Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Freedom For All

TEXT: Gal 3:28

"28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, considered to be the foremost authority on early 19th century American liberty & political philosophy, listed this text as the bedrock basis of American liberty in chapter 1 of his monumental work Democracy in America.  In his analysis in that book, he detailed how well educated every American was, primarily from each reading the Bible in their native tongue (primarily English).  He deduced that it was every Americans' knowledge of the implications of this verse as the Word of God that brought about the revolution against Britain.

     In fact, de Tocqueville asserts that Paul's expression here is the first time that anyone had ever declared all men, women, slave, master, Jew, or gentile were equals under God.  This then is the root for Jefferson’s ground-breaking chain in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, that “We hold these truths to be self evident:  that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;  that among these are life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.”  How much like Paul’s statement does the opening half of Jefferson’s formulation sound.

     Tocqueville goes on to examine the root of the claim & finds that it rings true that without Biblical Christianity there is no egalitarian freedom for all.  He sees this as the driving force behind all the other leaps toward democracy (the printing press, the gun, the microscope, science, the engines that drive democracy), without which, progress would not be possible.

     Wrote de Tocqueville:  "Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth." *

     Regardless of what revisionists wish to say today, no matter what pratter they peddle, it is imperative that one read the documents of the period to see that from the Bible & from our people's ability & freedom to read it springs the lifeblood of our freedom.

*Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851), pp. 331, 332, 335, 336-7, 337

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's the Porpoise?

TEXT: Ex. 26:14

"14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins."

     The Hebrew word used here can also refer to "porpoise" skins.  Some scholars insist that "badger" is an incorrect translation.  However, though porpoises are found in the Red Sea & in the Nile, they are pretty scarce in the desert, which means the Hebrews would have had to have anticipated their need & stocked up before leaving Egypt.  While this is technically possible (it may be they had a hoard from the spoils of Egypt; maybe they successfully raided a well stocked porpoise store like "Red Sea World"), it seems highly unlikely to say the least.

Friday, July 23, 2010


TEXT: Prov 22:6

"6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

     Arguably there is nothing more important to the health & survival of the church as an institution than the proper training of Christian children.  More important then evangelism.  More important than missionary work. Our children are our closest & best resource for the future church.  All the more tragic that increasingly, more & more young adults are leaving the church in droves -- upwards of 70%!  This hemorrhage has led to the first noticeable drops in church attendance in over a century; the first but unless things change radically, unfortunately not the last.

     Check the backgrounds of virtually every prominent atheist today & you will find two things:  1) Freudian difficulties with authority figures (ftnote) & 2) religious teaching in their youth.  That's right -- religious teaching in their youth.  Rabid atheist Dan Barker was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home & was a preacher with a music ministry before casting God aside. George Smith was a religious youngster in a non-religious home until as a sophomore in high school he began to stray away from Christianity.  Even Richard Dawkins was the beneficiary of a church run private school in England.  The modern atheist, new ager or cultist usually has some sort of significant church association in their youth.  How can this be?

     Ken Hamm & Britt Beemer have performed a well documented study of just this issue.  Their conclusions are found in their book called Already Gone.  In their book, they detail how kids are not being lost in their first years of college where they become victims of evil atheist professors as previously thought.  No.  The statistics demonstrate that these children are already gone long before they reach college.  Their statistics are compiled from a survey of 1,000 young adults who, as youngsters, attended specifically conservative, evangelical Sunday schools & youth groups faithfully.  These were not the "holidays only" kids.  These were the hard core of children that might be found in any church's youth group or Sunday school today.

     The statistics are staggering.  More than 60% had left the church by their mid-twenties.  Some 40% of those that had left had no interest in ever going back to church.  In fact, by the statistical showing, kids that didn't go to Sunday school regularly were more likely to remain Christians than those that did!  The main reasons the respondents gave for leaving-- 1) the irrelevancy of the church to their lives & 2) the hypocrisy of the church membership.  However, what is most revealing about Ham & Beemer's study is that they dug beneath the surface & found some tragic flaws that made the church seem irrelevant to these people.

     Despite sitting in a Sunday school classroom virtually every Sunday of their youth, less than 30-40% of the respondents could agree with the following statements:  1) The stories related in the Bible depict true events;  2) The Bible has no errors;  3) God created the universe;  4) Sex outside of marriage is against God's law;  5) Marriage is meant to be between one man & one woman & most staggeringly  6) Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

     The book is well worthwhile to find in a library or to purchase.  The study is incredibly revealing.  The bottom line is that we are not teaching our children how to defend the core doctrines of Christianity.  We tell them week after week after week what to believe but we never seem to get around to telling them why.

     Our failure to teach our kids how to defend their/our beliefs is leading to the rapid demise of the traditional church.  Combined with the high profile & low profile hypocrisy seen on TV & in the home, our kids are simply walking away from the public body of Christ.

     The bright spot in all this?  Remember that 40% that had no interest in returning to church?  Well, there's the 60% that might consider it.  Most of them report that they still believe in God. Most still consider themselves Christians ie members of the Church, the Body of Christ, but obviously have little faith in what it means to be a Christian ie the central doctrines of following Christ.  Virtually all report that they are still searching, still on a spiritual quest.  The refocusing of church away from entertainment to genuine education, from evangelizing the converted to arming the Christian soldier may yet, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, return the church as an institution from the brink of what promises to be a very, very deep abyss.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If Prayers Were Wishes

TEXT: Matt 18:19

“19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”

     This verse along with others is often used resulting in two ends: 1) deception & 2) dismissal.

     Addressing the first, many, particularly charismatic preachers, use this verse to deceive believers into thinking that whatever they pray for, no matter what, as long as at least one other person prays for it with them, they will get it.  This is a wholly unscriptural approach to prayer, both in practice & expectation.  Firstly, one must note that all such promises (including Mk 11:23; Jn 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:24) are made explicitly to the apostles.  If one looks at the passage one will quickly see that Jesus is not addressing the multitude, but the small party of the 12 in all these cases.  It is a promise made exclusively to them, proof of which will be offered soon.  Secondly, all prayer is to be in accord with the Father's will (Luke 11:2).  Even Jesus could not pray His way out of the Father's will.  He prayed in the garden that the cup of the cross would pass from Him, but it did not.  The scriptural approach must be "thy will be done" (Luke 22:42).  Thus, God does answer all prayer.  We simply must be prepared for that answer to be, "No."

     If the interpretation of the charismatic's were true, no Christian would ever have died.  Certainly those that I have prayed with have had two or more praying for healing as have millions more through history.  If this passage were applicable to us, then these people including many members of my family & myself, would be alive & well.  The evidence of our eyes must prevail.  Given the two interpretations, the evidence of our eyes & history demonstrates the truth of only one ie this promise was exclusive to the apostles.

     Which is the refutation to the second use of this passage ie dismissal.  Many anti-Christian speakers & philosophers dismiss Christianity pointing to this as being a "lie" that Jesus spoke for no one has ever gotten everything for which they have prayed.  Again, the faith remains perfectly consistent & intact only if one sees this & similar promises as applying to the 12 exclusively.

     Nevertheless, we should not despair.  The purpose of this promise was to establish Christianity & make it triumphant in history; a purpose that was accomplished through the work of the apostles.  Christianity survived, thrived & has dominated western thought until modern times.  The Christian should feel joy in this fulfillment.  Just because we see this as not applying to us, we should realize we are all on the same grace as Jesus & the apostles ie the will of the Father.  Indeed, this is applicable to us if we see our prayer life from that perspective.

     Prayer is not about wish fulfillment.  Prayer is not about a laundry list of "I want"'s.  Bringing all our desires, all our wants into accordance with His will should be the fulfillment of the believers soul.  It is only in this way that a martyr can go to his/her fate; that a faithful servant can find his reward.

The Real Thing

TEXT: Heb 8: 4-5

4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

     What the author is telling his Jewish audience is that Moses merely saw into heaven to see the heavenly ark in God's Temple which he was to attempt to reproduce;  Christ is actually in that Temple serving as high priest right now.  One of the implications of this is that when John is called to "Come up here" (Rev 4:1) & he walks around these objects (Rev 11), he is claiming to actually be there amongst these objects not merely experiencing a vision of them as Moves did (Ex 25:9).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Habitual Prayer

TEXT: Dan 6:10

“10 ¶ Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

     Daniel was a man of prayer.  We see all through this book that it was a habit for him to pray.  He prayed toward Jerusalem at “the time of the evening oblation” ie toward a city that no longer existed, destroyed over half a century before by the Babylonians, at the time of a ritual that had not been kept in 70 years!  It must have seemed to him at times that all that was left of his home & way of life was in his prayers.  This kind of longing is felt by every Jew that weeps & prays at the Wailing Wall.  Prior to 1948, it was a feeling shared by every Jew that yearned for a homeland of their own.  How much of the reality of the situation actually sunk into Daniel's psyche we don't know.  What we do know is that through habitual prayer, he kept his identity alive.  How many of us, of our young, of those around us every day seem lost, without an identity to hold on to.  How much might prayer help them rediscover & retain who they really are.  This is more than the quaint sentiment, "The family that prays together, stays together."  Prayer must hold a personal dimension to be effective.  Proper prayer life means connecting one's deepest sense of identity, of who we are, with God's.  Prayer is not a wish list; it is not a memorized repeated incantation.

     Prayer is touching God & feeling Him touch back. Prayer is part of a relationship.  Thus, yes, it does take on ritualistic aspects.  There are married couples that, though their day may routinely see them separated for most of the time, they will, with ritualistic passion, have a cup of coffee together, every morning & talk.  The point of such an exercise is not the enjoyment of coffee, though they may with some frequency seek out different, more exotic blends, brew methods, etc.  The point is not actually the talk, though each will save a story or comment expressly for the morning get together.  The get together, the relationship, is the point. The element of good coffee and/or special comments heighten the experience.  But, even if the coffee is a bit off; even if the room is quiet, the experience of being together, the relationship, still makes the experience, the ritual, worth the effort for in this way, in this ritual, they form an identity as a married whole, not two people who happen to be married.  Such a ritual will develop only with dedication to making it a habit.  This is what prayer is.  It's a habitual engaging in the relationship.

     In a modern culture of one night stands, no fault divorce & abortion on demand, maybe we have lost the knack of forming relationships, but that is what Daniel had.  It is a fulfilling experience (or at least it should be) for its own sake.  This is what God wants; not repeated, mindless incantations; not just the odd moment now & then, always when we're in need.  He wants a relationship.  He wants to hear when your sad; he wants to hear when you're happy, ecstatic; even when you have nothing to say, maybe He does!  Make prayer a habit & God guarantees you'll have a relationship.  Be as faithful in your prayer life as Daniel & you will experience all the joy that relationship can bring in this life!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Personal Experience & Postmodernism

TEXT: Matt 1:20

"20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."

     Here Joseph has what many in the postmodern world would consider the senna qua non of spiritual experience i.e. personal contact with the divine.  It must be considered, of course, a rare event today in the Church Age for God to provide such a personal experience.  There are reasons for this which are explained in the Bible. Nevertheless, many feel that their spiritual lives are empty unless they can have personal contact with the divine plane.  This has been suggested as a possible reason for the veritable explosive growth in the charismatic church since this, primarily, is what they ostensibly offer.  However, it should be noted that we're not told to seek or overvalue such contact (2 Cor 12:6) & in fact, we're warned against attempting such (Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut 18:9-12; Isa 8:19-20; 1 Cor 10:14-22).  Even so, you would be surprised how far you can get in witnessing to a postmodernist thinker if you allow yourself to use what they see as personal experience in order to bring to their consideration the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     We wish to make it abundantly clear that there is but one way to God & that is through His Son Jesus Christ & there is only one way to get access to Jesus Christ & that is through His gospel as revealed in His word.  So, we can only access God through Christ & we can only access Christ through the gospel, but the means & modes to access the gospel are virtually limitless!  Sometimes imagination is required.

     Consider the following situation:  you sit next to a stranger on the train or an airplane & have the opportunity for an extended period of conversation before reaching your destination.  She notes you carry your Bible & asks if you are a believer & you respond by providing her with your testimony.  She responds to that by saying, "Wow, you know, I had a dream just like that just the other night!"  Further, she relates that she called her mother, who is a churchgoing woman, & her mother asked, "What have you done wrong that Satan is doing this to you?" She tells you how immediately she was turned off by that approach

     Now, given the content of the dream, we may or may not agree with the mother as to whether there may be a demon at work.  However, we must note that the postmodern thinker will see the dream as personal experience of the spiritual plane & they may be right.  However, assessing it as demon inspired (even if it is so) is not the route to take in order to open access for this individual to the gospel.  The question instead to be asked is (and this is a very carefully crafted question)  "What do you think God was trying to tell you by allowing you to have that dream?"  This wording is critical to the approach & here's why:

     Firstly, attributing the dream to demons is going to close the person off & shut down the conversation.  No one wants to be told they are cavorting with demons.  You will not be able to relate the gospel if you are not talking &, after all, that is the desired point to be reached for only by accessing the gospel is there access to Christ by which the seeker can genuinely access God, even if they do not accept or acknowledge this fact.  But, if you shut down the conversation prematurely, you preclude the possibility of getting to the step of sharing the gospel.

     Sometimes, the indirect approach ends up being the most direct for the purposes of the gospel.

The question is carefully phrased:

"What..." -- Obviously you are asking for a response;

"...do you..." -- Remember, we're dealing with personal experience that is the postmodernist's major god, along with his/her feelings, as to the measure of spiritual growth.  You need to tap into that.  So, you want to be asking about what it means to them;

"...think..." -- This is the one thing the postmodernists seem to avoid as much as possible. It must be our goal to get them to engage their minds; to think, not just to feel, about their situation.  Feelings can be very misleading; too many people today follow their feelings in the postmodernist fashion whereas, if they actually thought more, they might grow more spiritually as well as intellectually.  As an example, it is a comfortable, usually unchallenged, postmodern sentiment for one to say,"  Well, you can never really be sure about anything," to which-if only one would think about it -the obvious reply is, "Are you sure about that?"  Many of the quaint, pithy little sayings that are laid out in the postmodern world, fail to pass any sort of scrutiny that sometimes even a kindergartner could provide, but because we are a society that no longer thinks about these things, which thinks about our positions, we get trapped into the comfortable, feel-good euphemisms & philosophies of the age.

"...God meant..." -- This ties the individual to the divine, which is where they want to be in the first place.  Tying them & their experience to the devil or Satan makes for a short conversation.  Eventually though this tie may need to be made, it is better initially to help them see their tie to God first & foremost.  Even if that brush with divinity must eventually convict them of their experience, they are at least initially more comfortable with pursuing the conversation.  You are also indicating that their experience was an intention on the part of God.  This is important for conveying to them that God does indeed care about them personally.  A postmodernist is apt to appreciate this or, alternatively, that God is an impersonal thing.  In case of the latter, using this question, you'll be able to tease such feelings out & address them in due course;

"...by allowing..." -- to say "by giving" wrongly conveys our conviction that all that happens in our experience is allowed by God, but not necessarily sent or given by God.  As demonstrated by the Book of Job, not all is directly caused by God, but all is allowed by God.  Given the fact that such dreams may be brought about by demons or demon inspiration, we do not want to be in the position of insinuating that God was the cause of their dream.  As notably repeated in the gospels several times (Mark 1: 24-25) Jesus never wanted or accepted the testimony of devils on His behalf, even though they knew who He really was.  We should not be in the position of conveying, even in an indirect way, that He is associated with such activities.  By using the word "allow," we're able to remain flexible in later judging of the dreams content should you be called upon to do so.

"...you to have that dream?" -- this validates the individual's personal experience.  We should have no doubt that anyone's given experience, be it a dream or near death experience (NDE) or other such phenomenon, has spiritual implications.  It certainly has significance to the individual & while we may not want to validate or endorse the content of that experience, we can feel free to validate the fact of the experience as being genuine & of significance to the individual.

     Though this example has been provided & broken down, it is important to recognize that it is just that -- an example.  There are innumerable approaches to postmodernist seekers; flexibility must be maintained in terms of approach. This is usually more important than anything else.  The postmodern seeker will want to know that you are listening to them; seeing their specific circumstance; hearing their specific story. Postmodernism & postmodernist thinking can not be distinguished by age group, by mode of dress, or by any other physical characteristic.  A postmodernist is one who has accepted uncritically the time dime store philosophy that has pervaded society beginning in the early to mid -80's, at least in the popular culture; some philosophers think that it traces its roots as far back as the opening of the Bastille in the time of the French revolution, when Europe entered the Enlightenment.  Popular postmodern thinking seems to have come into vogue about the time of the end of the cold war.  We had all been told by Star Trek & 2001 a space odyssey that if only we could overcome our differences with the Soviets either through accommodation or by overcoming the Soviets themselves (though most seemed to think accommodation would be the eventual policy we would have to take) that we would soon find ourselves wearing bright silver clothing, living in the brightly lit white world of sleep spaceships zipping from galaxy to galaxy without care in peace & harmony.  Unfortunately, we seem to be living in the same forlorn world as before only now it's terrorists with planes instead of commies with nukes that hold us hostage. People have become disillusioned with the modernists dream and have seen them as having fallen short on their promises.  Likewise, just as they were wrong about having to accommodate the Soviets someday, they seem to have been wrong about just about everything.  Some have gone as far as to claim that bringing down the Soviet empire was the wrong thing to do!  They insist that if we have accommodated them as the modernists had suggested, we would be living in the world of clean white space ships.  This, on the face of it, is, of course, silly since continuing the Soviet empire simply meant the extension of the suffering of the millions of people that lived under its yoke.  They're certainly no worse off today than they were & one might say they're a whole lot better off in many ways than they were before.

     Some have said that postmodernism isn't as much a philosophy as it is a mood.  People have become disillusioned, disappointed & are simply disgusted at finding Christ's observation as true i.e. "Know ye not that the poor will always be with you?"  So many, though they may seem bright & cheerful on the outside, they're living that life of quiet desperation, so tired of having to think for themselves that they have surrendered, allowing others to think for them, finding comfort in poorly thought out, feel-good cliches.  Postmodernism may be viewed as a great depression of the spirit.  To this, Christ is the answer, the only answer.  We must be flexible enough to introduce Him to the members of this wide, disparate group, being firm in our message, yet gentle in spirit.  Note the variety, however, in the ways in which Jesus in presented by Jesus & his followers: eg to Nicodemus, Jesus said, "You must be born again; to the woman of the well, He said nothing of being born again but He told her He was the water of life; when Phillip saw the Ethiopian in his chariot perplexed by the words of Isaiah, he didn't speak of the water of life nor did he speak of being born again, rather the Ethiopian was perplexed and so Philip offered to explain.  Example after example, time & time again, Christ & his apostles are providing us with a pattern of flexibility.  Each delivered the message of the Gospel, but in a way that met each spiritual seeker where he or she was at on their spiritual journey.  They delivered it in the close, personal circumstance of their own lives & on a level that each was able to understand.

     Some have said that Christianity must change or die. Christianity does not need to "change" but it does need to remember & rediscover the flexibility that made it spread across the world so successfully in the first place.  Christianity was never intended to be a cookie cutter religion; this is not a do progressive concept.  This is good, old fashioned, Biblical Christianity available to anyone who is willing to rediscover it.

     We must remember, our primary goal is to open up access to the gospel for these individuals.  The postmodern thinker (a term which is actually an oxymoron since they worship feeling & eschew thinking!) is lost in a morass of conflicting feelings seeking experience, the majority of which will turn out to be fraudulent & hollow.  It is the Christian's duty to demonstrate that there is a better way; to show that spirituality is not merely a matter of "feeling one's way."  God calls us to love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, all our strength & with all our mind (Luke 10:27).  Yes, we must feel; Yes, our souls, our being, must be engaged; but, we must also think.  Of the all creatures in creation, God gave us the ability to reason.  He gave us the faculty of mind.  We must open the postmodernist up to the idea that had God not wished us to use this faculty, why would He give it to us in the first place!?  Postmodern relativists tell us there is no such thing as "truth" & yet they wish us to believe that their assertion is true!  They tell us that words have no meaning & yet they write tomes hundreds of pages long using thousands of words to convince us of this truth in a world where they say there is no truth!  Postmodernism is incoherent; at the very least inconsistent.  It is our job to lay this false philosophy bare but, of prime importance, to use whatever means we can to open access to the Gospel & allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Human Do's

Mark Ch.7

"7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."

     The Pharisees had come up with what they thought was a work-around God's law regarding caring for parents.  A person was able to say that they were dedicating their inheritance and property to the service of the Temple.  This sounds all holy and pious, of course.  Having done so, technically the Temple owned all their wealth.  They, personally, however, were allowed to live off the proceeds from that property as long as they lived.  This practice was called Corban.  However, since they technically owned nothing, they were not required to provide for aging parents or sick siblings or any family for that matter.  Jesus flat out condemns this practice.  His charge is that their traditional practice made God's law to no effect.  Yet, again, the Pharisees had technically fulfilled the law, but really missed the whole point.

     Lest we think this does not apply to us today, we should consider how often church members dedicate so much time and wealth to the church that they think they can nullify their family obligations.  There are those that spend every spare minute over at the church failing to take their day of rest, failing to spend time with their spouses, fail to spend time with their children and still, as here, fail to care for aging parents.  There are some that tithe even at the expense of putting themselves into financial jeopardy.  The worst of this matter is that there are pastors and leaders that encourage this type of behavior, insisting that it is a "sacrifice for God," when the reality is that it is a sacrifice to themselves where church growth even to a mega-church means more power and money for that pastor.

     What is lacking here is the truth of the basis of the church. It is not we that spread the church, but the Holy Spirit.  It is not our work that builds the church.  Christ builds his church.  To operate in such a manner, even for a church-- a "holy" purpose-- is a sin.  It is the sin of pride bourne out by the arrogance to think that without "me," "I" am so important, that without "my" work, "my" dedication, "my" church will not grow.  It is not "my" church.  It's Christ's church.  If you take a day off a week as ordered, His church will still grow.  If you place your resources, your wealth, your time to your family, your spouse, your children-- they are yours-- Christ's church will still grow.

     One of the most prominent idols in Western culture is "work," and not just for the work-aholic.  Too often in Western culture, men and increasingly women are defined by their work.  It affords them their social status & forms the basis of their self-image and self-worth.  This is why we hear frequently of the man or woman who is "disabled," no longer "able" to "be" what they were in their jobs previously, degenerating into despair and sometimes suicide.  They have defined themselves in terms of their career and when unable to fulfill the requirements of the job, they cease to see any value in their life.  It is not just the coveting of power, status or wealth.  It is the mistake of defining ourselves in terms of what we "do" rather than what we "are."  "Are" is a form of "to be."  "Do" is an action.  We are "human beings" not "human do's."

     This is not to say we should not do work to serve others, even the church.  It is not to say that in extraordinary circumstances and opportunities that sometimes huge sacrifices are not required.  It is to say that day-to-day operations, whether in business or church work can not be at the sacrifice of family responsibilities.  It is the mark of a cult that says you must offer all your produce, all your wealth, your family, your time to the cult and any church or ministry that operates similarly is operating on the same basis as a cult.  No church should require or knowingly accept a member's time and money on such a basis.  Those that do must go back and thoroughly read this exchange and upbraiding from our Lord.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Acts 1:6

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

     The Apostles, even after three years of walking with the Lord, witnessing His death, experiencing His resurrection, have an agenda that does not conform to Christ's agenda.  They have received this great commission on a number of occasions & yet have still not understood that the Son of Man came for all of mankind & that all of mankind had to receive the Word.

     Christians in the modern world must still heed the Lord's answer in v.7.  Whether it be eschatology, ministry, mission or even personal prognostications or agendas, the future is not for us to know or to act upon but the present is ours in which to be.  God will bring the kingdom in when He will. We are not to wait around for Him to do so, but to "be witnesses unto [Christ] both in Jerusalem, & in all Judea, & in Samaria, & unto the uttermost part of the earth," (v.8) ie everywhere & everyone.  We are promised the Holy Spirit's lead in these endeavours (v. 8) & we carry the promise that Christ has all authority in heaven & on earth, ruling all nations, the only "superpower" there is & that all that power will go before us & He will be with us always, even unto the end of the world (Mt.28:20)

     Even so, many do not like this answer, but, as often happens, God always answers just not always with the answer we would like.  It brings to mind the many agendas we still sometimes have & try to impose upon God.  Many are delighted to go God's way as long as He is going their way.  We must learn to conform our lives & our desires to God's agenda.  Only then will we know the fullness of worship ie surrendering to God all that we have & all that we are.  We can not fully worship God while retaining the individual, national, or global agendas we desire that are outside God's agenda.  Ministry, financial, political -- all agendas must be subservient to His else we are not walking in His way but ours.  We may find certain tasks annoying, certain places too distant, certain people unappealing. These are to be of no account.  Whatever, wherever & to whomever God leads us is our duty for service.  History is replete with examples of reluctant prophets & missionaries from Jonah to Thomas (see "Thomas in India" below) to St. Patrick (whom most mistake for being Irish; he wasn't; he was a British boy captured by Irish warriors & taken into slavery in Ireland who, after escaping some 13 years later, returned to bring the Gospel to the land of his former captivity).  How much more so should our 21st century comfort laden world be?  We must be willing to go God's way, even if it's not our way.  Obedience must accompany faith, else one must question where that faith is actually placed.

     What is most surprising, when you can truly reach a point of surrender to God, we often find that what He has in mind is so much greater & far reaching than anything we might imagine.  Here the Apostles are focused on just Israel.  Christ tries to make clear to them over & over in the Great Commission (see here & Mt 28) that His vision encompasses the entire world, everywhere the Apostles knew of & beyond to lands that wouldn't be discovered for another 1400 years!  Christianity would spread across the globe from this small collection of disciples huddled in an upper room.  That, then, is the essence of this passage.  Give up your own small visions for yourself & embrace the greater vision of God.  The rewards of doing so may not come to us in this lifetime.  Eleven of the twelve died horrible deaths in martyrdom while the only one to die of old age (ironically, the youngest, John) spent most of his years living in prison or in exile.  However, this is the essence of faith -- knowledge of that which is unseen (Heb 11:1); knowledge that heaven carries a reward greater than anything to be found in this life.  Such is part of embracing God's greater vision for us & mankind.

Defending the Protestant Canon

Luke Ch.11:47-51 : text is in verse 51

“47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.

49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:

50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;

51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.”

     Christ recognizes the Old Testament canon as running from Abel in Genesis to Zacharia, whose book does not appear last in the Protestant canon order though he is known to be the latest writer in that canon chronologically.  This answers two major questions concerning canon by the Lord's decree, not by man's.

     Firstly, Christ verifies the authenticity of the Genesis account.  By citing Abel as a prophet, Christ is acknowledging that Moses' account in Genesis is real history at least as far as Jesus is concerned (which should be as much evidence any Christian needs).  His statement here means that Abel was a real person, not some mythical invention of later tradition.  In fact, it is tradition vs the Word of God that is the subject of this very debate.  Christ is saying to the Pharisees that they must reference real history, God's real Word, not their traditions when giving guidance or being guided as how to live.  Christ includes Abel (thereby incorporating the Genesis account) as part of that real history. Thus, if the book of Genesis is actually metaphor, Christ's whole argument falls apart meaning He was in error which means He was not God.  Chuck Genesis from real history & you chuck Christianity out the same window.

     Secondly, Christ affirms that the extra books included in the Catholic canon are, in fact by His decree, not authentically canonical.  Christ here Himself closes the canon chronologically at Zacharia.  This is why books such as Maccabees & Jubilees are not included in the Protestant canon.  Christ in advance confirms the writings of the apostles as canon (see Jn 16:14 note "Christ Verifies the NT"), but excludes all books in the so called 400 year "Silent Era."  Any debate over canon must center on this verse, a proclamation from the Lord Himself, which can not be denied, altered or refuted.  Certainly we can look to these books as probable historical accounts in the same way as we might consult the Autobiography of Ben Franklin to understand life in colonial America.  However, we would never call Ben Franklin's work "inspired" just because it is historically accurate.  "Inspiration" implies & must demonstrate more than historical accuracy (though that is a vital requisite component).  Thus, if the Lord Himself did not see these as books worthy to live by, then neither should we.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fellowship is Fiduciary

TEXT: Lev 6:2

"2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;

3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:

4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,

5 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.”

     The Hebrew implies a fiduciary relationship wherein the individual is to place the needs of the partner or corporation ahead of the individuals own needs or wants.  This is the genuine meaning of fellowship as embodied in the Bible ie not socializing but the recognition that each individual has the obligation to place the needs of others before his own.  We "come together in fellowship" not "for" fellowship (Lev 6:2).

     In our fellowship with God, He has seen to His part, placing our needs so far forward as to sacrifice His own Son for our salvation.  Have we kept our part of the fellowship?  The answer, of course, is "no."  Note that Christ is our sin offering made to restore our fellowship with God.  His sacrifice being made to the ends of that restoration, what have we done with it?  Having accepted His sacrifice, are we actually engaging on that kind of level with God or do we simply see ourselves as hourly workers, putting in our time?  One of the aspects of the fiduciary duty is to see to the best interests of God & His enterprise first & foremost.  Paul implies in Ephesians 6 that this is precisely the nature of our relationship to God.  Is this what we do with our salvation or do we use our salvation to our advantage ie as "fire insurance?"

     We also owe each other this kind of relationship. Again, we are to come together in fellowship.  Is this really what we do as the church, or are we having a weekly social event at church?