifts, then they are making the same mistake that Paul rebuked earlier with the Lords table. The purpose of the gathering and gifts are for the building up of others and not for self gain. So Paul warns them of the selfish use of the gifts. He says it’s better to use Prophecy or Teaching because others can learn and grow. Some Pentecostal groups make a distinction between the prayer time and the ministry time. They practice tongues during corporate prayer and then treat ‘a tongue uttered’ during the service as something that needs interpretation. I see some merit to his, but it should be noted that here Paul does say ‘when you bless with the Spirit’ [prayer over a meal or something like it] that your prayer is fine, but still the other person doesn’t benefit. So Paul actually includes both ‘prayer tongues’ and ‘a word in tongues’ as needing to be tamped down during the public gathering. Of course we will see the teaching on private tongues as being fine, the point I am making is Paul includes ‘prayer tongues’ along with the other type. The main thrust of Paul’s teaching on Tongues is that the gift itself is legitimate [definitions of the gift vary!] but that all the gifts of the Spirit should be used unselfishly. ‘Well brother, Paul himself says it’s fine to pray in tongues to build yourself up! Got you now!’ well actually you don’t! ‘Building ones self up’ in a private setting can be considered beneficial to the overall corporate group. I just prayed/mediated for around an hour before writing, this was personal ‘self building’ for the purpose of corporate teaching. No matter where you personally come down on the various gifts of the Spirit, it is important to do all things with the benefit of others in mind. I hate to stick this example in here, but heck I just came up with it! Last night I was watching the news. I channel surf from CNN, MSNBC, FOX and even hit the PBS station every now and again [plus the big 3 networks]. Its still the first week of President Obama’s presidency and I couldn’t help but notice the unbelievable amount of ‘slobbering’ [yes, I borrowed it from Bernie Goldberg] that was taking place. I actually clicked the channel from Hannity to CNN. Hannity just finished talking about the embarrassing amount of gushing that the media were doing over Obama. As I clicked to Anderson Cooper, they were showing clips from the first media interview that Obama has given since being in office. It was a very good interview to an Arab language station. As Cooper was asking the reporters on their first thoughts of the interview, one actually said ‘it is so unbelievably outstanding that I am actually ‘giddy’. Now, I don’t subscribe to the Hannity/Limbaugh stuff 100%, but this really was too much. The media are putting such a high expectation on the poor man that no human being could possibly fulfill their image of the man. It was also reported that George [Stephanopoulos-?] actually cried during the inauguration. Of course Chris Matthews will go down in history for describing a ‘feeling going up his leg’ during coverage of an Obama speech. What’s wrong with this picture? I understand that the average white man feels self affirmed when he engages in public displays of support for Black advancement. I too like our President and do pray regularly for him. Not too long ago I met a black homeless friend, he actually has a little apartment but he was at the free mission so I sometimes refer to all these brothers as homeless. He was under the impression that I ran some type of ministry that took in money [I never take any offerings, for radio or anything else] so as I offered to by him some groceries and stuff, he kinda went a little overboard. I really didn’t have any ‘extra money’ but I bought it any way. I didn’t get mad or feel bad about it. I still see the brother every now and then and am still willing to help him. Now, is it better to show your love for the black man by publicly crying and gushing and describing sexual type feelings when listening to the new president speak, or to actually go out and find some black person in need and meet the need? I don’t want to get into the whole political scene at all, sometimes it gets me mad. I have actually ‘cussed’ [yes, I admit it] at the screen at times. [Little curse words, not the big ones!] The point being we all need to heed the admonition in scripture to show our love by our deeds and actions. To simply put on a public display for the world means very little.
- CORINTHIANS 14:20-33 Paul instructs the church that when they are gathered together they should do things ‘decently and in order’. God is not the author of confusion. Notice the ‘order’ of the early church meeting. It is participatory in nature, those who give a word should take turns, those who give ‘a tongue’ need to let someone interpret. But there is no sense of ‘a pastoral speaking gift’ in this mix. Some teach that here Paul was giving directions to ‘the home group’ but they still had a regular ‘church service at the building’. This of course has no support at all from scripture or 1st century church history. Paul was simply telling ‘the church’ how to act when they met. I don’t see any hard and fast rules in which Paul is dictating some type of mandatory liturgy to the people. He is giving them some basic guidelines that are in keeping with the idea that God’s people are ‘a body’. He encourages open participation in the group. He shows how someone could be sharing and another who is ‘sitting by’ can also have a revelation. The idea is people grow and mature when they function. People become co-dependant when they simply observe. The modern church service for the most part has believers as spectators while one person speaks. While there are times where one person speaking/teaching is fine, what we have done is exalted this very limited format of ‘church’ and made it the criteria of what church is supposed to be. Note how Paul does allow for the gift of tongues to be used in the gathering, but only when there is an interpreter. He even ‘lifts’ an obscure verse from Isaiah that says God used ‘the languages of foreigners’ as a sign of judgment against unbelief. This verse has been used by the strong anti charismatic crowd to kind of say that the whole tongues thing is ‘of the devil’. Basically Paul was applying this Old Testament verse to show that when languages are spoken that people don’t understand, then unbelievers and judgment can be present. In Acts 2 there were those who said ‘what is this strange thing [tongues] are they drunk or what’. Yet others heard the ‘wonderful works of God’ in their native tongue. The lack of spiritual discernment among those who thought they were drunk was a sign showing their ignorance of Gods Spirit at work. Grant it, you could hardly blame them for thinking this, but the point Paul is making is that unknown languages being used in a setting where unbelievers can walk in does act as a sign of judgment. Paul wasn’t teaching that the gift of tongues was itself a false gift. I think this chapter is important for the present day because very few places in scripture actually deal with the way believers should meet. This chapter gives some of the basic guidelines of what our meetings should look like. I think we could all learn from the Corinthian experience.
- CORINTHIANS 14:34-40 ‘Let your women keep silent in the gathering, for it is not permitted for them to speak. If they have any questions let them ask their husbands at home’. As a practical matter, when me and my wife attend church, I bring one of those little note pads with me. You never know when your wife has a question! [This is a Joke! But now you can see why I don’t take offerings]. What is Paul saying here? In chapter 11, verse 5, he also told the women not to ‘prophesy’ with uncovered heads. Some think Paul is forbidding women to operate in the speaking gifts, specifically tongues. Here he seems to be addressing a specific issue at Corinth. He says ‘if they have questions let them ask their husbands’. It’s possible that the wives were interrupting the meetings, or taking an authoritative role that was beyond their calling. I already discussed how Corinth had a form of idolatry that incorporated ‘temple prostitution’. Paul did not want the churches to go the way of the culture at Corinth! Paul is not forbidding women in general to never ‘talk in church’. He closes this chapter with the admonition to do all things decently and in order. Paul has a special relationship with these believers. He spent quite a long time in their city [18 months] he launched another very effective ministry while at Corinth. Do you know what that was? He began his ‘writing ministry’ while at Corinth. He wrote his first 2 letters to the Thessalonians from the city. Paul was very hard on this church, but he did not yet challenge their basic identity as believers because of all their misgivings, he still treated them as Gods holy people. In the next chapter he will question whether or not ‘they are in the faith’. He will challenge them on their unbelief in the resurrection of Christ.
- A PALESTINIAN PASTOR- Let me share a little about our Christian brothers who live in Palestine. The purpose of sharing this is so we as American believers could have a different way of viewing the Middle East situation. Not for defending terrorism or embracing anti Semitism, but a whole ‘other worldly’ view. I recently read a story from a Lutheran Palestinian pastor. He is part of a small percentage of Christians living in the land. Around 3% of the population are believers. Some of these groups date back to the early centuries of the Christian church, others to the Reformation period. The point being a historic church actually exists amongst the Palestinian people. The Pastor was looking forward to his son’s graduation day, they were going to travel to the ‘Holy city’ for the special occasion and it was considered the big graduation day for the whole family. The Pastor made sure he had all the paperwork together for the trip. The big night of the graduation celebration they were stopped at a border checkpoint by an Israeli soldier and were denied entry. The Pastor humbled himself and showed the soldier that his paperwork was in order, that he was a Christian minister who meant no harm. He went out of his way this night to show the soldier that he and his family were really no threat at all. After much pleading the fine Pastor and his family turned around and had their celebration back at home. Now, I do not know what the situation was on the ground that night, maybe there was a threat in the area. The point is too many American believers view the whole situation in the middle east from some type of ancient old testament story in which the Israelis are possessing their promised land while driving out the ‘Canaanites’. This ‘lens’ is not in keeping with the Christian gospel. The Palestinian Christians were asked how they felt about having true fellowship with Christians from the outside. They said they were often viewed as ‘cultural Christians’ only. Sort of like in name only, they were not seen as truly being ‘born again’. They were excited at times when Christian groups did interact with them as fellow believers in the faith. But the majority of contact from the outside Christian world were the various ‘prophetic/evangelical’ type Christians who were visiting the holy land as tourists. For the most part these American believers were there to see ‘the holy sites’ to view the restored Jewish state. To see how work was going among the various orthodox groups who were re making the utensils that were to be used in a future rebuilt temple. But for the most part the American believers viewed these brothers in the faith as something less valuable than the actual land that they were visiting. These mindsets show us that we have a long way to go to regain a pure biblical view of the gospel and how it relates to society today. The gospel puts tremendous value on the people for whom Christ died [both Jews and non Jews]. When Jesus spoke of ‘the restoration of the temple’ he was speaking about his own Body, not Herod’s building. When American evangelicals place a greater emphasis on the natural land and the hope of a restored temple with renewed animal sacrifices, than on the actual living Body of Christ on earth [believers of every ethnic background] then we have shown a tremendous lack of discernment equal to those who mistook Jesus words as applying to the natural temple of his day.
- CORINTHIANS 15:1-19 Paul will deal with the greatest threat yet to the Corinthian church, their doubt over the physical resurrection of the body. Various ‘Christian’ groups over the years have doubted the physical resurrection. Now, some have done this out of a sincere attempt at trying to defend the faith! [their view of it] In the 1900’s you had one of the most popular theologians by the name of Rudolf Bultman [most of his career was spent at the University of Marburg, Germany. Much of the higher criticism of the day originated from Germany] He wrote a book called ‘Kerygma and Myth’. What he tried to say was that any modern man living in the 20th century, with all the breakthroughs in science and knowledge, could not ‘literally’ believe the miraculous stories in scripture. Or even the way scripture spoke of heaven and hell and used limited terms to describe spiritual truths. He used the bibles terminology on Cosmology as an example. How could man believe in a Cosmos where ‘heaven is up there, with the stars and all’ and he felt that enlightened man needed to ‘re-tool’ the bible and cleanse it from all these mythical images, but yet keep the spiritual aspects of it. The moral teachings of Christ and stuff like that. So you have had sincere men doubt the truth claims of scripture. The problem with this attempt [higher criticism] is it throws out the baby with the bathwater. The resurrection of Jesus is presented by the apostles as a real event. The fact of this resurrection can also be attested to by examining the historical events of the day. Simply put, there is a ton of proof for the real resurrection of Christ. Bultman and others meant well, but some of the ‘facts’ that they were using were later proven to be false. Bultman used a model of cosmology that would later be rejected by science. Yet the testimony from scripture would remain sure. Paul told the Corinthian’s that they needed to reject any attempts at spiritualizing the resurrection of Christ. Sometimes believers grasp hold of limited proof’s for certain doctrines. For instance, the New Testament does speak of a spiritual resurrection. In Ephesians Paul says we are presently raised with Christ. In Romans chapter 6 we have all ready been raised with Jesus. This reality does not mean there will be no future resurrection of the saints. In John’s gospel Jesus speaks of the resurrection as being a future real event, as well as a present reality. Those in the graves will hear his voice and be raised from the dead. And those who were presently ‘dead in sins’ would ‘come alive’ [spiritually] when they heard and believed the testimony of Jesus. It is important for the believer to be familiar with the various theories and ideas that theologians and believers have grasped over the years. It is a mistake to simply see all higher learning as ‘liberalism’. There are some very important things that we have learned thru the great intellectuals of the church. But we also need to stick with the ancient traditions as seen in the creeds, as well as the plain testimony of scripture. If Christ ‘be not raised from the dead, then we are of all men most miserable’.
- CORINTHIANS 15:20-28 here we see the guarantee of mans resurrection based on Christ’s resurrection. ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive’. Is Paul teaching a form of universalism [all being saved]? He is showing us that all men will someday be raised from the dead. Now, does Paul leave room here for a type of Pre-millennial resurrection? A ‘raising’ of the dead prior to a thousand year literal reign of Jesus. Then another resurrection at the end? Yes he does. If you read Revelation you will see this type of scenario play out. Also Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Historically the church has held 3 basic views on this. Pre-millennialism says Jesus returns first [pre] before the literal thousand year rule occurs. ‘Post’ says the thousand year rule is literal, and after that Jesus comes back. Those who held to this view were excited at the turn of the first millennium [1000 ad] they thought it possible for Jesus to have returned after the first thousand years since his death and resurrection. And then you have A-millennial, they spiritualize the thousand year reign spoken of in the book of Revelation as being a symbol of Christ’s present rule and kingdom. Now, today’s most popular form of Pre-millennialism is not historic, it dates back to the 19th Today’s form is called ‘Pre-tribulational, Pre-millennial’ this teaching [dispensationalism] says Jesus comes back 2 more times. One is called ‘the rapture’ the other is the second coming [revealing]. The proponents of this form find little [or no] early Christians who believed this. There is one early writing by a Syrian brother who speaks very clearly about a rapture type event. Some think he speaks a little too clearly! The writing is believed to have been a fake. Either way we do have Paul teaching stages involved with the coming of the Lord and the kingdom. It is possible to have 2 future resurrections, this would not mean you need two future ‘second comings’. The first resurrection takes place at Christ’s return. He rules a literal thousand years and ‘the dead are raised again’ at the end of the literal rule on earth [ a literal reading of Revelation]. Also Paul does use the language of Jesus submitting to the Father at the end so ‘God will be all in all’. I feel believers have been confused and at times contradictory while trying to explain the nature of God and the Trinity. I recently read a teaching on the Trinity that tried to compare the Trinity to the nature of the organic church. It seemed confusing to me, they tried to say that just like in the Trinity you have no one ‘being’ having authority over the other, but instead you see all three persons equally submitting to one another [Father, Son and Spirit] so in the church you have equality. Now, I do believe that there is equality in the church, but I felt the example was way off. The New Testament clearly teaches the willful ‘submission’ of the Son to the Father. God [the father] is clearly the one ‘in charge’. Now, I admit it’s difficult and brothers have spent years trying to explain all the ins and outs of this. Here Paul shows us that the Son has willingly submitted to the Father so the father can put all things under him. Then once again at the culmination of the kingdom the Son submits to the father and God receives the glory. We will praise and worship Jesus thru out all eternity, it is his willful submission to the father’s plan that makes this happen. NOTE- Some believers spiritualize the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation, they relate it to those who have been ‘born again’ spiritually. Modern ‘Preterism’ holds to this view.
- JAMES AND REVELATION- I have been reading James along with some stuff on Revelation. James says ‘though the ships are driven with fierce winds, yet they turn by the steering of the captain. He sets the course with a small helm/rudder’. Also that the tongue is a ‘world of sin, it sets the course of nature on fire’. In revelation Jesus is depicted as a warrior LAMB. He is also called the Lion of Judah. He ‘slays the wicked’ with the sword [word!] from his mouth. The word for conquer/victory in Revelation is the Greek word NIKAN-NIKE. Yes, the famous sneaker comes from this word! Nikan was a Roman conqueror god. Rome was a conquering nation who used force and brutality to win. John depicts her as Babylon in his apocalypse. When we read of the victorious Lamb and his followers [believers] overcoming and conquering the beast, we are seeing the nature of Jesus kingdom at work. We too are lambs sent out into the world. We turn the other cheek, we forgive and love our enemies. We reject violence as a means of victory. We conquer too by the sword that comes out of our mouth! [The blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony]. What we say, as the corporate church of God, matters! We can turn entire ‘ships’ [nations and governments] by the things we proclaim as Gods people. We can also release the nature of man and cause a huge ‘firestorm’ without realizing it. When we present Jesus and his kingdom thru a view of ‘conquering’ [Nike] that is done thru violence, nuclear war, Jesus literally treading people’s blood until it drips from his garments, when we give this imagery as actual killing, then we thru our lips are releasing the violent course of man in the earth. We have believers reading the popular end times books and fantasizing about end time scenarios of survivalism and warfare. These images are actually things the ‘beast’ uses to obtain authority and rule. To the contrary Jesus and his followers are conquering thru a different means. We are followers of the Lamb who ‘kills with the sword of his mouth’. When the citizens of ‘Rome’ [unbelievers] are confronted with the testimony of Jesus from our lips, then they ‘die to their old lives’ and are raised to walk in newness of life [Romans 6]. The blood imagery of Jesus being drenched in it, can be saying that Jesus identified so much with man in his bloody death, that as he ‘treads the enemy’ he becomes identified with the human condition so man can become identified with him. In essence Jesus ‘co-mingled’ with us thru death, so we could be united with him in life. The point I am making is we as Gods people need to be careful when we run headlong into violent war scenarios when presenting the word of God. It is obvious that Jesus is not literally killing people with a real sword [made out of metal] from his mouth. He conquers thru love and death and resurrection, the world conquers thru violence and oppression. When we ‘paint’ an inaccurate picture of these things thru our teaching/preaching, then we are releasing thru our tongues a ‘world of iniquity that sets on fire the course of nature’. This is not the testimony that we should be speaking that truly causes us to overcome.
(1013)CORINTHIANS 15:29-49 the resurrection body is a real ‘spiritual’ body. Paul describes the natural body [us now] as fleshly and like Adams body. He then describes the promised resurrection body as being like Jesus in his raised state. These verses can be a little confusing. When Paul says the resurrection body is ‘spiritual’ as compared to earthy, is he saying it is not real? No. But you can see how some early sects could use these verses and teach a ‘phantom’ type resurrection [Gnostic, Docetist type groups]. I was once asked by a Catholic believer if the church taught the physical resurrection. I assured the person that both Catholic and Protestant [and Orthodox] expressions of Christianity embrace the real future resurrection of the body. Now, is it the same body? Well, the way Paul describes it is by comparing the planting of seeds. When you plant a seed you don’t simply get a bigger seed! But you get various types of growth, whether it’s a tree or plant or whatever. So Paul says our future bodies will be new and glorious in this way, but if it weren’t really you, then it wouldn’t be a resurrection! So you will come back, but it will be a ‘new you’. Over the years I have studied various theologians [Christian ones] and I have seen the penchant for various groups to focus in on a certain doctrine and to stray somewhat from the faith. Now, they aren’t always cults, some of them are highly knowledgeable Christians who seem to be testing the boundaries of orthodoxy. I like N.T. Wright, the famous Bishop of Durham [Church of England] but you need to be grounded in what you believe before you can really read him. I feel at times he is helpful in bringing new perspectives to things, I have seen some of the things he teaches myself. But there is also a danger of ‘re-thinking’ stuff a little too much. By the way Wright has written on the resurrection and has done a great job at defending the historic churches position. He’s in somewhat of a theological controversy at the moment, some of the strong reformed brothers have come out and challenged his view on Justification. Wright teaches that the historic reformers kind of missed what Paul was saying. Wright ‘extends’ the doctrine to mean ‘a sign/badge of those who are already in Gods covenant community’. The historic reformers taught a more forensic meaning of the doctrine. That justification is primarily saying that God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to the believer. That Jesus took our sins, and we get his righteousness. Now, I feel there is some truth to Wrights view. But I would be careful to throw out the reformed view all together. There certainly is much truth to the reformed view. John Piper [a reformed Baptist] just released a book on the reformed view, Wright has one coming out pretty soon [Wrights is already published overseas, but the states wont get it for a few months]. So, the point is I believe the historic church and the ancient creeds ‘got it right’ on the resurrection. It is real, it will happen to all people some day. Those who have ‘done good’ [wow- these are Jesus actual words when describing the final judgment!] will be ‘raised to life’. Those who have done evil will be raised to face judgment. We can all escape the coming judgment, Jesus died for us. If we believe and accept his death, burial and resurrection, then we will be raised to a new life some day. 378- (I stuck this entry in here because it deals with the ‘baptism for the dead’, I didn’t want you to think that I just skipped over the verse) Let me give a little example of the ‘overriding act of redemption’ trumping any little verse or experience. Paul actually tells the Corinthians ‘if the dead are not raised, then why are you baptizing people in ‘proxy’ for the dead?’ This is tough stuff. Let me give you one way to see this. The ‘baptism for the dead’ seems to have been a real cultural thing that took place in a specific time and setting [like the slavery verses I mentioned earlier]. There seems to have been a concern specifically to the 1st century church that said ‘this new doctrine of Jesus is great, but being its only been around a few years, and you are telling us [Paul] that you must embrace it to be saved. Then we have a problem. A lot of our loved ones never got a chance to hear. How do you expect us to quell these concerns?’ And it’s possible that the ‘baptism’ by proxy [like a father or son getting baptized in the place of the loved one who died] was a 1st century cultural thing that grew out of this. The fact that they were doing this does not mean that Paul the Apostle was condoning it. Paul was simply saying ‘if you guys really don’t believe in life after death, then why are you bothering with this rite?’ Its like Paul was using their own cultural thing to show them the inconsistency of their thinking. He wasn’t really teaching the baptism for the dead. [This is my view, Mormons believe different. They do practice this today and they use this verse as justification].
- JAMES ‘with our tongues we bless God the father and we curse men, who are made after his image and likeness’ [my paraphrase] In keeping with the recent theme of James and Revelation [end time views] I want to talk a little about our view of human kind. We often read the words of Jesus in Johns gospel ‘ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you do’ [8:44] and we use this understanding to devalue humanity. The liberal movement spoke of ‘the brotherhood of men and the fatherhood of God’ sort of like we are all brothers, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all other religions, we are all just on different paths to the same God. Is this true? No. Jesus is the only path to God. But does this lesson the value of our fellow man? James isn’t saying ‘only Christians are made in Gods image’ he is saying all humans have special value, they are made in Gods likeness. When we grasp on to belief systems that devalue human rights and dignity, then we are speaking and acting with a forked tongue! Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and told them they were going the way of satan by rejecting him as the true Messiah, the religious leaders were choosing to say no to Christ. Spiritually they were following satan as their father. But yet James says all human beings originated from God and therefore people have much more value than land [even the holy land!], animals, temples and all other images that can be found on the planet. When we ‘bless God’ and claim to be speaking for him from the evangelical pulpits and media outlets, then we must be careful to not ‘curse men’ or to give an idea that these ‘Muslims’ or any other ethnic/religious grouping of people are not valuable. A distinction should be made between the value and rights of all people, and the various religions and false ideas that people have embraced. The world should not be hearing a message from us that says ‘by golly, Jesus is gonna come back and wipe the ground with the blood of these Muslim nations who are attacking Israel. Their blood will drip from his clothes! Bless be to God!’ Don’t you see how these images are ‘blessing God’ and at the same time ‘cursing men’ who are made in his likeness? [I realize some of these images are found in scripture, but we need to correctly interpret them. All these symbols need to be seen thru spiritual eyes, understanding the true meaning of the verses and interpreting them thru the overriding view of the gospel].
- CORINTHIANS 15:50-58 Okay, let’s wrap up this chapter. ‘Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom’ Paul speaks a little on the nature of the resurrected body. It is real, but not mortal [flesh and blood] without getting lost in the technical aspects of the actual body, Paul does make a distinction between the natural life of man [blood gives life to the mortal man] and the supernatural life of the resurrected body [spiritual life]. Then Paul shows us a mystery [something that was hidden up until the time God reveals it- here thru Paul!] that ‘we shall not all experience death, but we shall all get new bodies’. Paul teaches that some believers will not face natural death, they will be the generation that is alive at Christ’s coming. Paul says this happens at the ‘last trumpet’. For those of you not familiar with some of the silly stuff that passes under the heading of ‘theology’, let me explain some stuff. In the world of ‘dispensationalism’ there is an entire body of teaching that deals with the trumpets in scripture. Basically if Paul is teaching that this event, getting raised from the dead and being transformed, if this takes place at ‘the last trump’ then it is pretty clear that this event is not some type of rapture that takes place 7 years prior to Gods ‘last trump’ [last day, when God wraps things up]. But if you read the portions of scripture that speak about Christ’s return and the resurrection [Thessalonians 4, John 14, Matthew 25] you will see that all these scriptures teach that the resurrection takes place at the end, when Christ returns. So anyway a whole lotta time is spent by the rapture guys to explain that when you are in school, you might say ‘hey, that’s the last bell [trump] before class starts’ and that ‘last bell’ doesn’t mean ‘last bell’, but it means the ‘last bell for now’. It’s kind of silly stuff that preachers do in order to back up their theories. If scriptures ‘last trump’ isn’t really the ‘last trump’ then you can fit the rapture in as a separate event from the second coming. I think doing doctrine like this is silly and hairsplitting. The first century believers who were reading these letters [not all at once, but as they were slowly being penned and sent] simply saw all of the references on the second coming as one event. It’s silly to try and make two separate lists of the New testament verses on Christ’s coming and then place some verses under a rapture heading, and others under a ‘second coming’ heading, especially when the rapture brothers themselves cant agree on which ones belong to which list! Well any way we have a glorious promise of a future resurrection body, the last enemy that Jesus destroys is death. Revelation says ‘death and hell are cast into the lake of fire’ Jesus has power over death, hell and the grave. He will totally eradicate all death some day, Jesus tasted death for every man [Hebrews] so that man does not have to be in bondage under its fear any more.
- ‘THE LOCATABLE LOCAL CHURCH’? I remember how we were taught in the Baptist church that the local church is ‘locatable’ that it is a real ‘place’ that you could find when visiting a city. This tended to confuse the matter somewhat. In church history you can find teachings on the visible church versus the invisible church. Saint Augustine is famous for this distinction, as a matter of fact Augustine taught that it was possible [not probable] that a person who is a member of the visible church might not really be a believer, and that it was possible for someone to be a believer and not be a member of the visible church, though he did see this dynamic as a rare thing. Even some of today’s organic church teachings seem a little confused at times on this. They seem to indicate that a ‘locatable church’ means a home type meeting that you can find if you visit a particular city. While it is true that in the New Testament you most certainly could locate a home meeting [or temple one or one at the synagogue while Paul was teaching the local Jewish community- evangelistically] yet I prefer to see it like this. If I were to tell you that a wonderful community of people exist, let’s say in Houston. And I described these ‘Houstonians’ as being bright, progressive go getters. I explained to you that they are all real people who live and function as citizens of Houston. If you then studied the history of Houston a thousand years from now, how would you describe them? Were they ‘locatable’? Well yes, of course. If you went to Houston you would be able to most certainly ‘locate’ them. How? Well you would run into them at the store, see them shopping. Possibly playing ball at one of the parks. There are hundreds of ways to ‘locate them’. You would even be able to locate them at some home meeting [or church building]. But you certainly would not describe their ‘locate-ability’ [if this is even a word!] as being the home or building. They were/are locatable because they really exist as citizens from another place! So likewise I think it would be better to describe the ‘locatable, visible church’ as being the actual communities of people who reside in your area and are believers in Christ. Now, you should be able to locate a place where they meet and celebrate the Lords Table and stuff like that, but don’t confuse locating a meeting with the actual people themselves.
- JAMES AND HUMILITY- ‘Humble yourselves in Gods sight and he will lift you up’ ‘He gives grace to the humble’ I was reading a testimony from a reformed type brother who is also an excellent writer on the ‘out of the institutional church movement’. He shared how early in his Christian life he was grounded in truth, he eventually became more reformed in his thinking and pastored various expressions of church. He recalled a few divine appointments in life where he was confronted by truth in a new way. He pastored during the years right after the hippie movement of the late 60’s and he ran into a few simple believers who simply challenged him on why the meetings he was pastoring were centered around his speaking gift. These were simple believers who came to know the Lord outside of the traditional church and naturally developed along the lines of a community. Now the pastor was much more knowledgeable in all things religious, but his humility caused him to rethink his understanding of what these simple brothers said. So over a period of a few years he studied the scriptures with an eye for this type of thing. He realized that most of the examples of one person preaching to a group were actually evangelistic in nature. The times the brethren met for fellowship were in fact not centered around one persons speaking gift, he realized that the questions posed to him from the simple believers were right. So he made adjustments to his ministry. This example shows you the need we all have for true humility. This type of openness is rare in ministry today, most leaders would have simply dismissed the questions that the other believers asked. Most well trained educated men would see their background as a defense for their practices. This does not mean we have no need for a well educated church, in this mans case he still uses his knowledge and education as a benefit for the church at large, it’s just we all have a responsibility to respond to truth in Gods timing. I have read testimonies of ex-pastors who felt like they were filling a position of performance and ‘looking good’ and living up to the expectations of people in a way that was phony. Men who felt like they had to go to some other town to simply enjoy being a simple believer. They were carrying a weight of fame and expectation that they felt were not a real part of Christianity. It was more of a by product of the development of the hired clergy position that they held. So these men left the pastorate out of conviction and humbled themselves in the sight of the Lord. I don’t recommend this for all pastors who see and learn these things on their journey, but this is the correct response for some. I simply want to challenge you today on your response to being confronted with truth on your journey. Do you have a tendency to dismiss all criticism as wrong? Would you have judged the simple believers who challenged your mode of ministry as ‘less than you’? I know I have done this at times, had the wrong response when confronted with truth. I appreciate the pastors/leaders who read this site, my goal is to help all of you on the mission God has placed on your lives. Some of you will have different responses to the things we share, my goal is that we would all come to maturity and unity as a corporate people in Gods timing. I certainly do not advise all pastors to ‘close up shop’ and start from scratch, but to some this might be a real option. But in each case if we respond in humility God will give us more grace, this is something we can all use. NOTE- The brother I used in the above example is Jon Zens, his web site is on my blog roll, it’s called ‘searching together’.
- MONKEY BONES AND SPACE SHIPS- I read an interesting piece on the exhibit of Lucy in Seattle. The article showed how the famous bones, discovered in the 1970’s, were not getting the attention they felt it deserved. The display itself was considered less than what it had been advertised, many said they were surprised at the small amount of scattered bones that comprised the main exhibit. It almost seemed to look like a scattered display of monkey bones! [watch out] But alas, as you progressed to the part of the ‘show’ that had the man made models of what Lucy might have looked like with flesh and structure and all, sure enough she looked great! Exactly like a missing link. The article also mentioned how the scientist, who was an expert in bone structure, that when he was first contacted to ‘create’ the model for the exhibit, that he was quite surprised at the bones too. He said he had a very difficult time in structuring a bi-pedal model [walks on two feet] from the scant bone evidence. What made it difficult was the bones all seemed to indicate that the creature was exactly like a regular ape! [He didn’t realize that he was letting the cat out of the bag] But nevertheless he fulfilled his obligation and did his darndest to make a statue like being, contrary to what the bones really showed, and it looked great. Those who doubted the actual evidence at the exhibit were convinced by the good looking model. Now to the space ships. What if I told you we discovered a small scattered section of a U.F.O.? I created a special exhibit and explained to you all my theories on how this craft ‘evolved’ from other craft and eventually became the modern plane. I went thru all sorts of efforts to back up my claim. Then we discover that Joe’s mechanic shop out in the New Mexico desert actually has a working fleet of these craft! He has been flying them on routine missions for years [thus all the sightings] he uses the fleet for all sorts of projects; delivering the local produce to parts unknown, he holds special stunt shows and all for the regulars. We have hit the jackpot when it comes to finding out the truth about the U.FO. Mystery. We certainly don’t need the old exhibit of scattered parts that was promoted in days gone by. In essence this is what we have when it comes to examining the evidence of whether or not monkeys turned into people. We have the capability thru advanced DNA testing to show us the very unique makeup of living things. This advanced knowledge shows us one conclusive fact; living things stay in their categories! They have such unique genetic coding that it is impossible for one group to jump and become another group. We really don’t need to look at all the scattered ‘bone’ evidence to determine whether or not monkeys turn into people. We have the actual ‘craft’ to examine! The bible says that God created things ‘after their kind’ they would reproduce and multiply within their specific genetic group. For many thousands of years the bible plainly stated that these species do not slowly [or quickly] jump into another group. Darwin said they did, after 150 years of research, science has advanced to a point where we can clearly examine ‘the working fleet’. We don’t need a bunch of dead bones to figure this thing out. I just wish the evolutionists would get on the bandwagon and come take a look at Joe’s fleet.
- JAMES AND THE RICH- as James encourages the saints he also rebukes the ‘well to do’. He tells them they have heaped treasure together for the last days and the rust of it will testify against them. He tells the poor believers that the rich blaspheme Gods name and oppress the poor. He tells the poor that God has chosen them to be heirs of the kingdom. One of the main themes of James is that God is on the side of the oppressed person, the down and out. God defends those who have ‘no voice’. They lack the finances and influence to speak up for themselves. Martin Luther King said the New Jerusalem is both a present reality breaking into our current lives ‘New York’ ‘New Chicago’ etc. He spoke of it as the beloved community. He understood that God was not only concerned with the after life, but with society here and now as well. One of the main purposes of prophetic ministry is to bring Gods people back into alignment and to speak out against injustice and materialism. I find it interesting that one of the main themes of James is defending the poor while rebuking the rich. Like we said before James was the half brother of Jesus, he grew up in the same home with the Lord. He experienced the tremendous ministry of Jesus for three years. He heard him speak the parables on rich men in hell and Lazarus in ‘Abraham’s bosom’. He saw the young rich man go away sad because he had lots of stuff and was not willing to give it up for a higher purpose. He heard the parable of the rich guy who wanted to build more storage for his stuff and feel secure by thinking he had abundance for years to come, but then Jesus said he would die that night. James picked up some themes from Jesus, one of them was that those who focused on material wealth were not focused on spiritual things. They seemed to spend most of their time thinking about their stuff. James was one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem church, their were many poor saints living there. He was not preaching a prosperity gospel to them, he told them their present suffering was only for a short time. They would be rewarded by God for the difficulties they faced, the comfortable would have some stuff to answer for as well.
- CORINTHIANS 16:1-4 ‘When you come together on the first day of the week, let every one of you put some money aside as God has provided for you. So when I come we won’t have to waste any time taking offerings. And we will use this money for the purpose of meeting the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. Whoever you approve to take the money to Jerusalem can do it, I might also go with them if the Lord permits. I gave this same order to all the churches in the Galatian province’ [my own paraphrase]. These verses are usually used to justify the Sunday morning offering. They are also used to teach ‘Sunday as the Lords special day’. Let’s talk a little. Paul gave these instructions to at least this church and all the churches of Galatia. We have no idea if all the first century churches actually did this. But let’s say they did. What exactly are they doing? They are taking a Sunday offering and using it 100 percent for charitable purposes. Remember how I have taught in the past that the main teaching from Jesus on giving dealt with the poor? So if we want to use this text to command believers to give on Sunday, then we need to use ALL THE MONEY for helping poor people. Paul also says ‘do it before I arrive, I don’t want to have to spend time messing around with collections’. I find it interesting that it is common today to spend a good portion of the Sunday service [any church U.S.A.] to kind of do a celebratory offering thing. Lots of time to stop and emphasize the importance of worshiping God with our money. The point I would make is Paul did none of this. He actually said he did not want to have to set aside time for the collecting of money when he arrived, and for this very reason he said take up the offering on Sunday! One more thing; it is obvious that the early believers began a tradition of meeting on Sunday. Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection on 2 consecutive Sundays. Acts 20 has believers meeting on Sunday. Jesus of course rose from the dead on Sunday. But there is no indication from scripture that believers are under some type of New Testament Sabbath law. Sort of like Sunday is now the ‘special day’ just like Saturday for Judaism. Various groups argue over this issue, I have taught on it before. In the New Covenant we have tremendous freedom to meet or not meet on Sunday. Or to meet or not meet on Saturday for that matter! But doctrinally we are free from the law and all of its observances. I appreciate the work that has been done by various scholars [Especially some catholic ones] on showing how Sunday became the special day of observance for believers. But we need to be careful when we read what the believers did in the New Testament and then proclaim it as law. I believe its fine to meet on Sunday, to take offerings and to do all of these types of things. But when we grasp hold of limited ideas, and then exalt them to a place of law, we err. Paul was simply telling this church to collect some money on the first day of the week for the sole purpose of charity. If modern day believers want to apply these scriptures literally, then we should use all of the Sunday offering for charity. If we apply them literally, then there is absolutely no sense of a tithe system to pay for salaries, building upkeep, insurance, on and on. For modern day believers to engage in such things is fine. If these expenses seem needed for the overall purpose of Gods work, then fine. But to use these verses and actually tell believers they are robbing God if they don’t tithe on Sunday is absolutely not true. I have written a lot about these things over the years [you can find stuff on my ‘statement of faith’ section and ‘what in the world is the church’ section] I do not condemn all the churches who practice these things, it’s just we need to be careful when we take examples from scripture, lift them out of context, add a few verses from Malachi and then teach some air tight system that if not obeyed brings the curse of God on someone. Do all things in grace, remember THE POOR, and you will do well.
- CORINTHIANS CONCLUSION- Paul concludes this long letter with a bunch of personal notes. He tells them that the Lord has opened up a great effective door for him at Ephesus and there are many adversaries. He wanted Apollos to make a visit but he did not want to at this time. He told them to go easy on Timothy because he was a fellow worker in the Lord. Overall Paul’s message to this church was one of true grace. I want to emphasize again [like we did when studying Romans and the other epistles so far] that one of the main themes of the first century apostles was belief in the gospel. Paul told these believers that it was believing in the message of the Cross that saves them. He defined the gospel as Jesus death, burial and resurrection. He encouraged them to live free as Gods community and to help each other out. Paul did not lay on them some type of guilt trip to become some high powered institution in order to ‘change their world’. He believed that the simple lifestyle of love and purity would be able to do the job. I see a contrast from the first century church and its simple gospel and today’s idea of church. Also notice how Paul was ‘planting’ these churches. He visited them, spent time with them, LEFT THEM, and continued corresponding with them thru letters and friends. In essence, first century church planting was simply establishing groups of people on the foundation of Christ. They were not organizing under some type of 501c3 model [I do realize they didn’t have this back then!] they didn’t see ‘church’ as some type of social group that you joined [Elks lodge type thing]. They actually were the church! I want to stress this theme as we continue teaching thru out the New Testament. Many times believers hold on to and embrace ideas that seem to be biblical [you can find a verse here and there type thing- proof texting] but when you see the whole story you get a better picture of what’s going on. Well I hope you guys got something out of this brief study, try and keep in mind the things that challenged you as we read thru this book. Did you see some things differently than before? Did some stuff get you mad? Did we challenge your belief system in some way? My goal is to encourage reformation in the church, not disorder! Take the new things you might have seen and implement them in Gods time. Those of your starting from scratch [first time church planters] can start with a clean slate and implement many of these ideas from day one, others who are already in ministry will have to take a more measured approach. Do all things as God leads and in his time. To all you ‘church members’ don’t take the stuff that you learned and use it to come against your ‘church’. Let God lead you on your journey and reform as God directs. It’s easy for some young rebels [or old!] to take the stuff on tithing and use it against your current church, that’s not our goal. Be patient with your pastors and leaders and allow God to use you as a force for change, not destruction. Well that’s it for now; I am not sure what study we will jump into next. Recently got some good emails and phone calls from some of our friends laboring in other towns, people I did not even know of, but who follow the ministry. Those of you out there who are following along, send me an email every now and then so I can see what type of growth we are having, the different regions we are impacting. Those of you who have launched home groups, let me know how things are going. God bless till next time, John.
- LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS ON HER FINGERS? I talked about the Lucy skeleton the other day. She is the closest thing that comes to a missing link. When they found her bones in the 1970’s she was scattered all over the place. Some think she is actually a collection of different bones from various species. Either way when they found her she had no hands or feet! You might think this was a bad thing for the evolutionist, but it turned out pretty well. The fact that she was absent hands and feet allowed the model makers to craft human hands and feet onto her. Since the initial find we have discovered plenty of hands and feet from other ‘Lucy’s’. Her species of ape has been found on a number of occasions, it is no longer a secret, the hands and feet are 100% ape. This fact is disheartening to the cause of Lucy. One of the main things the evolutionist looks for is a transition ‘ape’ that walked and held things just like humans. They have committed themselves to this picture. I mentioned a few entries back on the model of Lucy in the Seattle museum, well most natural history museums have their own models of Lucy. Some look much more human than others. One museum [I think Chicago?] had such a human like model that they were informed that the current evidence shows the model to be wrong. The model shows human hands and feet, the scientific community has notified the museum that the updated data has changed, Lucy looked nothing like that. The museum took it down for a little while, but eventually put it back up. Hey, funding is scarce nowadays, they can’t afford a new model! When they were confronted again by the obvious false impression they were leaving with the community, they responded by saying they realize that the display does not factually represent the real Lucy, but they are going to use it because it ‘gets the point across’. What point? You see evolution itself has religious connotations to it, it is more of a worldview than true science. In this case the Museum acknowledged the fact that they were misrepresenting the evidence, but their point was being made. They simply wanted to make the point that monkeys do turn into people, and if they need to skew the evidence to ‘make their point’ so be it. The Lucy statue had hands that you could slide a diamond ring on. The real ‘Lucy’s’ have hands fashioned for grasping and climbing, they don’t even come close.
- ECCLESIASTES Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. During the 16th century reformation you had a number of ‘offshoot’ movements that sprouted. Some define these as the radical reformers. Groups like the Anabaptists [re-baptizers] and others. As you read the writings of many of these groups you find that they were definitely seeing truth for their day. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, was hitting the nail on the head when it came to ‘church as the building’ he exposed the limited mindset that many believers embraced. He would refer to the churches as ‘steeple houses’. Many of these groups were deemed heretical for a myriad of reasons. The Quakers would embrace a belief that emphasizes the truth from the Spirit versus the letter of the law. Some would carry this to an extreme and associate all ‘head knowledge’ faith as wrong. Any doctrinal correction from the more reformed brothers was seen as ‘dead knowledge’ coming against Spirit truth. So they would get branded with the heretic title by some. The same goes for the Anabaptists and many others. The sad thing is many of these movements were partial ‘reformers’ in their own right. They had good things to add to the debate. If you read some of their writings you would think they were a few hundred years before their time. I have read scholarly works from Catholic theologians on the Ecclesia [church] and what she is. These works were right on! Even though the average Catholic might not be aware of them. So you find real treasure in many of these groups. Their really is ‘nothing new under the sun’. You should avoid a mindset that begins seeing ‘my group’ or ‘my way of seeing things’ as the true group, and the majority of other Christian groups as false. While it is easy to see whole mindsets of limited understanding that exist in the church at large, I feel it’s dangerous to grasp hold of an idea that says ‘90% of all Christianity is dead wrong, they have all been duped until now’. This is sort of like the teenager saying to dad ‘you’re so behind the times, my new way of seeing things is better than yours’. Most times the teenager later realizes that this was an overreaction. I think we all need to read the great writers of days gone by, Bonhoeffer wrote excellently on the communion of the saints. Our Church of Christ brothers had real truth on the church as the people. The Catholic mystics new that there was more to the Christian way than simple knowledge, they sought a real experience with God. As you enter into this glorious communion of the saints, there will be obvious blind spots that you can find in many of these writers, but maturity allows us to by pass the faults of others [love covers a multitude of sin] while receiving the valuable stuff. Avoid the strong ‘they are all wrong’ spirit, remember ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.
- ECCLESIASTES- I PLAYED THE GAME AND WON! Solomon was in a position where he could do and try anything. I recently read how a very famous Christian singer has come out of the closet and began living the gay lifestyle. He is married and has kids, he is in his fifties. He simply said he woke up one day and told the Lord that he was tired of fighting the desire and gave in. Solomon said he gave in to pleasure, he decided that trying to restrain himself was unfulfilling and he gave in to every pleasure his heart desired. Did it fulfill him? No, he said it was folly. He became the most successful business man in Jerusalem. No one before him was able to achieve the success and prominence in this city where he resided, yet at the end it meant nothing. In essence he played the game, by the rules, and it still wasn’t worth it. Yesterday I was helping out some homeless friends, a sincere older lady asked me if I had a few dollars, I actually didn’t. But I went to the store and bought a few things and took out an extra 20.00. I split it between 4 people; friends that I knew weren’t going to get drunk. They were so happy and grateful, I still can’t get over what a simple 20 dollar bill can do for people. In ‘this game’ that we are in [called life!] God is the scorekeeper, I realize that many modern ‘theologies’ have turned the tables. Some teach that God does keep score by how much material success we achieve before we die, they sincerely think this is right. I watched an exposé on U- TUBE that showed a CNN reporter interviewing one of the prosperity ministers who has come under fire. The reporter got smart, she actually read from scripture the passage where Jesus challenges the young rich man to sell all he has and give to the poor. She quoted the passage where it says it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to pass thru a needle. The preacher defended his pursuit of wealth by saying ‘if you read the rest of the story, he sold his wealth and God gave him a hundred fold back.’ He said ‘God was telling the man to worship him with his wealth’. I actually was surprised that this minister said this, he does know scripture. He definitely was wrong about this, the rich man went away sad because he had ‘much wealth’ and did not want to depart from it! God keeps score differently than the world. Solomon tried all the options, he was way ahead on points. He was so far ahead that no one was going to catch up, he then realized that ‘being ahead’ wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
- ECCLESIASTES 3:11 ‘No man can find out the work that God has made, from the beginning to the end’. No man can completely find out Gods works from beginning to end. A few weeks ago as I was praying/meditating I had a thought; I said to myself ‘what in the world are the evolutionists going to say when science ultimately overthrows their theory’ and in a moment of clarity, I kinda heard ‘they will slowly develop ideas that will make it look like they were right all along, even when these ideas themselves are contrary to evolution’. I realized that mans inability to admit he was wrong will cause him to lie. Sure enough, a few days later I caught an interview on the P.B.S. news that had 2 scientists who were speaking on Darwin. It just so happens that both Darwin and Lincoln celebrated their 200 year anniversaries on the same day. During the interview these men reveled in the wonder and amazement of Darwin, they were falling over themselves in worshipping the man. They explained how evolution is this reality that is the basis of all types of scientific advances. They went on and on. The interviewer then asked about all the science and opponents on the other side. How there were most certainly proofs that seemed to debunk Darwin’s theory. They responded by saying ‘Evolution has opened the door for all sorts of understanding and theories, one of them is called ‘punctuated equilibrium’, evolution has made this idea possible. Therefore thanks to evolution we have these other truths to look to for answers’. These men were doing the exact thing I ‘thought about’ a few days earlier. They were taking the scientific data that disproves evolution, and saying ‘evolution made this possible’! Punctuated Equilibrium [or Equilibria] is a theory that was espoused to explain how things really did not slowly evolve over millions of years. In effect the scientific evidence shows us no slow evolving of one species into another. As this reality began to settle in, the scientists realized that they needed to begin floating alternative theories to Darwin. They knew that if they religiously stuck with Darwin, that someday they would be disproved. So they floated this competing theory. The theory basically says that since the fossil record shows no data that things slowly evolved, how do we answer this? They said ‘maybe things changed so fast [what!] that the fossil record didn’t catch it’. In essence this theory says things did not slowly evolve! This theory does not back up evolution at all, it denies it. In essence the evolutionists in the interview were contradicting themselves, they were taking proofs against evolution and saying ‘see, the wonderful knowledge of evolution has lead us to this point in human history where we now know species DID NOT slowly evolve’. Are you guys kidding or what?
- GREAT AWAKENING- In between studies I have been reading the ‘shelf of books’ I bought a few months ago. I bought about 70 dollars worth of books at the half price book store, they are worth a few hundred at least. The last three I just went thru were published by universities; Oxford, Princeton, etc. I have learned over the years that your time is well spent in the ‘higher education’ category. You can spend a lifetime reading the popular Christian culture stuff and never really get educated. The book I just started is called ‘Revival and Revivalism’ it was put out by Princeton and covers the history of the first great awakenings. I want to give you a long quote from Samuel Davies, the son in law of Jonathan Edwards. The Lord used him in Hanover, Va. ‘In all the sermons I have preached in Virginia, I have not wasted one minute in reasoning against the peculiarities of the established church; nor so much as assigned my own reasons of non-conformity. I have not exhausted my zeal in railing against the established clergy, in exposing their imperfections, or in deprecating their characters. I have matters of infinite importance to spend my time and strength upon, to preach repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.’ ‘What an endless variety of denominations, taken from some men of character, or from some little peculiarities, has prevailed in the Christian world and crumbled it to pieces…what party names have been adopted by the Protestant churches, whose religion is substantially the same common Christianity, and who agree on much more important truths than in those they differ. To be a Christian is not enough now-a-days, but a man must be something more or better, that is he must be a strenuous bigot to this or that particular church…but to glory in the denomination of any particular church, as my highest character, to lay more stress on my denomination than on my being a Christian…to make it my zeal to win people to my peculiar denomination than to Christ, to overlook the faults of those in my own party and to be blind to the good in others, or to diminish them; these are the things that deserve condemnation from God and man. These proceed from a spirit of bigotry and faction, directly opposite to the generous catholic spirit of Christianity, and subversive of it. This spirit turns men from the important matters of Christianity, to vain jangling and competitions about circumstantials and trifles. Thus the Christian is swallowed up in the partisan, and the fundamentals are lost in extra essentials’ [I paraphrased a little] I find it interesting that Davies and the other leaders in the awakening were anti sectarian, though most of them were Presbyterian/Reformed, yet they saw their task above denominationalism. In Davies case the main denomination he came up against was the Anglican church, many in Virginia contrasted the traditional church with the ‘new light’ brothers. Many associated with the revivals were seen this way. You can still find prejudicial comments made against Catholics during this period, but I find it interesting that many of the revival leaders were aware of the sectarian spirit and saw it as a danger to the work of God. They warned against what many of their ‘offspring’ would become. I find it hard to understand how many of the offshoots of the awakenings can read and study their history and not see the error that their own fore-fathers warned them about. But for the most part God was working in their day and they were wise enough to rise above religious bigotry.
- YOU CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL! I was watching King of Queens [TV show] the other day, and Arthur [Jerry Stiller] who is Doug’s [Kevin James] father in law tells Doug ‘I don’t want to die’ as the plane their on gets shaky. Doug tells Arthur ‘don’t worry, it’s not that bad’ and Arthur replies ‘you don’t understand, I don’t want to die, EVER!’ hey, we all gonna die! Then Arthur asks Doug ‘do you think I will be going up or down when I die’ and Doug reassures him that even though he’s been a real pain, he thinks he will go up. Arthur says ‘Good, cause thru out my life I have had a number of people look me straight in the face and tell me “Spooner, you’re going straight to hell someday”. So much for comedy/theology. Solomon tells us there is a time/season for everything; a time to cast away and a time to gather, a time to be born and a time to die. God has ordained that certain things happen at certain seasons. One of the pitfalls of modern ministry is we often seek God with ambition and determination. We come up with goals and plans [often good] and then we get in situations where we feel if people would just support us [with money] or ‘pastor so and so’ would just recognize my gift, then the plan would work! Most times these types of plans are simply results of well intended ambitious people. But God does things in seasons, when he ‘opens a door’ no man can shut it. When he ‘closes a door’ no man can open it. I like Sarah Palin [former republican vice presidential nominee] I don’t hold to many of her Christian beliefs [basically Assembly of God, end times stuff] but she seems to be a good lady who the media treated badly. I told one person who was all up in arms about her daughter’s pregnancy, the person told me how the sex lives of her kids were ‘fair game’. I asked the person if they knew about the sex lives of Joe Biden’s kids. If they think his boys ever ‘slept with someone out of wedlock’. I asked if they even thought a question like this was relevant. They then realized that they were using a measuring rod for one political party, but would not use it on their preferred party. Nevertheless I heard Palin say ‘hey, if God opens a door I will run thru it. Or even if I see a little crack in the door, I will plunge right thru’. I sensed a kind of ambition in this statement that many believers have. I think it’s better to be less ambitious, and more sensitive to the seasons. Yes, seasons and ‘open doors’ are alike, but God works with us in process. He shows us stuff to mold us, shape us. After we ‘are shaped’ then we fit into the next part of the puzzle. We too often are looking for plans and schemes to follow; God is walking with us on a journey. I am sure all the people who told Spooner to ‘go to hell’ were sincere, but you can’t live your life by what other people think about you!
- ELIJAH PRAYED THAT IT WOULD NOT RAIN- I woke up this morning with this verse in my head ‘Elijah was a man subject to the same weaknesses as us, yet he prayed that it WOULD NOT RAIN FOR 3.5 YEARS and it didn’t’ [James]. As the first few weeks of president Obama’s presidency gets into action, I can’t but help notice the dilemma we are in. First, I like Obama and Biden. It is obvious that the president is a little ‘green’ [immature] at this. The problem with Biden is he has made a career at being ‘antiauthority’. A true lawyer/politician at heart. All the years in the senate he learned how to argue the opposite case whether he believed it or not. During the Bush years he came out and floated a very bad plan on the war. He said ‘let’s divide Iraq into 3 separate states and let each ethnic/religious group run their own province’. Quite frankly, this would have been a disaster. But he became an arguer in opposition to whatever Bush was doing. Now, in his first few weeks in office he still had some of this opposition/critical spirit going on. Even Obama became visibly upset with him when he dissed John Roberts in public, or when he blabbed ‘there is a 30 % failure rate in what we are doing’. Basically, he has spent a career at pointing out the flaws of others while not really accomplishing anything. So what’s the problem? Well, when you do this stuff, and then find yourself in the same position of those you criticized, you reap much more than if you just kept your mouth shut. This week the U.S. struck the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan and killed many civilians. The president wants to make good on his campaign promise to step it up in Afghanistan and route the Taliban [opposition govt. in Afghanistan]. Where are all the liberal Democrats who said Bush was a liar who killed innocent kids? “Bush lied and people died” was on Kerry’s lips as he ran for president, though the ‘lie’ was believing the bad intelligence of the C.I.A. and acting on it. Kerry himself voted for the war based on the same intelligence! But lo and behold, yesterday Pakistan began talks with THE TALIBAN to strengthen their rule in the area. What was the result of the bombings in Pakistan? They are no longer going to cooperate with the U.S.. Secretary Clinton goes to North Korea, another person who spent much time blasting Bush on his incompetence and stupidly in world affairs. They said they would regain respect in the world, they openly mocked bush and Cheney as imbeciles. Well Clinton announced what wonderful progress she made while in North Korea. The next day North Korea announced its intention on testing a long range missile that could reach parts of the U.S. Now, am I rejoicing over the obvious failures of this team? No, I do pray for them. But if you spent much time openly denigrating the former office holders, you will reap it when you yourself are up at bat. Now, Elijah prayed for no rain because the leadership of Israel was wicked, they oppressed God’s people and worshipped false gods [ideals-idols]. Ahab [king at the time] was more concerned about the environment than the welfare of the people, he sent one of his men out to find water to save THE ANIMALS! Our country can not blatantly disregard the lives of unborn children and at the same time try and look tough while killing innocent civilians. We cannot tell one ‘ruling party’ “the fact that our soldiers are even there is the reason for all the problems” and then send an extra 10,000 of them into Afghanistan. We speak with a double tongue. It is obvious to me that our country is going into a time of ‘famine’, we have some very tough times ahead. The present ruling authority needs to quickly drop the criticism of those who are no longer relevant [Bush, Cheney, Palin] and realize that they have a serious job to do. I believe God can cause it to ‘rain again’ in our land, but we need to be mature in our understanding as well.
- TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE, IF ONE STUMBLES THE OTHER CAN HELP HIM. AND A THREEFOLD CORD IS NOT EASLIY BROKEN- Solomon understood the principle of 2 or more witnesses. Our laws usually go by this principle based upon Old Testament law, we recognize the importance of corroborating evidence. Yesterday I listened to the testimony of the Texas school board president as he laid out the case for teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. He is a doctor who is well versed on the facts, not some ‘creationist nut’. He quoted sections of the most accepted literature on the subject. They were excerpts from books that evolutionists themselves published. These men stated the major problems with evolution [though they themselves believed in it]. First, the fossil record shows the ‘stasis’ of all things. Once something shows up in the record, it does one of two things. It either remains the SAME throughout its existence until the point of extinction, or it is alive today in the actual form of when it first appeared! In essence ALL the science shows that these life forms do not actually evolve. Number two, the advanced knowledge we have today in genetics and DNA show us the virtual impossibility of species ‘jumping’ categories and turning into other species. As noble as Darwin’s theory was, he simply did not have the ability to test whether or not this could actually happen, today we KNOW that this does not happen. And for the ‘third cord’. Evolution demands a simple cell, cellular life at the basic level that is sort of a ‘blob’ of simple matter that can be shaped and formed and change as time goes by. We have proven that this is absolutely not the case. The ‘simple cell’ is not simple! We have discovered that it is a complex machine that has very intricate systems and functions that far surpass our most advanced computers. In essence, the cell is NOT some shapeable, moldable matter that can evolve over millions of years. It is a complex thing that has to be functioning in a complete, cohesive way right from the start. Notice, all three of these scientific discoveries have nothing to do with religion, this is simply the process of science examining the evidence and trying to fit the pieces together. Many of the men who were helpful in discovering these facts were actually evolutionists, they also recognize that the science is moving further and further away from Darwin at a very rapid rate. A wise man told us many years ago that 2 proofs are better than one, but when you have three definitive proofs of something, you would be a fool not to give it some serious thought. Many evolutionary scientists are giving it some serious thought.
- ECCLESIASTES- 5:1 KEEP THY FOOT WHEN YOU GO TO ‘THE HOUSE OF GOD’ [ECCLESIA] AND BE MORE READY TO HEAR THAN TO GIVE THE SACRAFICE OF FOOLS- Yesterday we had a good outreach day in Bishop and Kingsville [2 south TX. Cities] I had a few homeless brothers with me and we drove thru a few areas and hooked up with some of the brothers we have been working with for around 20 years. I am always tempted to answer more questions [speak more!] than I should. It’s important to let the brothers ‘do the talking’ they benefit more when there is a real give and take. I read this verse the day or so before the trip, it makes a lot of sense. To all my Pastor/leader friends, do you consciously make an effort to ‘keep silent’ when going to the ‘house of God’ [times of fellowship and community]? I know this needs to become learned behavior for many of us. We usually have grown up in a church environment that emphasizes the need for strong preaching, mounting the ‘sacred pulpit’ [double ouch!] and stuff like that. We are usually well intended, but we need to relearn some stuff. I was surprised how the homeless brothers shared many spiritual truths with clarity. One of the brothers does suffer from mental problems, he is extremely intelligent. He is a machinist who worked for many years in Ohio and knows his stuff. But he is a little unstable in his thoughts at times. Sure enough when he was sharing about the Lord one of the other brothers really took it to heart. On the way to back to Corpus I asked what they learned today. He said he really enjoyed being able to speak and help others. I could tell that this in itself was therapeutic for him, it truly is ‘more blessed to give than receive’. This is why Paul taught the interactive church meeting [Corinthians]. In the background there was a TV preacher on, my buddy put the Christian channel on for atmosphere. Some preachers were answering questions on the Rapture and all, it seemed to be ‘endless chatter’ on stuff that was not even true! I couldn’t but help wonder what the apostle Paul would have thought if he saw his writings being used in this way. On the TV there was no real sense of community, simply preachers telling people their endless views on various subjects. I am glad I tried to ‘keep my mouth shut’ as much as possible [hey, this is hard for preachers to actually do!] I too learned some good stuff.
- ECCLESIASTES 6:1-3 ‘There is a COMMON evil under the sun. Men who have much wealth and labor, they live long and have many kids, yet they have no ability to enjoy anything. They die and don’t even have a proper burial’ [paraphrase]. I was asked what I thought about a recent popular movie about a gay rights activist who was killed. I haven’t seen the movie but it’s up for awards. I told the person that even though I am not ‘anti-gay’ to the degree that many preachers are, yet the problem with media portrayals of the gay lifestyle is that usually [always?] they portray it as some type of civil rights struggle on par with the civil rights movement. I think it is an insult to compare the black mans struggle for equality with a person’s sexual preference. Now, the last word in the last sentence [preference] is what I want to discuss. Over the years I have been clear about my beliefs on homosexuality, I do believe the practice is sin. Now, are there many sinful practices of all types of people? Sure. But there is a political [and religious] trend going on that is trying to equate this action [not feelings!] to be compatible with heterosexual marriage. To show the person who asked me if I saw the movie, to give them an example of media bias towards homosexuality, I asked them when was the last time they saw on the news any story about homosexuals raping children. ‘Oh brother, are you saying all gays do this?’ Of course not, but there have been many THOUSANDS of cases on a yearly basis where gays have sinned sexually towards others, just like heterosexuals, yet you would be hard pressed to see it in the media. I remember a story where some gay men raped, sodomized and killed another person. This was not widely reported at the time. Also stories of people who have been harassed by the more militant branch of ‘the movement’. Do we see stories about the wonderful Christian civil rights people who have had their rights abused by homosexuals? Now, I believe Christians have been inconsistent in their arguments at times. Does it really make a difference if someone was ‘born that way’ or acquired the lifestyle later on? No. The scripture teaches all men were born in sin, if the ‘sin’ that you practice has been with you from birth, that does not justify the sin. I don’t know why we fight over this stuff. Even in the pro-life cause, to which I subscribe, we have made inconsistent arguments. The idea that no person has the right to take another persons life is of course true, but when we debate euthanasia we sometimes seem to be saying that elderly people should be kept alive at extreme costs. That if someone is 90 and has cancer and does not want treatment, but wants to die in peace without all types of procedures, then that’s wrong. Of course we should never force this on someone, but to tell them they have ‘no right’ to deny treatment is wrong. Why are believers inconsistent when they make this argument? Because the founding person of our religion, Jesus Christ, actually said that no man had the right to take his life [speaking of himself], but he himself chose to lay it down. The founder of our ‘movement’ said this! So it does seem a little inconsistent to make the extreme argument on the other side. Well anyway, the point is ‘there are common evils that happen to many people’. Just because a whole group of people [whether gay people or any one else] struggle with a certain type of temptation from their youth, this still in no way excuses the sin. Remember, you want to finish life well. Don’t be like the man in the above scripture who accomplished much, but didn’t finish well [bad burial-remembrance]. Don’t think ‘Gee, every one else in society divorces, or lives their desires out, why not me?’ Because the media portrayal of these choices tends to be rosy, they do not show you the other side.
- ECCLESIASTES 7:19 ‘WISDOM STRENGTHENS A WISE MAN MORE THAN TEN MIGHTY MEN IN A CITY’- this chapter has a few good verses in it. It says it’s better to go thru some stuff than to live in continual ‘abundance’. Wise men have increased in the ‘house of mourning’. I watched some stuff on Lincoln the other day, it’s obvious that he grew in wisdom and stature as he battled depression and difficulty. His life’s motto was not ‘discover the champion in you’! When I went to Kingsville the other day I noticed our blog ad was not only running in the Kingsville Record, but also the Kingsville Journal. I am not sure how it got in there. I also have a bunch of papers lying around my office, papers from New Jersey and Houston and stuff. I have been getting some contacts from ‘former’ church members of years ago, they are on fire for the Lord. I kinda think they have friends who learned about us on their own and then they realized that they were talking about us. These old buddies see themselves as part of us, but many of them are not on-line geeks. So they run into other locals who follow us on-line and then they realize they are following our story. The point being ‘wisdom strengthens wise men more than ten mighty men in a city’. A few years ago I felt the lord said to start the blog and put the ad in regional papers. The ‘effort’ to do this was not as much as the various outreach projects I have been involved in over the years, but the results have gone much further. If you gave me ‘ten mighty men’ [employees/staff] and I sent them all over to effect the region, I don’t think they could equal the simple effect of me hearing and responding to the Lord in these simple ways. Now, we most certainly have ‘ten mighty men’ a group of both leaders and ‘regular saints’ [ouch!] who follow the journey, but they are a result of hearing and responding. The wisdom [ideas] from God have a greater effect than the efforts of men. Remember, the battle is not to the strong or swift, the victory comes from the Spirit of God. When we learn to listen and respond, the things we do will go far. When we put a lot of money and effort into stuff, without really listening, we get stuck with Ishmaels [something our govt. should learn!] Also, it is often in the ‘house of mourning’ [seasons of extreme difficulty] that God deposits the wisdom into you. Padre Pio [Catholic Priest] said ‘souls come with a cost, somebody has to pay the price’ are you willing to pay the price?
- ‘A GIFT DESTROYETH THE HEART’ Ecclesiastes 7:7b Over the last few years I have read testimonies from Pastors who said they felt like they were unconsciously being manipulated to look good or perform for the community. Though they were well meaning, and the people they were ‘pastoring’ were also good people, yet the system of being a paid clergyman caused there to be a degree of inauthenticity. A famous quote of a quote [Frank Viola quotes another person in the book ‘Pagan Christianity’] says it’s hard to convince someone about something when their salary depends on them not being convinced! [paraphrase] So the actual position of being dependent on the offerings/tithes of people can put pressure on leaders to not deal with certain subjects. I have had fellow ministers over the years reject what I was saying simply because they felt it would affect their income. Their priority was on surviving. These men are not bad people, they mean well and don’t purposely want their message to be shaped by their dependence on a job/position. But in many cases the temptation is too great. Solomon said a ‘gift’ can corrupt the motives of people. While it is fine for ministers to receive financial help out of respect for their labor, yet we need to examine whether or not the salaried position of the fulltime minister is in keeping with New Testament ecclesiology. Are you tailoring your message by the support you bring in? Do you view success from the standpoint of material assets? Do you see ‘your ministry’ as a career choice? Lets all examine our hearts and motives, we might not be taking bribes in the classic ‘Mafia’ sense, but if we are allowing our financial support to effect the way we live and teach, then we are allowing our hearts to become ‘corrupted’.
- ‘DON’T SAY “WHY IS IT THAT THINGS WERE BETTER IN THE PAST THAN NOW” [GOOD OLD DAYS] FOR YOU ARE NOT ASKING A WISE QUESTION WHEN YOU DO THIS’ Ecclesiastes 7:10 [my paraphrase] Is God telling us never to examine our selves? Or our nation? No. But this question speaks of the journey of life. Lets see if I can come up with an original way to state this, I know! How bout we say ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ [Okay, I pulled a Biden]. Let’s just say life is like a train/plane trip. Part of the trip entails some turbulence, there are spots along the way where the scenery is great, but also spots where it doesn’t look so good. Many years ago me and the family took the train from San Antonio to New Jersey, the kids were young and it was too long. But I love trains. Anyway when the train finally made it to my home state, my young daughter innocently says ‘why does everything look dirty’ [Ouch!] Trips have ‘built in’ obstacles, times where things don’t go as smooth as before. Why is it not wise to ask ‘why are things not as good during this phase’? It’s because the goal isn’t to continually have a great ride! The goal is to complete the course and finish the race put before you. I know American Christianity has for the most part rejected this, but it is without a doubt biblical. The apostle Paul ended his life in a rented room in Rome, Nero finally took his head off [Peters too]. Now, I am not saying we should all lose our heads, but we need to realize that God has a purpose for the bad spots in the tracks. This chapter speaks of the riches that we get in ‘the house of mourning’ the great things we obtain when the ride is rough. Are you asking the Lord ‘why is this happening to me, why was it better in days gone by’ try and retool your questions to ‘what do you want to teach me during this time? What kind of character development do you have for me during this phase of my life?’ these are the questions that should be asked. The American church spends way too much time trying to ‘beautify the journey’ learning tricks and confessions to make things ‘go away’, God says some of these things are here for a purpose.
- Ecclesiastes 8:4 WHERE THE WORD OF A KING IS, THERE IS POWER. AND WHO MAY SAY UNTO HIM ‘WHAT DOEST THOU’- The other day I took my daughters out to eat Chinese food. My daughter’s friend came along, she is studying to get her degree in geology. So I thought it would be a good chance to talk a little on Evolution. Though she is a Christian, she had no idea about the science against Evolution. We got into Eugenics [Darwin’s relative came up with this ‘science’ it was what Hitler used to justify the holocaust and the murder of handicapped people. It justified [in Hitler’s mind] the destruction of the weaker races in society. Though Darwin did not call for forced ‘natural selection’ yet this theory led to Hitler’s justification of it] I was surprised that she knew nothing about it. Especially the fossil evidence against Evolution, she is studying Geology for heavens sake! Some how we started talking about the various things you can read in the fortune cookies. My kids came up with stuff they have read and all. Of course I had to add my two cents, I said ‘I had a note that said ‘Chinese rule and Whites drool’. My daughter’s friend said ‘are you kidding me’! Of course I was. Now, when the word of a king goes forth [when God is speaking truth about any thing at any season- Evolution and its false claims, Church structure, Reformation] then our only option is to learn and make adjustments as time goes by. We all have a tendency to stick with the popular opinion, until it gets overturned. Wisdom allows you to spot the trend and get in on it at the beginning, to see that God is speaking about a subject and be willing to go with it as God leads. I am absolutely convinced that science will reject evolutionary theory in a few years. Like I said before, they will do it in an ‘unrepentant way’ but it will be done. Certain things going on in the ‘church world’ right now are going to be ‘the norm’ in a few generations. I believe the church is going to re-think our whole world view concerning ‘church’. Now, we will not abandon the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ [the body of Christian truth that all Christians hold in common] but there is going to be a revolution in our basic understanding of ‘church’. When God decides to ‘speak into the community at large’ we really have no option. We just need to listen and make adjustments in his time. The key is knowing when it’s God who is speaking! I do not advocate jumping into every new fad and new Christian movement that goes on in Christian circles. But I recognize there are key times when God is speaking with a loud voice to the church in the world, when God is speaking there is power. Don’t say unto him ‘what doest thou’ [or who gave you the right to speak].
- ‘Who ever keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing… because judgment against evil is not swift, therefore men feel confident in their sin… though a sinner sin a hundred times, and get away with it, yet judgment is sure to come’ [various verses/ paraphrase’s from chapter 8- Ecclesiastes] as I continue to watch the political scene it’s sad how various media outlets [both pro and anti Obama] simply tell you what you want to hear. I found it interesting that during the campaign they managed to make Palin look like an idiot. She supposedly questioned her campaign handlers on South Africa. The rumor was she thought South Africa referred to the southern tip of the continent, as opposed to actually being a state/country itself. Hey, it’s a simple mistake if your main job is not world affairs. Oh did the media blast her as an idiot. Yet Biden was at some event, he spoke to the crowd about his ‘good friend’ who was there [the politician from the state]. He even told his good friend ‘Chuck, stand up for the people, go ahead don’t be modest, you deserve it’. Well, as he was telling his ‘good friend’ to stand up, some stage hand had to tell Biden ‘he has been crippled in a wheel chair for years, he can’t stand’! You see, the media chooses to brand certain people as idiots. Now, as we progress into the first year of the president’s administration, a few things bother me. First, don’t keep saying ‘the problems we inherited’ every president inherits stuff, that’s why you run for the office. It is immature to keep saying ‘I inherited the problem’ just deal with it as best as you can and let the chips fall. Also, the Obama justice dept. just sided with the Bush administration in not granting constitutional rights to the detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are a few hundred that we are holding captive in Afghanistan and a few thousand in Iraq. Liberal civil rights groups have taken the case to court and are trying to obtain rights for the detainees. These prisoners are in the exact same situation as the guys in Cuba [Gitmo]. Yet Obama just argued for them to not receive constitutional rights. The exact opposite of what many of his supporters argued over Cuba. Even Obama has indicated that our country does not have to violate the rights of these prisoners [at Gitmo] in order to carry out our war on terror. Yet the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t get these same rights? The problem is we need to get back to ‘obeying the commandments’ that is we can’t lie and deceive and speak out of both sides of our mouth and expect things to turn around. We can’t expand the murder of innocent children and think ‘well, let’s get over our love affair with the Fetus’. Just because a crime is committed ‘a hundred times’ [over and over again] and just because it seems like ‘we have been getting away with it’ [judgment is delayed] this does not give us the right to keep doing it. If we truly love our fellow man we won’t KILL HIM. If we truly are concerned about the rights of certain prisoners, then we can’t argue the opposite when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan. Leadership is tuff, especially when the media and opposing party call you a murderous war criminal [Bush/Cheney] when it’s your turn up at bat you better know what you are doing.
- FIRE DEPT. STUFF- ‘Flight inseminators and don’t ask a question if you don’t know the answer’! Let’s do one for the comedy section, I get too riled up when talking politics. Over the years at the Fire Dept. certain quotes made it into the hall of fame. You know, we all say stupid stuff at times [in many things we offend all- James] but every now and then you hit a real winner. The Fire Dept. I worked at was in a naval base city [Kingsville]. One year we hosted the city manager and a few local politicos, as our chief was speaking about the local economy and stuff, he spoke of the value of the ‘Flight inseminators’, as you could imagine a hush came over the room as we realized this one would go down on the hit parade [the proper word was simulator!] We had a new class of recruits come in one year, we gave them the introduction and all. One of the guys asked a question, the chief responded ‘don’t ask a question if you don’t know the answer’. That was a quiet year. This one is kinda serious, but I’ll put it in for my firefighter buddies who still follow the site. Like I said before I have all these news papers from New Jersey sitting around my office. I run our blog ad’s in them so they send me the paper. I enjoy reading the stories from my old turf. Sure enough one headline caught my interest, it said ‘local firefighter gets 10 years for punching his captain in the face’. As I read the story the guys were at some fire and the captain ordered the firefighter in the building, the guy wouldn’t go, so the captain supposedly called him a coward, the rest is history. In the article it said ‘as we investigated this story, we also found out that the firefighter has been reprimanded before for violence, he assaulted one of his coworkers at the station with a frying pan’.
- One of the themes of Ecclesiastes is ‘one event happens to all, both to him who sacrifices and to him who does not. Both to the poor and rich, the wise and foolish’. Solomon is writing from the perspective of ‘naturalism’, he sees only what is happening in the here and now. Even with this ‘worldly’ perspective he still favors the ‘God cause’. In essence it’s still better to obey and serve God than not to. Most believers are taught the virtues of standing strong in tough times, fighting the ‘good fight’ putting on that armor! The problem is these really mean little until the ‘rubber meets the road’. I am a boxing fan, love the sport. Most ‘observers’ have no idea how difficult/tiring it can be. Even other pro athletes will sometimes turn to fighting and not realize the strain of the game. I especially find it amusing when some TV star thinks he can do it because he’s ‘done it’ on screen. In the Christian life there are times when you realize ‘this is the season for sticking it out, for enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’. All the stuff you learned and were taught was for this time, the knowledge of ‘blessed is the man that endures tests’ meant little, until this day! I like Evander Holyfield, he had the heart of a warrior. Was he ‘great’? Probably not, he was what you would call a ‘blown up light heavyweight’ he worked out and got big. I know in the later years it sure looked like he was a full fledged heavyweight, but in the beginning he wasn’t. In the skill department he was not spectacular. We often minimize Tyson’s career/skills because he finished bad. I have heard commentators say he will not go down in history as a great fighter. I must admit he blew it many times, but if you simply look at the few short years he was at the top of his game, he might very well have been the most devastating heavyweight ever! But when Holyfield faced Tyson, he was less skilled [in my mind] not as strong [heavy fisted] but he was enduring, and he had this trait where when you ‘got him in trouble’ [hurt] he became more dangerous! He would actually fight better when hurt! To all you brothers who are in round 11 [or 14 for the old guys- that’s when championship fights went 15 rounds instead of 12] I want to encourage you, now is the time when sticking it out matters. When you question whether or not all you have taught was right on or a little lacking. When the critics seem to have a hotline to your number. Solomon also says ‘don’t listen to every word spoken about you, or else you will hear people curse you. For you yourself know you have spoken badly about others as well’ wow! Today [or this week, month, year!] is a time to endure, not a time to ‘show those critics a thing or two’ but a time to show the heart of a warrior, to stand up against the so called ‘bigger, badder opponent’ and win on sheer guts. I do realize that in our own strength we can do nothing, but I am appealing to the New Testament command to endure some stuff, to recognize that one of the reasons of testing and trials is they can come as a result of our effectiveness, our calling. After Jesus was baptized by the Spirit by John [and the father] he did a 40 day stint in the wilderness, when he came out of the desert he had power. Hey, maybe the Lord is working on your strength factor.
- ‘The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding…for time and chance happens to them all. For man also knows not his time, as fish are taken in a net and birds caught in a snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it comes suddenly upon them’ Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. I was watching ‘King of Queens’ the other day, Arthur [Jerry Stiller] asks the waitress how much his coffee and donut will be, as he takes out his checkbook she says ‘never mind, it’s not worth getting a bad check for a few dollars’. Arthur is insulted! “How dare you” he then explains that his money was being transferred at the time in his ‘offshore accounts’. This reminded me of the time I had a renter who liked to bounce checks. He was an older brother who made more than me [as a firefighter] but couldn’t write a good check! So after a few months I wrote him a notice of eviction. He responded by telling me it wasn’t his fault the checks bounced, his money was in ‘off shore accounts’ [oh please!] It was funny, at the end of his response letter he says ‘sincerely, your brother in Christ’. This was the first time I had any inkling that he was a brother! So time and chance affect all of us, we can’t always control the ‘roll of the dice’. A few years back a bunch of guys lost money in their firefighter retirement funds, the guys at the station were all convinced by the stock guys to invest money in the stocks. Well, I looked at the papers and realized you could make a guaranteed 4%, tax free, from one investment. I was the only one who took this option. If you balance the risk of possibly making 5 % in the market [possible!] along with the risk of loosing it all, then why not do the fixed 4 % tax free? It comes to around 6 % with no risk of loss. It’s just common sense. Sure enough one of my buddies took my advice and did the same. Then the guys took a real hit, the stocks crashed and sure enough ‘time and chance happened to them’. As they were all mulling over their losses, my friend who took my advice was asked ‘how much did you loose’ he said ‘nothing’. He told them he took Johns advice. Now, even though we have little control over the global economy, we can make wise choices and prepare ahead of time. I have no idea why any sane person would stay in the market right now [2-09]. But people take bad advice, like ‘dollar cost averaging’ and say ‘well, if I just keep buying into a sinking ship, it will all average out some day’. I know of no other business where you are told ‘keep buying the bad product, someday it will average out’. While no one can time the market, you should be able to see storms coming. If you think the signs are saying ‘bad storm ahead’ then what in the heck are you doing on the ship! Solomon said there are events that we can’t control, many times we get ‘caught in nets suddenly’ things happen that are out of our control. These events happen to the wise, intelligent and fool alike. When stuff like this happens to you, don’t live in regret, but learn some lessons. Stop listening to the people whose living depends on you staying in a certain investment [like stocks!] I can’t tell you how many times I have heard these investors say ‘sure, you can invest in a C.D., but who can live on less than one percent interest’. While all the while you can be getting around 4 %, guaranteed! You see, people have listened to bad [biased] advice and have come up short. Well, the purpose of this entry is not to be ‘anti stocks’ but to show you we all need to re-evaluate at times. Many times ‘the same event happens to all’ because the wise are making the same bad decisions as the fool. Think ‘outside of the box’ hey, everyone in the box just might be wrong.
- Ecclesiastes 10:7-9 ‘there is an evil I have seen under the sun, AS AN ERROR WHICH PROCEEDETH FROM THE RULER: folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth’. In the last few weeks [3-2009] we have had an interesting dynamic at work. Our new president [ruler] has engaged in a type of class warfare; it goes like this ‘the rich and successful have been riding high on the hog for too long, the poor can not afford the same privileges as the rich. So we are going to tax the rich more and provide for the rest of the people who can’t provide it for themselves’. Now, I am not a staunch republican free market capitalist who believes that the free market solves all things. I have said in the past that the mandate for fair wages is actually found in scripture! That’s why many of the historic churches [Catholic] have sided on the side of labor. But in the current scenario we have dragged the corporate ‘big wigs’ before congress [which is always a joke, these guys are like the kettle calling the pot black!] and we have fostered a sort of attitude that says ‘lets make the rulers walk, while the servants ride the horses’. Even though I have been hard on the rich and famous in many of my writings, yet the reason many of them are successful is because they worked hard at it. I have been retired for over a year now, I retired with 25 years in as a firefighter. The main reason was because over the years my back started killing me. You get various injuries that come with my type of job, that’s just the way the ball bounces. Now, my retirement is solely the money that went into my account over the years, I get no type of injury pay at all! I always found it sad that there were many days when I would be at the homeless mission and many of these guys are in much better shape than me, yet many of them have been receiving govt. aid for years. I mean young guys who spend their whole check on crack! When the ‘ruler’ decides to put in place policies that simply say ‘even though you didn’t earn it, we will give it to you’ this undermines society as a whole. At the same time when the rulers call the business heads together and berate them, this is a game the servants love. It’s sort of like a dignified execution type thing. Third world countries kill the authorities they don’t like, we mock them. ‘Folly is set in great dignity, the rich sit in a low place’. I believe there is a time and place for our country to seriously look at corporate abuse, I myself have been a defender of the poor. But when you treat the poor in a way that says ‘nothing is your fault, we will solve your problems by taking from the rich and giving it to you’ you dignify folly. Many of my friends are poor because of very bad decisions they have made. Many of the ‘well to do’ have made wise decisions, when you simply transfer wealth from one group to another, without dealing with the underlying issues, you really haven’t addressed the issue at all.
- Ecclesiastes 10:16-18 [Just a note, I wrote the last entry yesterday morning. That same day the stock market dropped below 7,000 for the first time since 1997 [it dropped to 6,700]. I guess you could say it was prophetic.] ‘Woe to thee, oh land, when thy king is a child [immature/inexperienced] and thy princes eat in the morning [spend and consume before earning it- deficit spending]. Blessed are you when your king is the son of nobles [doing right for ‘rights’ sake] and your princes eat in due season [they withhold consuming/spending until the proper time]…by much slothfulness the building decayeth, and thru idleness of the hands [a nation on welfare] the house drops thru’. During the end of the Bush presidency our nation passed ‘tarp’ a 700 billion emergency spending bill that was supposed to bail out the credit system. President Obama then passed another 800 billion dollar ‘stimulus plan’ that economists on both sides of the aisle disagreed with. Last week the president came up with another 450 billion dollar ‘omnibus bill’, this one is filled with ‘ear-marks’ something the president spent much time condemning! Some of the forecasts I heard yesterday were telling, it is now becoming common to hear that we might experience a ‘mild depression’ this is something that people normally don’t say! Our president has not been a ‘radical liberal’ who seeks to socialize our govt. His choice to increase taxes on business, to expand ‘free’ govt. aid to the populace at large, to spend so much money that our nation does not have [we either borrow it from China-they buy our debt, or we simply print the stuff like monopoly money!] these choices can be devastating to our economy. So why try and do all of these things at once? The president believes that during times of economic crisis, you can ‘take advantage’ of the situation and make major transitional changes, thus the conservatives accusation of ‘socialism’. I believe the wise, adult thing to do right now [3-09] is to drop the whole ‘big bang theory’ of radical economic change and to deal head on with some major crisis. We still have not fixed the credit problem with the banking system. This is thee number one ‘adult’ problem that needs to be worked on. When you by-pass the serious issues, and hand out tons of ‘free money’ in essence you are ‘eating in the morning’, you are saying to people ‘you can have your cake and eat it too’. As noble and sincere as many of these democratic principles are, you must first deal with the real problems. When people say ‘let’s tax the rich’ [a class I do not belong to] they need to understand that during times of recession this can be devastating, your ‘great new agenda’ can turn into a disaster! Solomon saw the danger in ‘child princes’ [immature leaders] he warned against ‘eating before you put in a full day of work’. Though the theme of responsibility and a good work ethic do not always fit in to a liberal agenda, yet maturity faces reality head on and does not make decisions based on popular opinion. And don’t support the ‘united nations population fund’ a fund that provides money to China’s ‘one child policy’, a tragic human rights violation that forces women to have abortions! Our new president wants our nation to start supporting it, this is something that we presently don’t do.
- THEY DID IT AGAIN! A few posts back I wrote on the topic of evolutionists and their inability to admit defeat. I shared how they were actually clinging on to new theories/ideas that contradicted evolution, and then claiming that evolution made these new theories possible! Sure enough I read an article from a secular paper [non Christian] that had a scientist say ‘most all of us accept the theory of evolution, its accepted science. But there are many new ideas about the MECHANICS of evolution. Though the mechanics are coming into question, yet evolution itself is not’. What happened here? Remember when I wrote on ‘the bubble universes’? [under the evolution section] I showed you how people can change the definition of a thing midway thru the debate, and that by doing this you are committing the classic mistake of Equivocation. That is in the laws of debate and logic, when someone changes the definition midstream, he is cheating. Now, in the above statement ‘evolution is not being challenged, but the mechanics are’, what’s wrong with this statement? Evolution is a theory ABOUT MECHANICS! Make no mistake about it. Darwin’s original book that popularized this theory was titled ‘the origin of species’  the whole premise of the book was to say how various species ‘originated’. The ‘mechanics’ that Darwin espoused was called natural selection [survival of the fittest] he claimed that over very long periods of time, the stronger more ‘noble’ genes win out. The weaker, inferior species die off and more advanced species arrive on the scene thru this process [the mechanics of natural selection]. Now, like I taught many times before, the main problem today is science has advanced to the point where we have absolutely no evidence that stuff like this ever happens. The whole ‘mechanics’ of evolution is shot thru with holes. So what did the scientist do in the above argument? He changed the real definition of evolution [which most definitely is one of mechanics/mechanism] and said ‘evolution itself is true, but whether things actually evolved or not is up for debate’ these guys must take us for total idiots! To all of my ‘laymen’ readers, keep an eye out for this in the coming years. I believe science is on a sure road of absolutely proving evolution to be a fallacy, beware of those who will try and change the meaning of the word and make you think that evolution has made possible the fact that things did not evolve!
- ‘Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber’ Ecclesiastes 10:20a- These past few weeks there has been much ‘silliness’ in the media. They have been going back and forth on the debate over whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the titular head of the Republican Party. To my dismay, the Obama administration has added fuel to the fire. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has enlisted the media to do his bidding, truly sad stuff. We have a national crisis and these guys are ‘cursing’ each other! Now, what do I think of Rush? He is an entertainer that captures a large audience. When he runs ads on his radio show that sing ‘Barack the magic negro’ then it’s time to shut him off. Both ‘cursing the king’ [open mocking] and ‘speaking badly about the rich’ [class warfare] are detrimental to our country. There is a proper way to disagree with the president, without demonizing the man. The same goes for the other side. Do I want Obama to succeed? You bet I do! Do I want him to succeed at stuff that I disagree with, like the expanding of funding for abortion? No. I want bad policies to ‘not succeed’. Now the media says ‘how dare you’! Yet all the while they wanted Bush ‘to fail’ in their view of what he was doing to our constitutional rights. They believed Bush was undermining our rights in his war on ‘terror’. So both sides want the other side ‘to fail’ in the things they perceive to be wrong. I am surprised [well, not really] on how the media is so willing to play this silly game. The market has been crashing, there are major world events going on, and Chris Matthews opens his ‘news’ show with ‘is Rush Limbaugh running the Republican Party’ you gotta be kidding me! Solomon said it was wrong to demonize people, even if you think their demons! I believe it’s all right to be critical of the administration when you have real disagreements with them, but to call our president ‘a magic negro’ is going way over the line.
- HOW CAN ANYONE BELIEVE THERE WERE CAMELS AT CORINTH! These last few days my back injury has been pretty severe, I just finished praying/walking for about an hour and a half in my yard [early prayer time 3-5 am] and when I sit down to type it gets bad. So which way should we go? I was thinking of doing an entry called ‘were there camels at Corinth’? Kind of a spoof of a local Baptist radio preacher who has been making the argument ‘how can anyone read Revelation and think Christians are on the planet during that time of great tribulation’. He makes the false argument that if God is dealing with the nation of Israel and not the church, therefore the church can’t possibly ‘be on the earth’. True silliness indeed! Besides the fact that the church is mentioned in Revelation, terms like ‘those who keep the word of God’ and stuff like that are most definitely speaking of believers, not ‘tribulation Jewish converts’ but the church, the New Testament apostolic writers referred to the church as the ‘Israel of God’. The Jews who rejected Christ were of the ‘synagogue of satan’. John, the writer of Revelation and the gospel of John, is often accused of being anti Semitic because of his strong language about unbelieving Jews. So any way when you read phrases like ‘those who keep Gods testimony’ ‘The true Jews who are sealed by God’ these terms most definitely refer to true believers [whether Jew or gentile]. Either way, lets get to the camels. Suppose I were to tell you that there were no camels at Corinth, they were all miraculously raptured from the city! And the justification of my belief was ‘Paul makes no mention of camels in the book, how in the world can anyone believe there were camels at Corinth’! Well, the reason you would believe there were camels there, is simply because camels existed at that time. Whether or not Paul mentions them is irrelevant. You should not develop some doctrine that has them raptured away because they are not mentioned in the letter. So anyway this is my rebuttal to the argument ‘how can anyone believe that the church is on the earth in revelation’. You can ‘believe it’ because the church was on the earth in every other New Testament letter, they are even said to be going thru ‘great tribulation’ in some of the letters! To make an argument for their absence because you think they are not mentioned [which argument I believe to be wrong] is just as silly as arguing for no camels at Corinth.
(1044)‘Cast thy bread on the water, for you will find it after many days…give a portion to seven, even to eight…sow your seed in the morning and withhold not your hand in the evening, who knows what one will profit? Or maybe they will both be good!’ Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, 6- Many years ago I gave a bunch of our teaching tapes to some people up north, years later when visiting them I noticed they still had our tapes in their car! God wants us to ‘cast bread/seed’ scripture says some people hold back [horde] more then they should and it leads to poverty. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness? Those who kept back the manna, it ‘bred worms’. Don’t be stingy when it comes to planting seeds [sowing Gods word] go ahead, give some to seven, even to eight; that is don’t be afraid to scatter the seed. Jesus taught in his parables that some seed planting would go to waste, but plant it anyway! And he also taught that the harvest is not dependant on us, he said ‘you sleep and awake and the seed springs forth, but you know not how’. If your faithful thru out your life to make sincere efforts to speak and do Gods word, you will be surprised at the effect. You will think ‘geez, I never realized what an effect we were having’. Jesus said when the righteous go before the judgment they will ask ‘when did we feed you and clothe you and visit you’ they were unaware of the effect their lives were having on others! I want to encourage you today, are you ‘liberal’ in your planting? Scripture says ‘the liberal soul shall be made fat’ [not politically!] there are those that don’t seem to have much [could it be because they are always giving it away?] but God continually gives them supply/bread to give to others. Hey, cast your bread upon ‘the waters’ [multitudes of people] for after many days you will be glad when you see the results.
(1045) Okay, I am up early and just finished prayer time. I kind of heard [spiritually speaking!] the lord speaking to me about a few various subjects, things I haven’t recently studied. I also ‘heard’ the verse ‘there are 12 hours in the day, if a man walks when it is light out, he does not stumble. Walk while you have the light, for a dark time is coming when no one will be able to walk’[Jesus- John’s gospel]. These last few weeks have been pretty bad for me, my work injury has been bad. I really am not sleeping at night because of the severe back pain. I only missed one early prayer time because of it. Not because I am some super hero, but if I don’t ‘walk when it’s light’ [or dark! 3-5 am] then I miss the daily opportunity of real prayer. I realized that to miss a daily prayer/study/teaching time is detrimental to my own health. To get up early and start is difficult, I make a few attempts at standing before I make it to the yard for prayer. I always walk while praying, but after the hour or so prayer walk, I can function okay for a while. I realized that my day starts at around 3:30 am, and it usually ends around 3-4 pm- 12 hours! Jesus gave us a 12 hour work day, we complain about 8! Actually the Jewish day was a 12 hour day, that’s why he said it. Now, let’s talk a little on apologetics. I recently read a few statements from various church traditions that seemed ‘apologetic’ and defensive. The historic church still ‘smarts’ over the whole Galileo affair. Let me defend the historic church a little. A few hundred years before Christ the great philosopher Aristotle developed a cosmology [stars and stuff] that wasn’t that bad. It is a common error to believe that we all believed the world was flat before the 16th century, only a few people believed the flat earth theory, most accepted Aristotle’s [and later Ptolemy] view. Aristotle’s concept was improved a few centuries later by Ptolemy. Ptolemy developed a system that had the sun and planets and stars all orbiting around the earth on a system of ‘Crystalline spheres’ sort of like the earth was the center of an onion and the stars/planets were stuck on these outer layers and they appeared in certain places at certain times. Now, Ptolemy did not differentiate between stars and planets. He simply saw the planets as stars that were ‘irregular’ in their patterns. These ‘irregular stars’ were called ‘wanderers’ that’s where we get the term for planet. Well anyway this system was obviously flawed, but it worked well for almost 2 thousand years. So during the 15-16th century when Copernicus came up with a more accurate system [our present understanding of the solar system- one where we orbit the sun and not vice versa] he was initially rejected on good grounds. What! Do you mean to tell me you believe in the old idea? Of course not, but the first system Copernicus floated was actually wrong! Many people don’t know this. When the church and science looked at the initial theory they found it to be lacking in certain areas. Copernicus had the planets orbiting the sun in a circular orbit, they orbit more on an Ellipsis like pattern. Also Kepler had to make other adjustments to the system to get it to work [complicated stuff like the retrograde motion of mars]. So the church had some ground to stand on when they rejected Copernicus/Galileo. Of course we later accepted the truths of science and do not see science and reason as ‘anti’ Christian. But it is this embarrassing history that puts us on the defense at times, that’s why some notable Christians have embraced evolution as a tool that God used to create man. These Christians are over compensating [in my view] for the bad history on stuff like this. I reject evolution based on scientific grounds, not biblical. If God wanted to use evolution as a tool to create man, he most certainly had that option. But science does not show that ‘tool’ to be true. Those who reject all the evidence of Intelligent Design are standing with the Bishops of Galileo’s day, who when invited to just look into the telescope and ‘see for yourself’ rejected the invitation.
(1046) ‘The words of the wise are like nails fastened by the masters of assemblies’ Ecclesiastes 12:11. A few years ago I studied much on the apostolic movement and prophetic stuff. Apostles relate strongly to the gift of wisdom, they are foundation layers of ‘assemblies’ [of believers!] Much of modern Christianity has a tendency to fellowship mainly within their own circle. On my blog roll you will find sites that are reformed, catholic, emergent and prophetic. This does not mean that I agree with everything these various streams teach, but for the most part they all have something profitable to add to the conversation. I recently read a few stories on ‘modern day apostles’ these are humble men who have ‘fathered’ large church movements in other countries. Simple, non famous brothers who are spreading the gospel and planting churches in a humble way. They relate to, and train, other men under them to also launch out and bring the gospel to other places. For all intents and purposes [or as some say ‘intensive purposes’!] these men fit into the category of modern day apostles. Some use the term missionary to describe them. God has placed ‘wise men’ in the church who have the Divine ability to ‘sink nails’ [words of wisdom/ the Cross] in strategic locals for the construction of assemblies [local communities of believers]. Part of the verse I didn’t quote says ‘nails given from one Shepherd’ these men specialize in the message of Christ, they really don’t waste a lot of time on all the ‘new revelation’ stuff that the American church is consumed with. I would encourage all my ‘more reformed readers’ to be more open to the gift of the apostle, they are not all nuts who run around with strange doctrines. Many of them are dedicated servants of the Cross who are gifted with great grace to ground the people of God on a sure foundation. Their words are divinely placed in strategic locations and they play a major role in building Gods assemblies, they carry the words/nails given by the great Shepherd.
(1047)KINGS; INTRODUCTION- There is no greater Old Testament king and dynasty than that of David. While there are many other types and symbols that point to Jesus [Moses, Joseph, etc.] yet the rule of David and the promises of God to him [raising up a son from his lineage with an endless life who will sit on the throne forever!] are directly related to the purposes of God for his church and the messianic fulfillment of Jesus and his kingdom. Kings was originally one book [1st and 2nd kings]. It was divided when the Septuagint was written [the Greek version of the Old Testament] and stayed divided in Jerome’s Latin vulgate. We will see the division of Israel as a nation [northern tribes-10, southern tribes-2] take place in this book. More time will be spent on the history of the northern tribes, possibly because they needed more prophetic correction, so the recorded words of the prophets are more prevalent in Israel’s history than Judah’s [Paul said to the Corinthians that it was needful for heresies to rise up among them, this gave opportunity to deal with problems that would be beneficial centuries later to all who would read the story!] We also see some practical stuff that applies to the present moment . The division of the kingdom will be spurred on by the immature decisions of Rehoboam to listen to the bad advice of inexperienced advisers, should I say more? I can’t stress enough the role that David’s dynasty played in the national psyche of Israel and her future hopes of a restored theocracy. In essence their entire national hope was based upon a restored Davidic kingdom that would usher in the Messiah and bring deliverance to the nation from her oppressors [Rome]. Herod the great, Rome’s political leader who oversaw Israel and her land under Roman rule, built the restored temple in hopes of being seen as the leader who would fill the shoes of the promised Davidic restorer. Though Herod was not Jewish, yet he adopted Jewish custom and law in an effort to be seen as the legitimate savior of Israel. Saint Augustine [the bishop of Hippo, North Africa] would later say ‘I would rather have been Herod’s pig than his sons’. He would not eat his swine, but yet he would murder his own sons! Herod was a madman at heart. Well let’s cut this intro short and keep our eyes open as we see Jesus and his messianic kingdom in this story. The church herself will become the fulfillment of this future kingdom under the reign of Jesus as king over all the earth. The New Testament writers will eventually portray Jesus as being the present fulfillment of the promises of God made to David centuries ago, they saw the promises of God as being a presently fulfilled reality thru the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Son of God. And his being seated at God’s right hand as the ultimate fulfillment of ascending to the throne.
(1048) 1st KINGS 1- David’s son, Adonijah, plots to take the kingdom and become king in his fathers place [after he would die]. He chooses a team of talented men to become his inner circle, he prepares chariots and gets a force together. David does not discourage him, he seems to be willing to let it slide. One problem, David’s son Solomon was chosen by God himself to be the next king. David’s key men, who were left out of the celebration ceremony that Adonijah threw for himself, realized that if they didn’t act quickly they would be left out in the cold. So Nathan tells Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, to go in to the king and tell him about the problem. Nathan then will go in after her and also confirm the bad news. Note, Nathan was a powerful prophet, he was the one who faced David head on about the sin he committed when sleeping with Bathsheba and killing her husband. But David is old and sick, even if Nathan took the risk to confront him again in a ‘thus saith the lord’ type thing, there was no assurance that David would listen. Or worse, tell him he has had enough of his ‘prophetic ministry’ and take his head off! Nathan chose influence and common sense to get his point across, he was even a little deceptive in the way he planned it out. David then tells his men ‘go, anoint Solomon as king’ David’s men prevail and they quickly form a new team around Solomon. Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah will be the Prophet, Priest and military commander. Now word gets back to Adonijah that Solomon has been anointed by David, their party ends abruptly and Adonijah flees for his life. These men [Adonijah and his team] had real hopes and dreams for their new administration, but God had other plans. A few things; was Adonijah in total rebellion in doing what he did? Not really, he was fourth in line to the throne, above Solomon. Remember, the Old Testament puts special weight on this seniority thing! And David never discouraged the boy. It’s very possible that Adonijah thought he had the green light in this thing. Solomon will take the throne and though he will become famous for his wisdom, he will also be pretty brutal in his first days as king. He quickly warns Adonijah and in the next chapter we will see him take swift and decisive action to route out his adversaries. I see a little too much personal ambition in Adonijah and his men. One of them was Joab, a great military leader with much experience. If you remember when we studied Samuel he also had his run ins with David. These men were playing party politics and positioning themselves for a ‘wonderful future’. The only problem was God wasn’t in it! I remember many years ago when a friend of mine ‘started a church’. He was quite a few years older than me, but still new ‘to the game’. He made the statement ‘God has now made all my dreams come true’. He innocently fell into the trap of seeing ministry and ‘church’ as some type of structure/business that God allows people to engage in, in order for them to ‘fulfill their dreams’. Adonijah and his men were excited about the launching of their new ‘career’s’ the wind went out of their sails when Gods ordained plan took precedence over their dreams.
(1049) 1st KINGS 2-The best way to describe this chapter would be ‘Solomon practices shock and awe’. The young king is given the charge by his father David to settle some old scores. Was David being vindictive? No, he realized that there were experienced ‘politicos’ who knew how to manipulate things to their own advantage, and they would do it at the expense of ethics [note- after all I have seen and learned these last few months, I believe president Obama, though a good man himself, is surrounded by men like this. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is a political insider from Chicago, he has already been involved with all types of insider political intrigue that is corrupt at heart]. So David advises Solomon to eliminate these threats and Solomon surprises the opposing team by acting decisively. He even kills Joab while clinging to the ‘horns of the altar’. His brother, Adonijah, who tried to claim the kingdom first, Solomon kills him because he requested to have King David’s maid servant after his death. Basically Solomon cleaned house and knew he would make some enemies in the process. Leadership can be tough at times, you might deal with people who are problematic, everyone knows they need to be dealt with! Yet after you deal with them, you become the bad guy! I get a kick out of people who absolutely hate and oppose me, they sincerely believe our challenges in certain areas are wrong. Then a few years go by, they read and listen to our stuff, and walla! They now think we are on the cutting edge, maybe [to them] even at the top of the list of teaching and understanding. Why do I not get excited about stuff like this? If someone can go from thinking we are a cult to thinking we are one of the best teaching ministries around, who in the heck knows where they will be in another year or two? Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad they came around, but I can’t put a whole lotta stock in this. Now, I have had friends who have been with us for years. To be honest, some of the stuff I teach is over their heads. But they were fruit from the basic years of outreach and evangelism. They identify me with the time in their lives where they were reached with the gospel. Times when I spent many hours helping them on their journey. These brothers are faithful and stick with us out of brotherhood. Solomon knew the difference, he was willing to sacrifice talent [Joab] and stick with those who would be loyal. [Note- sometimes you choose talent over loyalty. That is people do need to be able to handle the job, the point is if you can’t trust people, it doesn’t matter how talented they are, things won’t go well for you or the team that is depending on them]
(1050)1st KINGS 3:1-15 this is a prophetic chapter, Solomon goes to Gibeon to offer on ‘the great altar’. What is the great altar? There is a remote verse [somewhere in the Old Testament- I didn’t look it up] that says Moses tabernacle is located at Gibeon. How it got there we don’t know, but the picture is important. The tabernacle of Moses represents the Old Covenant [law], during David’s rule the Ark of the covenant that was stolen, David retrieves it and places it at Jerusalem [the tent that he puts it under is called the Tabernacle of David- a type of the new covenant people who have free access to God, no more veil!] So Solomon more than likely sacrificed at Gibeon [picturing the Old Covenant] and then has the famous dream where God appears to him and he asks for wisdom. This ‘dream’ can be a type of death. Jesus referred to death as ‘sleeping’ Paul too. So after ‘the dream’ [death] he goes to Jerusalem and is at the place of the Ark [a type of Gods presence, it was not in Moses tabernacle, but under the tent that David set up] and eventually the remnants of Moses tabernacle [at Gibeon] will be joined to the Ark [at Jerusalem] and their will be ‘one new temple’ [Ephesians speaks of the 2 becoming one in Christ, both Jew and Gentile]. So under Solomon’s rule [a type of Christ] we have the joining of the Old Covenant people of God along with the Gentile church. Jesus did not forsake his ‘people that he foreknew’ [Romans] but thru his death he took away the ‘law of commandments contained in ordinances and nailed them to his Cross’ [Colossians, Ephesians] thus removing the enmity and making in himself ‘one new man’. Solomon was definitely prophetic! [see 2nd Samuel study, chapter 7- entry 923]
(1051) 1st KINGS 3: 16-28 Now to the famous story. Two women [harlots] come to Solomon with a problem. They both had children within a few days of each other, and one night one of the babies died. The other woman woke up and had the dead baby with her, but after she looked at it she realized it wasn’t hers. The real mother of the dead child did a swap at night. So as they are pleading their case to the king, they both claim that the living child is theirs. So Solomon calls for a sword, they bring him the sword and he tells his men ‘take the baby and divide it in two, give half to each mom’ sounds fair enough. Of course the real mom says ‘no, don’t divide it. Give the baby to her’ and the fake mom says ‘no, divide it!’ Ahh! Got ya. Solomon says ‘give the child to the one who did not want to divide it, the child belongs to her’. A few things, it just so happened that the last book we studied was Ecclesiastes, I didn’t plan it like that, it just ‘happened’. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. One of the verses I didn’t cover says Solomon wrote on all types of subjects and put together three thousand proverbs. Proverbs are short, concise bits/nuggets of wisdom that get the point across in a nutshell. While there are times when you need to read large volumes and stuff, yet wisdom allows you to cover a lot of content in a little space. In this case Solomon used his wisdom to quickly come to a conclusion that could not be refuted; Jesus did stuff like this with his parables. Notice also that after the judgment was made, there really was no ‘if, ands or buts’ about it. He was right and that settled it. I still have old preacher friends who can’t discern the most basic stuff. Now, I don’t want to be mean or condescending, but there comes a time where things are right or wrong. Many years ago I taught how leaders were making a serious mistake when they grasped on to the prosperity interpretation of Jesus parable of the sower [read the chapter ‘twisting the parable of the sower’ in the book ‘house of prayer or den of thieves’ on this site]. Basically many preachers, good men, were going around and teaching that Jesus was speaking about getting a huge harvest of cash. In the parable Jesus says one of the things that hinders the full harvest is ‘the deceitfulness of riches’, so I taught how Jesus was not saying ‘the deceitfulness of riches is holding back the cash’. Now, this is really elementary stuff, but some preachers still can’t discern this, after 20years! There comes a time when Solomon [Jesus] sends a judgment forth, and we ultimately become responsible for what we do with it. In this case, one of the ladies was right the other wrong. Solomon plainly told us who was telling the truth. [note- the other day as I was flipping channels, I stopped at a ‘prophetic’ brother who I haven’t watched in a while. In the past he has had some good words that were right on. But I felt that too many ‘prophecies’ were going forth on a yearly basis that were not really accomplishing anything ‘this year is the year of increase, Rebuke the demon of poverty’ stuff that was being repeated over and over hundreds of times, and yet the word of God was not being taught. Well on the program I tuned in on, the brother was saying how all the media complaints about Sarah Palin’s expensive wardrobe were ridiculous [I agree] but then he said that it was nothing but a ‘spirit of poverty’ that needed to be rebuked. Are there ‘spirits/demons of poverty’ no. At least we see no cases of Jesus casting out spirits of poverty in scripture. There comes a time when preachers/media outlets need to return to a sober message of the Cross. I believe in prophecy and miracles and have experienced many of these types of things over the years, but we need to stop being silly with some of this stuff.
(1052) 1st KINGS 4- ‘And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness [generous] of heart…and his wisdom was greater than all the children of the east and Egypt…and all the people and the kings of the earth [gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising] came to hear the wisdom of Solomon’- In this chapter we read of the tremendous storehouse of goods and resources that God gave to Solomon. His wisdom was in many areas, not just ‘theology’! He was a true Renaissance man. Before the reformation and the ‘enlightenment’ you had the Renaissance period. For many years the wisdom and knowledge that prevailed in early Greco-Roman society was lost/hidden from the public. Through process of time and events [like the crusades] some of these hidden resources of knowledge were re-discovered and the world went thru a renewal period in wisdom and philosophy. It was thanks to the catholic churches preserving of these early works [Monks and monasteries] that would later lead to them being recovered. Now, even though these works were recovered, they weren’t readily available to the general public on a wide scale. You simply did not have the tools [internet/public libraries in abundance] to disseminate the information at large, but you did have men who became educated in these areas and they were the ‘renaissance men’. Sort of like walking libraries of wisdom, ‘Solomon’s’ if you will. Solomon wrote and studied on all sorts of subjects, he did not limit himself to one field only. Often times in the area of ‘full time preaching’ we send kids off to college [okay] and they get an education that only applies to one field [full time ministry]. I think it would be better if all the ‘preachers’ became well rounded in many practical areas of learning, getting skills in various areas [Paul-tent making] that would enable them to transition when reformation happens [like the current challenge on church practices and the full time pastoral office. Many sincere men are too dependant on their jobs as full time ministers to seriously reconsider the scriptural grounds for their office]. So Solomon was the type of brother who could converse with you in all types of fields. Many of the world’s greatest scientists/mathematicians were Christians, a common mistake is to think the scientific revolution was launched by anti religious men, this is simply not true. A careful study of history would show you that the majority of the great scientific minds were products of the church. It was common to major in theology and use that field of study as the foundation for all the other fields of learning. Jesus said of Solomon that kings and queens went out of their way to hear the wisdom of Solomon [the Warren Buffet of his day] but yet a greater than Solomon was here! [Speaking of himself]
(1053)1ST KINGS 5-Solomon contracts with Hiram, king of Tyre, to supply Cedar wood and trees for the construction of the temple. He also raises up a mighty labor force who will work in 3 shifts, one month in the forest and two months back home. They helped cut down and deliver the logs on rafts back to Solomon. He has a massive labor force of stone cutters as well, they are cutting stone for the foundation of the temple. Like I said in a previous chapter, the temple is a picture of both the Old Covenant [law] and the new gentile church uniting as ‘one new man’ in Christ. Though the temple is basically a large scale replica of the Mosaic tabernacle, yet the only actual piece of furniture that makes in into the temple is the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represents Gods presence, in the New Testament we see that Gods Spirit and presence left the Old law system [as typified by the temple- Hebrews] and ‘entered’ into the new temple, made up of both Jew and Gentile believers! [Ephesians]. Solomon was wise enough to realize that he personally did not possess all the skills to accomplish the mission, he knew how to hire other skilled people to help with the completion of the task. In ministry we often try and accomplish too much through the personal attributes/gifts of the leader. One of the plagues on the Body of Christ today is the American system of entrepreneurial church, we seem to exalt the personalities and gifts of the main leader at the expense of the functioning of the people of God. Though many good men are involved with this system, yet we need to transition to a place where we understand that in Christ’s church he uses many gifted people in various ways to build his temple [the people of God].This chapter says God gave Solomon ‘peace on every side, he had no adversaries nor evil occurrence’. Scripture says when a mans ways please the Lord he makes even his adversaries to be at peace with him. God gave Solomon a season of peace and rest, not for the purpose of sitting back and resting on his laurels, but for the purpose of building his kingdom. Solomon walked ‘while he had the light’ [he took advantage of the window of opportunity that God put before him].
(1054) 1st KINGS 6 ‘CONCERNING THIS HOUSE WHICH THOU ART IN BUILDING, IF THOU WILT WALK IN MY STATUTES, AND EXECUTE MY JUDGMENTS, AND KEEP ALL MY COMMANDMENTS TO WALK IN THEM; THEN WILL I PERORM MY WORD WITH THEE, WHICH I SPAKE UNTO DAVID THY FATHER’ [verse 12] Part of the promise of God to David was he would set up a son, from his natural heritage, that would take an everlasting throne. God would be faithful to his part of the bargain as long as his son walked in obedience, ultimately these promises would be fulfilled thru Christ. We can also apply them to our lives as well, we are all ‘building a house’ in a sense. Jesus said those who heard his words and did them were like those building on a sure foundation; those who ‘heard only’ were building on sand. I find it interesting that many of us seem to think that gathering one day a week to ‘hear words’ is what God requires, in a sense we have become professional hearers! [and speakers] As you relate to the house you are building, seek the Lord for wisdom and insight into how you should build. God gave Moses specific directions in the building of the tabernacle; these are the same blueprints Solomon used, only on a larger scale. Solomon did not have to get ‘another blueprint’ he simply needed to be faithful to what the Lord already revealed. Recently in the ‘church world’ we had the passing of two good men; Avery Dulles and John Neuhouse [spelling?] If I remember right, Avery Dulles said that he was no innovator, he would not be known for his new ideas, but he was just a faithful servant in Christ’s church. I liked that, we too often want to find ‘new blueprints’ sometimes the Lord is simply looking for those who will hear and obey. [Both Avery and John were Catholic’s involved in the evangelical/catholic alliance]
(1055) 1ST KINGS 7- We have more details of what went into the building of the temple. The ‘foundation stones’ were large and costly. Remember, Solomon was said to have ‘largeness of heart’. In the New Testament the Apostles are called the foundation stones of Gods spiritual temple. Peter calls us living stones. Let’s do a little house cleaning; in all areas of church renewal/reformation, we need to be careful when handling the foundation stones. In some efforts to reform [Emergent] there is an attempt to return to the teachings of Jesus, as opposed to Paul. The problem with this effort is the historic church [and scripture!] teach us that Jesus appeared to Paul [Acts 9] and told him he would be a witness of the things that Jesus would reveal to him. So if the revelation/teaching from Paul on the atonement and the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, if these teachings are things that were shown to Paul from Jesus himself [which I believe they were] then to ignore them would be like removing the ‘foundation stones’ of the temple. These are ‘large stones’ [doctrines accepted across the broad stream of Christian churches; Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Radical Reformers, etc…] large stones that form the foundation of all Christian truth, C.S. Lewis’s ‘common hall’ if you will [though Lewis himself said some shaky stuff on the atonement]. I want to restate that we sometimes confuse the foundational doctrines of Christianity with the limited practices of Christianity that have developed over the centuries. We need to understand/embrace the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ while at the same time being flexible in the various structures that Christians have developed over the centuries to express their faith. As we challenge ‘high church’ [liturgical] structures, we need to be careful that we are not also challenging the heart of the gospel as well. I have heard/read too many statements from certain reformers that are way too pluralistic in their expression of the gospel. Denials of the Cross being the key mechanism that God chose to use to redeem man [foundation stones!] Or the mistake of thinking that the Cross was simply a display of the injustices of man, a challenge to unjust governments oppressing men. While the apostle Peter does teach us that the Cross was a display/example left to us on how we should react to suffering and oppression, yet it wasn’t ONLY that. It was also a redemptive sacrifice made on the behalf of sinful men; ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ [Corinthians]. Well, lets just keep in mind that as God’s ‘living temple’ we are being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets [Ephesians] Jesus himself being the ‘chief corner stone’, be careful when messing with the stones!
(1056) 1ST KINGS 8- This chapter shows the coming together of the Ark and Temple at Jerusalem. Solomon makes a great dedication to the Lord. He acknowledges the reality that God does not ‘dwell in temples made with hands’ but he asks the Lord to show preference to the temple and the prayers of the people. We really have a tremendous picture of Gods kingdom and rule thru these images. The temple centers the people on the reality of God dwelling in their midst. They worship him from Jerusalem and their king honors the father and leads the people in community wide intercession. There are even provisions made for ‘strangers’ who will become influenced by God’s reality, they will hear about Gods great story with his people [narrative!]. They will then come and also make intercession to him. I find it interesting that in the book of Acts [and 1st century church history] we read about the pagan converts to Judaism, the ‘God fearers’. Israel always maintained this aspect of their culture with God, they left the door open for converts. I also find it interesting that converts came! After all, the Jews did not practice a type of ‘soul winning’ that actively sought proselytes. It was simply the reality of God working with his people that drew others in. These last few years much has been said/written on the church and her mission. Is the gospel too small or too big? Sometimes in our efforts to ‘go deep’ we make it difficult for new converts to come into the church. In all of our efforts to present a gospel that affects society as a whole, the social aspects of our calling. The greater kingdom vision of Jesus as seen in ‘the gospels’ we also want to make sure that the simple initiation of new converts is made plain and easy to understand [in essence we need the Gospels AND the epistles both. A kingdom message is not complete without the reality of Atonement!] Solomon makes a great speech/prayer in this chapter, he worships God for standing true to his promise that he made to David his father. The people hold a seven day city wide celebration and go back to their homes. Even though the temple and it’s structure were not in Gods original plan [go read about David and Nathan] yet God will honor and use this limited system for a season. In the present day reformation of the church and her structures, we always need to keep in mind that we are still dealing with the people of God. Many of them worship God in ‘limited structures’ but yet they still worship God! So as we reform and grow in the coming decades, we also want to leave room for the prayer of Solomon ‘I know you cant be limited to a structure like a temple, but please honor the prayers and simple sacrifices of your people. They are doing it out of dedication to you’ [my paraphrase].
(1057) 1ST KINGS 9- The Lord honors Solomon’s request and tells him he will hear the prayers of the people. He also warns Solomon to walk in the ways of David his father. God tells him that David walked right and did good, funny thing, the Lord doesn’t bring up the Bathsheba incident! His mercies are new EVERY morning. Now Solomon becomes firmly established as Israel’s king, he puts the pagan nations under tribute/slavery and sets his people up as the overseers. I just finished reading the book on ‘Revival and Revivalism’ and started a new one on ‘in search of Paul’ yes, it’s written by a few of the Jesus seminar brothers! [you know, the guys looking for the real Jesus, Yikes!] but the book does have some excellent historical content. It brought out a recent archeological discovery of a synagogue on the island of Delos [in the Aegean]. Delos was never visited by Paul, but he sailed by it on his journeys. It is the supposed birth place of the Greek god ‘Apollo’. The interesting thing was that the synagogue looked like any other meeting place of a voluntary society of people. It did have ‘Moses seat’ [the Jewish pulpit!] and the ‘collection plate’ [at least the history of the Jewish collection late was discussed. By the way, this backs up my theory [over against Frank Viola’s] that it’s very possible that the development of the ‘church as the building’ concept came from Judaism as opposed to paganism!] But anyway, the island of Delos, under Roman rule, was encouraged to allow for the free worship of the Jewish religion. The Roman empire wanted freedom of religion! As long as it did not challenge their multitude of gods [Pantheon]. Solomon did not totally wipe out the enemies in the land, but he let them know who was in charge. He understood that there are realities to living in a pluralistic world, you don’t have to always agree with every point of view, but it’s noble to treat people with respect [I am not saying slavery is respect!] and get along as much as you can with those of opposing views. But also don’t feel intimidated by being part of a victorious kingdom that God himself set up, Solomon allowed the pagans to function in the land, but they knew who was in charge.
(1058) 1ST KINGS 10- The queen of Sheba hears about the wisdom and wealth of Solomon and makes a trip to check it out, she says ‘the half has not been told’. Solomon established an impressive economic and military system for the nation; he knew how to accomplish stuff. Wisdom [Solomon’s gift] allows for there to be action along with knowledge. Jesus knew how to use wisdom, scripture says he ‘is the wisdom of God’. The book of Proverbs [written by Solomon] personifies wisdom as Gods firstborn, God possessed him before all things. Scripture says ‘wisdom sends out her servants/ships’ remember when Jesus ‘sent the word’ and healed people? Or when the Leper was told to ‘go wash’ [by Elijah] he almost didn’t follow through because he was expecting some big show. Wisdom does not need you to personally ‘be there’ for all the action. I get frustrated at times when the modern church implies to the average saint that they really cant effect society ‘on their own’ but it is said in a way that makes the average ‘churchgoer’ think that the only way they can have a part of the action is in if they give exorbitant amounts of money ‘to the church’. And then ‘the church’ will send their money to other professional ministers who will carry out the job. Or the church will send their minister all over the world and he will do the job for them! This mindset ‘de-claws’ the average saint, it makes him think his main contribution is ‘the collection plate’! Use wisdom to impact society, you don’t always have to ‘be there’ [physically] to have an impact, but you are not limited to simply giving money to others who will act on your behalf. The believer’s greatest tool is his/her ability to make disciples wherever you are. Of course you can use modern tools like the internet. These things can be done for little or no cost and you can have a worldwide impact. The point is wisdom allows you to get things done by establishing systems of communication and ‘sending’ that can reach far and wide. In this chapter we read of Solomon’s navy, a previous chapter said ‘Hiram [and Solomon] made rafts and floated the trees to Solomon, there they were discharged for the work’. God can give you ‘divine rafts’ systems of delivery and discharge where you can impact large regions with little effort! All in all the wisdom of Solomon put in place systems that could carry the workload, without having to use actual manpower to get everything done by hand [can you imagine the manpower that would have been needed to hand carry all the trees!] To all my readers, you can impact ‘your world’ by listening to God and responding as he directs. Solomon said [in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes] that there was a poor wise man who delivered a city [and no one remembered him- non famous!] yet his wisdom gave him great influence ‘with the elders of the land’. Paul established the greatest ‘church planting movement’ known to man, and he did it on a shoestring budget! Don’t let man tell you that you can’t really accomplish much without being rich, you are a child of God and he that is in you is greater than he that is in the world! [note- as an aside, I was listening to a testimony of a minister who said how he thought it was sad that in the ‘ministerial’ environment there were times when the pastors would gather and the church members as well. But in these scenarios there seemed to be a distinction that was unbiblical; sort of like the ministers were fellowshipping amongst themselves, being excited over the plans and activities of ‘their church’ while the average saints were also fellowshipping amongst themselves and sharing about their lives and stories. In actuality the New Testament communities did not have these types of divisions. You did not have a separate class of ‘minister’ who ‘ran the church’ as a separate business enterprise. All the people [Elders and Saints] were of one community and their stories and lives commingled in a more communal way. There was no separation between the ‘classes’.]
(1059) 1ST KINGS 11- THE SIN OF SOLOMON- Now we get to the part where Solomon blows it. As I read these stories of the great men who failed, I continually fall into the trap of rooting for them, even though I know the end of the story! The trap being that failure in a sense was built into the story. How could God fulfill his purpose thru the coming Messiah if one of the sons of David actually lived up to the standard? Solomon, in a sense, was destined to fail. So what happened? This chapter says Solomon loved many women [1,000 to be exact!] and IN HIS OLD AGE began worshipping their gods. He set up altars for sacrifice and allowed the pagan gods to affect Gods people. I find this interesting, it wasn’t the actual act of having all those other women, but the sin of being too accommodating to the other ‘world religions’. I’m presently reading a book written by what you would call a liberal scholar, you know, the brothers who challenge the authenticity of just about everything. But I also have some good scholars that I read from. To be honest, at times you still might read something that makes you a little uneasy; they too at times have been affected by higher learning. But the difference between the ‘good and the bad’ ones is the fact that the good ones remain true to the historic gospel. N.T. Wright is a great scholar, he sits in the middle category, between the conservatives and the liberals [in my view]. The prolific Bishop of Durham [Church of England] has written excellent stuff on the resurrection and the kingdom of God. The liberal scholars view him as ‘behind the times’ why? Because he actually defends the historic resurrection of Christ! Yet you can read some higher criticism in Wrights stuff, not real bad stuff, just things that the average fundamentalist might be uncomfortable with. So getting back to Solomon, he became way too accommodating to the religions of his day. Sort of like calling Islam, Christianity and Judaism the ‘great Abrahamic faiths’. Now, I love Muslims/Arabs, I have written in their defense! I also think some Muslim apologetic arguments for the existence of God are good, but I would not describe Islam as one of the great Abrahamic faiths. Just like I would not call Mormonism one of the great ‘restorationist faiths’. A while back a bunch of believers had an ecumenical meeting with Muslims and Jews. Noble efforts to tone down world violence in an attempt to all get along, I think stuff like this is good. But some Christians defended Allah as being the same God as the Christians, just a different name. In my view they went too far. So Solomon became too pluralistic in his old age. Beware of the trend to abandon central elements of the faith as you mature in your thinking. There is a real temptation to want to look ‘enlightened’ to try and put distance between your intellectual faith and those ‘silly fundamentalists’, because if your not careful you might just end up with a bunch of pagan altars at your doorstep. [Ben Witherington and R.C. Sproul are other favorite scholars of mine; one is Arminian and the other Calvinistic, it’s good to read scholars from various points of view].
(1060] THE MARK OF THE BEAST! Let’s talk a little today. This past week I had a few people ask me about their church. They said they liked the church, but they thought there was too much emphasis on money and practical matters. They said they realized the need for Christians to ‘be practical’ but they felt like they really weren’t growing spiritually. First, I told them that I felt they were doing good by attending/helping the church out. I did not want to give them the impression that it was okay to just drop out. I also told them to read our site, that many of the questions they had were dealt with on the site. Then yesterday I had a believer asking me all types of stuff on the book of Revelation and the mark of the beast and the whole computer chip in your head thing. Okay, I must admit I made a joke about the mark of the beast, something like ‘it really isn’t talking about an actual number that will be implanted in someone’s skin’ [I do really believe this by the way] I said ‘for instance, it’s no secret that the Pastor was born with a birthmark of three 6’s on his head, no big deal’ [I know, this is bad]. But I did try and put some stuff in context, the head represents the thoughts of man, the hand represents his actions. The world thinks they need to cheat and steal to get ahead [worldly thinking and acting- hand and head] and those who are part of Christ’s new kingdom [as opposed to Rome-Babylon] think and act in a different manner. There did come a time under the Roman empire that if you didn’t bow the knee to the cult of emperor worship [confess Caesar as Lord] you would be persecuted or killed for your faith, in essence ‘no man could buy or sell [function in society] unless he received the mark of the beast and the number’. So anyway I advised this person to read our site. I have known them for some time, but I don’t think they read the site. They finally ask me ‘who is Corpus Christi outreach, who makes up the organization’. I told them that it’s just me, but I stuck the name on it years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong, my goal is to initiate a movement of sorts. I do pray and work towards that end. I believe it’s possible for us to have a worldwide impact, equal to any other movement [Jehovah witnesses or Mormons]. I do believe we can do this, but at the same time staying within the confines of historic Christianity, which these other movements do not do. All in all it’s been an interesting few days, I want to encourage you guys who read and follow the site, use our stuff freely. Make copies of our books and studies, send and publish our blog anywhere you wish. All of this stuff is free and available for anyone to use as they wish [except for making money!] also, keep in mind the example I gave above, don’t discourage people from being involved ‘in church’ if people eventually move on to more mature understandings and practices of church life [leaving the institutional system if you will] that’s fine, but don’t fall into the trap of ‘nudging them along’. All in all we are in this thing together, I appreciate the Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and all other expressions of Christianity that the Lord has allowed us to minister to. Strive for unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace, let your thoughts and actions be in harmony with Christ. Don’t worry about computer chips in the head, but have the mind of Christ instead.
(1061) 1ST KINGS 12- At the end of the last chapter Solomon died, Rehoboam his son will now ascend to the throne. Rehoboam is confronted by the nation, they tell him ‘your father was a slave driver! He made it hard on us, we were tools that were being used for his own self advancement’ [my paraphrase] they plead with Rehoboam to go easy on them. I find it interesting that Solomon’s reputation outside of Israel was great, he excelled and the kings of the earth knew it [image building]. But amongst his own people, those who knew him best, he was driven by ambition. Though they liked the man and he was a great leader, yet they associated him with always putting a yoke/burden on them to build. ‘More and more’ was the logo. The people were tired, they wanted to simply exist as Gods people. They weren’t asking Rehoboam to totally put them on welfare, they just wanted a break from viewing their lives thru the unrelenting pressure of ambition. So Rehoboam consults with two groups; he asks the elders of the land for advice, they advise him to ‘become a servant of the people, go easy on them’ What! A servant, are you kidding me man. Sounds like the teaching of Jesus ‘he that wants to be greatest must serve’. He then consults the young guys, peers in his own age group, they tell him ‘go for it, tell them you aint seen nothing yet! You think daddy was tough, my little finger will be heavier than his leg!’ Rehoboam listens to both groups and chooses the bad advice of the younger generation. So the people [with Jeroboam as the head speaker] come back on the 3rd day for the response, they don’t like what they hear and mount a revolt. The kingdom becomes divided under Jeroboam as the new king of Israel [ten tribes-northern] and Rehoboam as the king over Judah [and Benjamin] the southern tribe. Now Jeroboam realizes that he will lose control of the people if they keep their religious feasts at Jerusalem every year. Jerusalem is the capital where his adversary Rehoboam is at, so he sets up two golden calves [just like what happened in the wilderness in Moses day] and he places them in the city of Dan and Bethel. He also sets up a new class of priests, in violation of Gods law, and he makes up his own religious calendar. This single action of rebellion introduces false religion on a large scale to Gods people. Rehoboam gets together an army and is about to fight and regain his rightful place, God sends a prophet to him and tells him ‘leave it alone, the thing is from me’. God allowed for the split, Rehoboam had the chance to humble himself and instill a new mindset into Gods people. Yet he went for ‘the glory’. There are obviously a lot of lessons here, I don’t have to show them all to you, they are plain enough to see. To all the leaders/pastors who follow us, how are you viewed by those closest to you? Do outsiders see you as a successful leader, ambitious and able to get stuff done? Do those closest to you seem to be saying ‘lets take a break, we have had many years of never being able to sacrifice enough, building things. Okay things, but the job has been tough, we need a break’. Be sensitive to the real purpose of God, for him to be fully glorified and expressed thru His church, the community of God. Solomon reigned over a great people, but he was too ambitious, ambitious in the area of image building. The people themselves should have been the important thing, not the amount of stuff they could produce! In the end Rehoboam lost more than he would have ever gained by choosing the hard route. Allow God to lead you in the paths that he has set before you, the people you lead are the thing of value, not the things that they can produce [financially or any other way].
(1062) 1st KINGS 13- Jeroboam is confronted by a prophet as he is worshiping at the idol/altar in Bethel. The prophet gives a significant word, he mentions by name a future king [Josiah] who God is going to raise up to institute reform in the nation. When someone’s name is prophesied before their birth, that is a special anointing. Both Jesus and John the Baptist had stuff like this surrounding their births. Now Jeroboam stretches out his hand against the prophet, God curses his hand and the prophet prays for him and he gets healed. Jeroboam invites him to stay for a meal and the young prophet says ‘no, God told me not to stay and eat here’. On his way home an older prophet invites him to come back and eat with him, he tells the young prophet ‘I too am a prophet and the Lord told me for you to “eat and sit at my table’” [a type of fellowship]. Now, the old prophet lied, why? It seems as if he did not do this on purpose, he heard the story about the young man, possibly remembered the glory days of old and simply wanted the fellowship. As the young prophet ‘sits at the table of deceit’ the word of the Lord comes to the old prophet and says ‘because you disobeyed and stayed and ate, you will die’. The old prophet gave a true word and the young prophet leaves and is killed by a lion. His ‘movement’ died prematurely because he ‘sat’ at the table of deceit and disobeyed God. A few things; many years ago as I saw certain things going off track with certain movements [prosperity] I saw things that seemed to be fake, brothers sharing dreams and prophetic words that seemed false. Yet I felt these brothers weren’t doing this on purpose, that in some way they fell into a trap of wanting to be involved and accepted by their peers. And when confronted by real reproofs, they simply retreated into their own groups and refused the reproof. There are things like this happening now with certain elements of the modern prophetic movement. In the above story, the older prophet meant no harm, but yet harm was done! The younger prophet wasn’t there [in Bethel] to rebuke the old man, he was simply carrying the torch of prophetic rebukes that were needed at times. The mistake the younger generation made was being too willing to ‘sit and eat’ at the old mans table. I believe that certain elements of the older ‘prophetic’ movements need to be abandoned and left alone to die [false doctrines, not people!]. Those who walk in wisdom and obedience will refuse to ‘sit and eat at the old mans table’ and those who decide to stay at the table will die prematurely [that is their ministries and movements will be cut short] which group are you in?
- Yesterday I took my daughter and her friends to help out with a school sports program, they volunteered to help. On the way home I checked my P.O. Box and sure enough one of my regular radio listeners sent me 10 bucks cash. I hate when people do this. Why? Because I have a policy of taking no money, ever! So it costs me 25 cents [or whatever stamps cost now] to mail it back. This brother has listened and written me ever since I’ve been on radio [1996-2009]. He used to rebuke me for teaching against the prosperity gospel; his letters reveal that he is an older guy who is an ‘expert’ in that doctrine. But he also compliments me about our program, times where he really agrees and says ‘wow, that was real meat’ [good teaching] this week! So anyway I put up with him. So as I get home I write a short thank you note, stick the money in an envelope and put a stamp on it, figure I’ll mail it out later. Then one of my homeless buddies stops by, I haven’t seen them in a few weeks, been feeling bad with my back and all. Also, just a note to my old buddies, I am still in good shape, hey I used to hold the arm wrestling title at the fire house! It was funny beating the young jocks, the point is I am not out of shape or overweight or anything like that, it’s just my back really hurts at times. I don’t carry health insurance on myself [only the kids] because it’s too much, so I don’t ever go to doctors [only when first injured] so I deal with it by overdosing on Advil’s and stuff. But anyway my buddy came by and I decided to change plans for the day [I was going to do some reading] and had a B.B.Q instead. I also ripped open the envelope and gave my friend the 10 bucks; I felt I wasn’t violating my policy of ‘no offerings’ by passing it along to a friend in need. We had a good fellowship and my daughters came over thru out the day, they help out at the church [Bay Area fellowship] on Saturdays with the child care. So they have been asking me questions and stuff about the bible, my second oldest, Rebecca, does not have the internet at her ranch yet. She owns a few acres out in the country and hasn’t set up wireless yet, so she can’t read this site and learn the stuff. I have been passing books along and stuff to her, I do lend my books out- sometimes they never make it back, but I see this as ministry of sorts, who knows where the books will end up someday. Also I have a tendency to ‘correct’ the stuff I don’t agree with by adding notes to the books, so it gives a better balance [in my view] than jut passing stuff along without doing a little teaching myself. But the ‘dynamic’ of the day was interesting, I have been praying that ‘all my children would be taught of the Lord’ [both natural and spiritual kids] and that ‘God would pour out his Spirit on our seed, our young men would see visions, old men dream dreams. Our handmaidens [ladies!] would prophesy’ [Acts 2] so this was a good interaction of spiritual ‘sons’ and my natural daughters all getting excited about the things of the Lord. Also one of my Christian neighbors who I have known for years stopped by while walking his dog out in the front. He knows I do radio and stuff, but he has never visited this site! He does some teaching on a local basis thru a Christian publication, I like the paper. But the sister who runs it must not like me [probably because of our stance against the prosperity gospel] I have mailed her a few checks over the years and asked for a subscription, not only do they rip the checks up [I guess?] but they don’t respond at all, I just leave it alone [I know she gets the checks, but does not agree with my teaching. To be honest it’s just bad business to not even respond, plus your paid advertisers are getting the short end of the stick as well]. But anyway I gave my neighbor the blog address and hope he learns from it. It’s funny, we have friends all over the world who regularly follow the journey with us, yet brothers right down the block might be ‘out of the loop’ that’s fine, we don’t have to be ‘known’ by everyone. So anyway I just thought I’d share a little today, was going to do the next chapter of Kings, but will get to that tomorrow, God bless till next time.
- 1st KINGS 14- Jeroboam’s son gets sick, he tells his wife ‘disguise yourself and go to the prophet Ahijah, he will tell you what will happen to the boy’. She goes and the Lord reveals the identity of the wife to Ahijah, he is old and blind. As soon as she gets to the house he gives her a strong rebuke, tells her the child will die and that her husband was wicked. Sure enough she takes the message back to Jeroboam and these things come to pass. Why did Jeroboam disguise his wife? Ahijah was the original prophet who told Jeroboam that he would be king, Jeroboam knew that he was doing wrong by instituting idolatrous practices into the nation; so why did he do it? Basically he trusted in the arm of the flesh to maintain would God gave him. He did it so he wouldn’t lose the kingdom. He obviously avoided the prophet for as long as he could, he thought he would send his wife incognito and who would know? The Lord knew. God has ways of getting information to you [and me!] whether we want to hear it or not. Also Ahijah was a prophet, another name for prophet is ‘Seer’ [some feel seers are totally different gifts/offices, for the sake of this basic teaching they are closely related] but yet he couldn’t ‘see’ for himself. I find it interesting that many of Gods greatest gifted people can’t seem to find help for themselves. There is a prophecy about Jesus that says ‘physician, heal thyself’, Paul had a thorn in the flesh that wouldn’t go away! Many people that are used by God to pray for healing and get results, they themselves struggle with sickness. Ahijah had a word; not only about Jeroboams son [a localized situation] but also a national word ‘Israel will be shaken like a reed in the water’ the Lord used the local situation to speak to the broader community. The people would ‘be shaken’ because they permitted idolatry into their lives. Understand, we see the idolatry of Israel as blatant [actual idols and stuff] but they really thought that the forms of idolatry that they were practicing were pleasing to God! I often find that well intentioned believers have a difficult time ‘seeing’ idolatry [covetousness, greed]. The American church has incorporated ‘success/abundance’ so deeply into the minds of the saints that we view our worship of God thru this skewed lens. ‘If God wants me to have an abundant life, then what’s wrong with me centering my church life around being successful, confessing and thinking about abundance/money all day long’? Well, what’s wrong with it is Jesus told the church that he didn’t want us ‘thinking’ about these things all the time, he said the ‘gentiles [unbelievers] are always thinking about the stuff, it shall not be so with you’. So it takes time for Christians to see these things, Jeroboam instituted a form of idolatry into Gods nation, the people sincerely went along for the ride. God said they were going to be shaken ‘like a reed in the water’.
- 1ST KINGS 15- In this chapter we see the various kings of Israel and Judah. Some good, some bad. Scripture says even though some did evil, yet for the sake of David, and the promises of God to him, the Lord still worked thru their reigns. I find it interesting how we are all part of a divine/dynastic rule. In essence we are inheriting the promises that God made to others who came before us. One of the previous verses we looked at [I think?] said ‘I have heard your prayers concerning this place [Solomon praying about the temple] and my eyes and heart will always be there, walk in my statutes and do my judgments and I will keep the promises that I made to David your father’ God is looking to fulfill his word to the previous generations, we are simply parts of the puzzle! It’s important for us to keep this in mind, it keeps us humble. Over the years I have lived in ‘two worlds’. As a firefighter I had friends/co-workers that took the road of responsibility in life, some invested in real estate [like myself] and did the whole rental thing. I sold everything and got out of the business years ago. Then I lived in the ‘homeless/drug-addict/ex-con’ world. These were/are my buddies who I have spent most of my ‘other life’ with. Not ‘a ministry’ per se, but real friends helping one another out. Many of these friends were/are talented and gifted, many actually work! Yes, I have had many homeless friends who worked on a regular basis- carpentry, yard work, painting. Now, many times the ‘normal world’ would simply see the plight of the ‘other world’ [of those who never seemed to make it in life] and think/say ‘look at our lives [normal world] we have pulled ourselves up by our own boot straps, and now the government wants to penalize me so I have to help those who were not responsible like me!’ while there is some degree of truth to this complaint, yet it misses something. Many who ‘have made it’ were not much different than those who didn’t. Many ‘normal’ people have, to a degree, been the recipients of the promises that God made to their fathers, simply a result of having stable lives as youngsters, or living at a time where immigrants were welcomed. That is their heritage is one of immigrant [like me being an Italian] and our forefathers made it in for us. We now say ‘geez, my parents did it legally! What’s up with these modern immigrants?’ [usually speaking of Mexicans] the whole point being much of your success in life really had little to do with you pulling yourself up by your own boot straps! Now, I am not saying responsibility and diligence don’t count, they do count for something, but I am saying we at times have been blessed because of previous promises of God [and blessings] upon others who came before us. Paul taught ‘some watered, some planted but only God can make it grow’ and he said others have entered into the labors of those who worked hard before them. Do the best with the deck that was dealt to you; be humble about all the good you might accomplish thru out your life. And when you see others who have not been as blessed as you, be kind and patient, maybe God blessed you so you could someway be a blessing to them. It just might be your [mine too!] job to help them get a leg up in life.
- EVOLUTION- It’s time to do a little update. These past few weeks in Texas we have had a debate on evolution and how it should be presented in the text books. The final decision seemed to give both sides a little wiggle room. During the debate news papers would report things like ‘all scientists agree that proofs of evolution are all around us’ and basic misinformation on the whole subject. But to be fair, what do the advocates of evolution mean when they say there are proofs all around us? Basically they are speaking about known changes in the various classes of species that exist. Technically they are claiming that genetic mutations are proof of evolution. What are genetic mutations? All living things have a specified code of information built into their systems, this code is called DNA. Over time as science has advanced in its ability to examine and test DNA, the evolutionists thought for sure that they would find NEW/ADDED genetic information in the changes that were taking place in the various species. In point of fact, if Darwinian evolution [macro] were true, you would find numerous examples of new information in these mutations. How many species have they found with this new information? Absolutely none! Again, stuff like this isn’t just a glitch in the system, it is absolute scientific/observable truth that tells us evolution, on a large scale, never happens. What does happen is various changes take place within their own set/class of being. That is God made things ‘after their own KIND’ this would mean that God did not create all the changes in the various species in the initial act of creation, but he set things in categories ‘kinds’ if you will. Now, in no way is it a violation of scripture for species to change/adapt along the way, this would be consistent with the language used in the bible. But what have we discovered? We have found that whenever a change takes place, the ‘change’ that is taking place is simply a rearrangement of already existing information. DNA has the ability to replicate itself, sometimes in the process of duplicating, mistakes happen. Sort of like if you copied something and the copy had a glitch. Well when this happens you have a mutation, a change in the DNA. Sometimes this process actually is beneficial to the species. This is basically what they mean when they say ‘evolution is all around us’, what they are not telling you is that this actual process has proven that new information NEVER shows up. That in order for evolution to happen you NEED NEW INFORMATION, new genetic information that did not exist in the original parent. So to be honest about it ‘all the proofs’ that are around us are simply showing us that evolution, to the point of new species evolving from previous ones, actually never can happen! This singular problem in the field of genetics is considered to be the single greatest obstacle that science has run into in trying to prove the reality of evolution. When Richard Dawkins [one of the so called new atheists] was asked if he could give any examples of new information being discovered in living things, he hesitated and stuttered as he realized that the interviewer had him trapped in a corner. The atheist knows that this is only one of many scientific proofs that speak against evolution. Like I said before, the more science advances, the more proof we have against Darwin’s theory.
- 1st KINGS 16- Jehu, a prophet, receives Gods word and rebukes Baasha, king of Israel. What is God upset about? That Baasha not only sinned himself [bad enough] but that he chose to cause Gods people to sin. Last night I watched an excellent program on P.B.S. about Jerusalem and its history. They covered the story of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I still can’t bring myself to view Islam as a faith that is legitimate. Now I know and love Muslim people, as a matter of fact I recently had some emails from a Muslim friend who defends his faith, he found our site a few years ago and has corresponded with me. But the problem I have with Islam is it has introduced religious beliefs and ideas that are totally contrary to the revelation of God thru Christ. What do I make of a faith that calls God ‘Allah’ and Jesus ‘Isa’, that denies the deity and incarnation of Jesus. That basically decimates the truth of God as seen in the gospel. I think believers should be fair and balanced and NON RACIAL when dealing with stuff like this, but we cant take lightly a ‘world religion’ that has introduced error on such a large scale. Now Jehu will be mentioned again, he was a prophet with a ‘violent streak’! He will be recognized by those who know him as ‘one who rides furiously’ that is he tended to ride outside of the perceived parameters of prophetic/pastoral leadership. When he was coming to town, everybody knew about it. Also at the end of this chapter we are introduced to king Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings. He also will lead Gods people astray, Elijah the prophet will become his nemesis. Jesus said of the religious leaders of his day ‘you compass land and sea to make one convert, and when he is made you make him twice as much the child of hell than yourselves’. It’s interesting, you would think people who are zealous to make converts would always be doing it out of a right motive, but Jesus told us this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people are power hungry, or they simply want a following for the sake of being in charge. I admire the dedication of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s witnesses, their founders sacrificed much in the pioneering of their movements. But just because leaders/movements manage to gain a following, that in itself does not mean the outcome will be good. There are many adjectives used in scripture, to be a ‘child of hell, twice as much as your founder’ is one description we ought to avoid.
- 1ST KINGS 17- This chapter is pretty famous among Christians, not like the others we have looked at. God’s word comes to Elijah and he enters the scene as a significant Old Testament figure. Jesus will refer to John the Baptist as one who came in ‘the spirit and power of Elijah’. The religious people of Jesus day held on to the prophecy of Malachi that ‘before the great day of the Lords coming, Elijah would appear’ [Jesus applied this to John the Baptist] so the brother has good credentials. He comes out of the shoot like a rocket; he confronts Ahab, the wicked king of Israel and prophesies no rain in the land. God directs him to go into hiding/obscurity and live by a brook. The Ravens bring him food and he drinks from the brook. The drought causes the brook to dry up and God instructs him to go to a city and be cared for by a widow woman. He goes and asks the woman to provide for him, she fears she won’t have enough for both him and her small family [a son]. He encourages her not to fear and take care of him, she does and God provides supernaturally for the woman. Eventually her son dies and she blames God ‘did God bring you hear to show me what a sinner I am? Now my son dies!’ She was feeling condemned/guilty. Elijah takes the child and lays on him and God raises the boy from the dead, one of the greatest miracles that God does with men. A few things; Elijah was not there to instill fear into the average ‘church folk’. Last night I again made the mistake of channel surfing the Christian channels during ‘praise athon month’ [Double ouch!!] One channel had a brother telling the people ‘God is not moved unless your giving is sacrificial, it must hurt you to please God’ [in so many words] The other channel had a brother saying ‘God said if you hear preaching and benefit, and you don’t give money in return, you are sowing to the corruption of the flesh’ I am familiar with this passage, it is found in Corinthians. The tone and overall ‘sense’ of these appeals was wrong. It seemed to leave a feeling of fear and condemnation to the average channel surfer who might be looking for answers. Elijah told the widow woman ‘don’t fear’. Elijah also had the capacity to live in obscurity, though God spoke highly of him, yet he recognized that there would be seasons of obscurity; times when you simply serve the Lord thru simple tasks and go unrecognized for many years. I cant stress enough the contradiction between Jesus ethos of Christian leadership and what the average Christian is taught in our day. We connect Christian success in ministry with the tools of corporate growth and we simply set young ministers on a purpose driven course that often by passes the teachings and character of New Testament leadership. Elijah will eventually appear again on the scene, but he spent an awful lotta time by the brook!
- 1ST KINGS 18- After three years in hiding the Lord tells Elijah to show himself to Ahab, rain is on the way! He appears once again on the scene and Ahab says ‘here he is, the one causing all the trouble’. Elijah says ‘you got it wrong buddy, it’s your wickedness and turning away from proper paths that has caused this trouble’. Elijah sets up a contest ‘go, get all the false prophets of Baal and let them come and set up an altar. Let them place a bull on it and pray and see if Baal will come and show himself alive’. So Elijah has them crying and cutting themselves [pagan ritual] and pleading all day for Baal to come and consume [by fire] the sacrifice. He even mocks them ‘where is Baal? Maybe he went on a trip? Maybe he’s sleeping’? One translation says ‘maybe he’s on the pot’ [toilet] Elijah was not above scathing sarcasm! So after Baal doesn’t ‘act’ Elijah sets up his own altar, puts a bull on it, soaks the whole thing with water and prays for God to reveal himself. Sure enough fire falls from heaven, burns the bull, stones and everything else! Elijah takes the false prophets and puts them out of their misery. These brothers had a bad day, the same day they find out that their religion is false, they meet Jehovah face to face! And then Elijah tells Ahab ‘get ready, the rain is coming’. God ‘showed’ himself thru a great act; he let it be known that the true God made a real difference. I recently read a story about an atheist. He is an intellectual and lives in Africa. Over the years he observed these ‘silly Christians’ coming to his nation and spreading their ‘ignorant beliefs’. He also noticed something else, they were the only real ongoing group of people who regularly gave their time and lives for the betterment of his fellow Africans. Sure, his intellectually arrogant friends would look at the whole thing as a charade, watching these missions groups spending time trying to teach silly stuff like the Trinity, declaring that this Jesus was ‘Gods son, God in the flesh’ but the atheists never organized a community that would actually help his fellow Africans, there was almost a built in bigotry that said ‘why even help these poor blobs of flesh, after all, we all came from nothing. When we die we simply cease to have feelings and pleasure, our lives basically consist of enjoying pleasures and being happy, what eternal significance is there in caring for the poor ignorant masses’. The observant atheist realized that thru out his life, his closet friends, the people who shared his own beliefs. They were the ones who didn’t ‘give a damn’ about his fellow black countrymen, but the Christians whom he and his friends spent their who lives mocking and resisting and verbally abusing, these Christians were the ones who gave of their lives for the betterment of his fellow man. God revealed himself thru Elijah’s ministry on this day, he showed the people that the God [system] you believe in really does matter. In all of our talking and debating between various religions and belief/unbelief systems, at the end of the day look at the results, Christianity has had her faults to be sure, but she has done a lot better than the prophets of Baal!
- 1st KING 19- Ahab tells his wife, Jezebel, about Elijah’s victory, she sends word to the prophet ‘so help me God if I don’t do the same to you as you did to my prophets’. Understand, Elijah did not simply ‘rebuke’ false doctrine here, he actually dismantled an entire ‘religious system’ that was contrary to the purposes of God. It is very difficult to uproot all that you have put in place for the sake of reformation. I find this to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome when seeking God for true change in the church. Christians too often associate their relationship with God along with the systems of religion that they were brought up with. Now Elijah flees for his life, God will appear to him at Horeb; he is not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the ‘still, small voice’. Elijah is told to anoint a king of Syria, also anoint Jehu as king of Israel and go get your protégée Elisha. Elijah is also told by God there are seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. We see the danger of prophetic ministry; God vindicated Elijah and truly did miraculous stuff with him. It was easy for Elijah to fall into the trap of ‘I am the only one who sees this stuff’. God reassured him he wasn’t alone. These last few years I have been surprised by the number of Christians who have corresponded with me thru our blog, it seems as if the present challenges to ‘church/clergy’ are becoming commonplace to the believers at large. It is no longer a secret. But it is also disheartening to see many of my friends who have served the Lord for years; they seem to be oblivious to the same truths that the church worldwide is seeing. So with Elijah you did have false prophets who were all wrong at the same time. Yes, just because there were so many who held on to the same view of religion [Baal worship] this did not mean they were right. But at the same time it was obvious to at least seven thousand others that the popular religious system was actually wrong! James says that Elijah was a man ‘subject to the same weaknesses as all men’ yet the Lord used him mightily. All Gods servants have feet of clay, many of the greatest reformers of church history also made big mistakes. Luther was a tremendous force for change, but his anti Semitic writings would later be used as a justification for Jewish oppression. As we strive for truth and justice in the days ahead, let us all remember that some of Gods greatest voices are ‘compassed about with the same infirmities as us all’ God does use clean vessels, but even clean vessels sometimes have cracks.
(1071)1ST KINGS 20- Benhadad, king of Syria, besieges Israel and threatens Ahab ‘give me your gold, wives and kids’. Ahab was a demoralized man, his wife was already running the show, he relinquished any remnant of nobility years ago. He responds ‘sure, take it all. What do I care?’ So all goes well, Not! Benhadad says ‘one more thing, tomorrow my men will come and inspect your stuff, if they see anything else of value, they taking that too!’ So Ahab consults with his men, he tells them the situation and they decide to reject the final offer. The fight is on. Notice how the Lord sends Ahab true prophets who give him guidance along the way, it’s like the Lord was willing to allow Ahab some time to get things right. The false prophets are dead, Elijah rebuilt the altar, who knows, maybe God was giving Ahab a real chance at reform. So Ahab does okay, he has a few battles with Syria, and at the end he LETS THE WICKED ENEMY GO! God rebukes him for this thru a prophet. God basically says ‘look, I gave you a second chance. I had a task for you, your job was to recognize and eliminate the threats to my people’ what happened? I have noticed thru the years that leaders, good men, will often fall into mindsets that say ‘well, after all our goal is to succeed and be happy. Have good church attendance, good income. Why even bother dealing with stuff that’s wrong?’ There are times in church history where God is looking for reformers, men and women who are willing to take a stand and say ‘enough, this stuff has be going on for too long, we will have no more of it’ [doctrines and stuff that lead Gods people astray]. It seems as if Ahab was living for the day, willing to let the wicked king live another day. After all, what harm can it do? He disobeyed God, he was given a mandate to execute justice, he didn’t. God chose him to complete the task, not just survive. Ahab blew it big time.
- I was gonna cover Jezebel today, but lets save it for later. I have a package sitting here, getting ready to send it off to a New Jersey prison. One of my buddies is in prison and it’s a good chance to get him to read some stuff. I copied a bunch of stuff from this blog and added a few notes. He is the friend we prayed for that almost died around a year ago. His name is Patrick, he had a bad overdose on drugs, but the Lord healed him in a miraculous way. You can read about it under the prayer request section. But he was not healed of everything. One of the ongoing problems is he did permanent nerve damage to his leg. One of the problems is ‘it kills you to go to the bathroom’ if you get my drift. Well anyway as it was being explained to me, I really couldn’t empathize that much. I of course would continue praying for him, but couldn’t totally relate. Then after my most recent bout with severe back pain, I too had the problem! I notice that after the severe pain finally goes away, there will be an increased loss of feeling to my right side. Well that affects the nerves in the leg as well, now I can empathize! When one of my homeless buddies came by last week, he asked if his brother could send me some money for him thru the internet. I told him I didn’t have an account like that. He believed me and all, but I explained to him that other ministries are set up like that, they receive offerings that way. But I don’t do anything like that, I don’t take offerings. So as we talked a little I let him know that I also don’t deduct any giving from my taxes [to be honest, now it’s cheaper for me to do the standard deduction. But when I first started doing this it was not for that reason]. Well anyway he said how it’s not wrong to at least benefit in some way thru the ministry stuff I do. I told him that I do realize that many good ministries do use these advantages, yet I have seen over the years that many unbelievers use this single excuse to reject the gospel. So I personally take that excuse away when it comes to us. The bible says Jesus suffered so he might have compassion and be able to identify with our struggles [Hebrews]. Paul told the Corinthians that the suffering he endured enabled him to better empathize with others. If I stopped spending the money on the ministry, or tried to set up an income stream from it, then I could probably afford health insurance. But I’d rather suffer a little now, and build up some eternal rewards for later. We need to understand the biblical doctrine of sacrifice a little bit more, for I trust that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us’ [Paul]. NOTE- actually, as I thought about it, I spend almost half of my monthly income on ministry stuff. It might be more profitable if I took a deduction. But I won’t.
- 1ST KINGS 21- Ahab wants the field of Naboth, he owns a field next to Ahab’s palace and Ahab wants to make a deal for it. Naboth says ‘no way, this is a part of my family inheritance’. So Ahab goes home, falls on his bed and refuses to eat, in the Greek this is called ‘being a big baby’. So Jezebel asks him ‘what’s wrong’? He gives her the scoop and she says ‘what’s wrong with you, you are the king! Your word/name has great power, use it to get what you want!’ So she manipulates the situation and sends letters to the elders of Naboth’s city, she signs the kings name and says ‘set up 2 false witnesses against Naboth, hold a public mock trial and kill the man’. The accusation against him is blasphemy. This sure looks like a prophetic sign of the Cross. So the plan is carried out, the guy is killed and Ahab gets the land. Now, the Lord speaks to Elijah about the whole thing and he confronts Ahab, he pronounces judgment on him and his wife. Ahab repents somewhat and God delays the judgment. In the book of Revelation God warns the church of Thyatira ‘you have permitted that woman, Jezebel, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols’. John the Baptists head was taken off by a Jezebel [the wife of a king who used her husband’s authority to get what she wanted- manipulation]. What/who is Jezebel? A few years back it was common to hear teachings on her, whole books have been written on the subject. It was one of those fads where the church thought we were really doing ‘spiritual warfare’ by exposing her, but in reality we were being duped by focusing too much on the enemy. So what about the rebukes? How do we ‘spot her’? In the cases mentioned above, it is speaking of a form of manipulation that gets the ‘authorities’ to commit wickedness. When the govt. can stamp its approval on an act, like abortion, then the wicked act can be carried out because the ‘law’ permits it. In Naboth’s mock trial, he was murdered, but it was under pretense of law. Of course Jesus trial was the same. And John the Baptist was beheaded because the ‘kings word is law’. Oliver Cromwell, the 17th century parliamentarian reformer, would face his Jezebel in the king’s wife, she was the Catholic wife of King Charles [Stuart the 1st] and the puritan reformer saw her as a threat. He would eventually lead parliament to execute the king and himself hold the title ‘The Lord Protector’ his epitaph would read ‘Christ, not man, is King’. So every age has had to deal with Jezebel. One thing for sure, when the people of God permit, and at times agree, with the unjust manipulation of human govt. [like Supreme Court decisions that give voice to the murder of children] then we are to a degree ‘suffering that woman Jezebel’. The reason John the Baptists head was removed was because he spoke up loudly against a public sin. The king married his brother’s wife, they were committing adultery. Now, everyone knew it, it was the sort of thing that you learned to live with, but John felt it his duty to publicly speak out against it. So today, when we as believers become desensitized to the sins that take place with the governmental stamp of approval, then we too are allowing the unjust manipulation of human govt. [Jezebel] to have her way.
- 1st KINGS 22- Well, this study went fast! I basically write a chapter a day and it fly’s by. Ahab consults with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. He convinces him to fight against Syria and take back Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat asks Ahab ‘are there any prophets we can get advice from?’ Ahab brings out the troops, these were 400 PAID prophet’s who were ‘on staff’. Sure enough these brothers know how to ‘prophesy’. They all with one voice [unity] prophesy a great victory ‘surely you will prosper’ is the mantra. One brother even makes these iron horns and says ‘just like these horns you will push the enemy back’ they put on quite a show. But wait, Jehoshaphat wants to play it safe, he asks ‘are there any more prophets that we need to hear from’? Sure enough Ahab says ‘well, I have this guy, but he is so negative! He never agrees with these other fine brothers, but what the heck, lets get him’. So they send a servant to retrieve Micaiah. On the way back to the king, the poor messenger says ‘Now look, all the other brothers are on board, they know how to toe the party line. Please give your reformation preaching a rest’. So they arrive at the designated spot, and Micaiah prophesies good stuff. He gave into the pressure. Ahab says ‘how many times do I have to tell you to speak what’s really on your heart’ then he gives the true prophecy ‘I saw Israel like scattered sheep across the terrain’ basically he was saying ‘don’t go to battle’. Ahab says ‘see, what did I tell you! This brother is bad news’ they lock him up and go to battle. Sure enough Ahab gets killed ‘by chance’ [a stray arrow] and the battle goes bad. Also, a story is told how the host of heaven appeared before God and the lord said ‘how will we convince Ahab to go to battle’? And the story says that God allowed a lying spirit to be in all the prophets. It was Gods judgment on Ahab to let him hear what he wanted to hear! Paul says that people will ‘heap to themselves teachers, wanting the ears tickled’ we live in a day where church attendance is ‘seeker friendly’ people want their ‘felt needs’ met. Sometimes the Lord gives people what they want, even if it’s not good for them! [Remember King Saul?] So we end 1st Kings with judgment falling on Ahab, the dogs ‘licked the blood’ from his chariot in Samaria as a fulfillment of Gods judgment on him. We also see the possibility of ‘prophetic ministers’ looking really good, putting on a show, if you will, and yet being dead wrong! In today’s internet environment we live in a day where multiple prophecies go forth on a regular basis, we need to be wary of listening to the ‘many prophets’. I have found a few good prophetic words thru this venue, but for the most part the ‘prophets’ have a tendency to go with the flow. This is not to say that all prophecy needs to be doom and gloom, but we often give voice to the image of Jesus that suits us best. We like a rich, successful, wealthy Jesus, a real go getter if you will. We then speak words that are coming from our distorted image of him. In essence we prophesy [speak] words that are in agreement with the image of Jesus that we choose to hold on to. Ahab had a bunch of prophets who were looking real good, surely they all couldn’t be wrong! God let them prophesy the things that they wanted to prophesy.
- Yesterday I met Edward; he is a homeless brother from San Antonio. He located to Corpus a few months ago. As I was helping him out during the day I realized he had a situation with another brother who owns a ‘church building’. The building is not being used so they worked out a deal with my friend, he would live in it and kinda be a caretaker while they are trying to sell it. Well after being with the brother most of the day I ‘discerned’ how he is in great strife with the owners. They have told him to leave and all, he is telling me about his ‘legal rights’ to stay [you do run into brothers like this. I have had buddies tell me stuff like this before ‘squatter’s rights’ and stuff. When one of my friends refused to get his motorcycle motor out of my garage, he started using the squatters rights ‘provision’ he saw how quickly I began dragging it out to the curb! He got it out.] So this is kind of a funny thing that the guys do at times. But it did get me to thinking about how often we mix ‘business’ with ‘church’ [charity]. I have a policy, whenever someone asks to borrow money, I NEVER do it, but I will GIVE them some, with the explicit directions to ‘not pay me back’. A few posts back I mentioned how I used to do the real estate thing; buying a cheap rental [some were not cheap] and renting it out until I could sell it. It’s not wrong for believers to do stuff like this, but Jesus also taught us that the pursuit of wealth can affect you in a bad way. At the time I was reading and learning about all types of money investments, consuming my thoughts and energies with this stuff. Then my bible reading/teaching would inevitably become ‘affected’ with this paradigm. I would just naturally gravitate towards the money portions of scripture, when coming across the classic ‘you cannot serve God and money’ verses; I would unconsciously stick it in the category of ‘church tradition’ even though Jesus was the one who said it! So its a popular trend for believers to get into the whole ‘God has called me into the ministry of teaching believers how to become financially independent, so lets spend our time building wealth for my business and at the same time helping other believers build wealth’ sounds noble, but it usually winds up focusing on the money stuff most of the time. It gets your focus on the wrong thing. So anyway I think we need to refocus our thoughts on the New Testament priorities, sure you can be a responsible business investor, nothing wrong with it. But don’t go down the road of ‘my ministry is to bring in the wealth’ you wont be the first [or last] person that has ‘felt this calling’.