Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The book every thoughtful Christian should read; Discovering the God Imagination by Jonathan Brink.



Seldom have I found a book that I would say everyone should read. After all, we are inundated with all kinds of books these days. People are busy with social media, blogs, podcasts and YouTube. Still, Discovering the God Imagination by Jonathan Brink is just such a book. The main reason that I think this book is so important is that it articulates an alternate atonement therory with cohesive precision. If you have ever been even slightly dissatisfied with the ransom theory, the penal substitution theory or, even the Christus Victor theory, this book is for you. Brink explains the source of the root problem of humanity; explains how it causes a downward spiral in human behavior and, exposes the lie that feeds the ego and, holds us captive to it. He demonstrates that redemption and the gospel is really good news indeed.
At every point, Brink shows an alterative way to understand the biblical narrative. In fact, he quotes more biblical passages than any book I have read in a long time and, helps make sense of the redemptive missio dei (mission of God.) He asks and answers the question what is the root problem being solved by the cross. His answer is that it is a lie we have told ourselves since the garden. God declared that we were created very good and, we allowed our use of the knowledge of good and evil to convince us that we are not as God sees us. The chasm is caused within each human being... we end up asking the basic question are we good or evil?
He writes...
“The root problem is located in us, as if this isn’t obvious by now. We are captive to the lie because we have agreed to it. I f we locate the problem in humanity, everything shifts. Everything changes. We can begin to describe the problem for what it is, a lie that captivates the human mind.
If we locate the problem in humanity, it liberates God from being deceptive or requiring violent responses. It liberates us from a victimization that allow us to sit on the sidelines, watching and waiting for God to respond. If we locate the problem in humanity it opens our eyes to the fact that we are the ones making the violent demands. We are the ones requiring the proof. The cross becomes a means to prove what always has and always will be true—humanity is qualitatively good regardless of our subjective judgments.”
In his view and, in mine also, the cross is necessary for us and not God. God created us good, declared it and we have used the knowledge of good and evil to contradict what God said. We therefore are the ones in need of redemption. We are the ones who need to have faith in cure of the root problem. In other words, we are the ones who need to have our consciences cleansed once for all.
I have given but a small taste of what this book entails. As I stated it takes the entire biblical narrative and through examples offers a different (I think more correct) context. Read this book and get back to me. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

What if the abomination of desolation already happened? Matthew 24:15


Mat 24:15 "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),” This is Jesus’ warning about the abomination that makes desolate. He makes an interesting statement. He says, let the reader understand... which calls the readers... Matthew’s original audience (not us today), to realize that they must understand the prophecy of Daniel.

So the question that I would like to ask is this; does the abomination of desolation have to be one event or, could it be a series of events that begins with abomination and ends in desolation? Further, could Matthew 24:15 find its fulfillment in the time frame of the original audience of Matthews’s gospel? I think that the answer to both questions is a resounding yes indeed!

In order to see this more clearly it is necessary to look at a bible timeline. The bible timeline will show very clearly that God’s intervention into the timeline comes in very short bursts of activity relatively speaking. That is, when one looks at the time line in terms of thousands of years the activity takes place in a relatively short time. For example all of the Prophets prophesied in a time period that began in approximately 765BC and ended in 433BC which is a period of roughly 330 years. All of the prophecies for the day of the Lord came within this period.

According to Maccabees, (1Macc 1:57), Antiochus Epiphanes set up the abomination of desolation in the temple in 167BC. Then, history teaches us that Titus of Rome desolated the temple in 70AD. In other words, the prophecies of the 330 year period were completely fulfilled in a 237 year period from Antiochus to Titus; Antiochus was the abominator and Titus was the desolator. Daniel puts it this way:And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." On the wing of abominations suggest that it is a prolonged period of time. There were indeed many abominations to the temple over this time period

This is no doubt why Jesus said let the reader understand. It was not going to be as obvious as the verbiage would suggest. No, it would take understanding on the part of the reader.... that is... the intended reader of Matthew’s gospel. This means it was targeted specifically to the Jewish believers. This explains why it is only found in Matthew’s account of the little apocalypse. It would only be understandable to the Jewish community that was expecting the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in their time. It was to the group of Jewish believers that accepted Jesus as the Messiah and were fully aware of the time table of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy.... that were expecting the end of the age and the age to come imminently. We have shown time after time on this blog that the imminent expectation of the fulfillment of all prophecy is everywhere in every book of the New Testament.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why the didache does not square with the New Covenant

As we explore the possibility that current Christianity is in fact the result of the fulfillment of the Prophecy by Paul in 2Thess 2:11 forecasting a great falling away and, the strong delusion that would follow. It is beneficial to consider one of the early documents of the church... late first century or early second century... it is the a document known as the didache or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Nations (Gentiles.) If you read the document you will readily see that it appears to be a concise statement of church doctrine. In fact, I think that the doctrine of most evangelical churches would fall well within this document. There was a time in the early church that it was part of the scripture and a form of it is still canonical for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

However, when you examine it on a deeper level... while I admit that it is certainly an admirable standard of behavior and quite biblical at first blush... it is a written code set up for belief. This does not square with the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31:33-34 or Ezekiel 36:27. Likewise, it does not lend itself to the Spiritual transformation that is promised in the gospel. The main reason is that, while it states that love of God and neighbor are of first importance, it does not spend any time explaining the catalyst for producing this supernaturally, spiritually in the saint. This makes the didache no different than the Ten Commandments or the Torah. It merely becomes a written code that must be followed and does not provide the catalyst for obeying it.
We have suggested through out this blog that the catalyst for obedience is faith in God’s mercy, love and, grace. That is the first order of business and will produce love for God and each other when completely believed. This requires the obedience of faith. This requires a cleansed conscience. This requires one to be at peace with God by resting in his provision. This focuses on the importance of Hebrews, chapters three and four and, an understanding of the Sabbath Rest. In other words, one must be at peace with God from resting in his finished work. The didache does not even approach this concept. It is akin to the Sermon on the Mount which was spoken to Jews who were under the Law of Moses and served as an amplifier of the Law.
I am not suggesting that the SOTM is not a worthwhile goal. I am saying that if it was impossible for the Jews to be righteous under the law of Moses... how much more is it impossible for a Christian to be righteous under an even higher standard. Remember Jesus said that one should have a better righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 5:20.) Paul stated that as a Pharisee, in the righteousness that was from the Law he was blameless (Phil 3:6.) I ask then... what righteousness can exceed blameless? The righteousness of God imputed for faith of course!
Look at the promises again; “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezek 36:26-27 And... “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jeremiah 31:33b-34.
The bottom line is that the transformation comes from believing the last part of Jeremiah 31:34, I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more. Grace and faith alone are the catalyst for the transformation. The didache can be informative in what the new creation will act like but, it will not create it. Only the gospel of grace and the finished work of Jesus can do that!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Schizophrenic preaching; schizophrenic Christianity

We looked at the concept of the “gospel but” in a recent post... it goes like this... Jesus paid it all “but” you must do this. The “do this” varies from person to person but, essentially it is the same concept with the same disastrous results. The “but” is always a fleshly action that can be accomplished by the believer. The person who is presenting the Jesus paid it all “but” message always tells the people that it is because Jesus paid it all and did it all that we are enabled to do whatever the “but” is. What is never explained is how Jesus does it for us exactly or, what the result of his enabling will be. In other words, the catalyst for our enabling is never explained. The person hearing the message is always left with a question as to how this can be done. Unfortunately for most, when they are unable to perform whatever the “but” is they merely think that it is just them...wrong, let me let you in on a secret; the person giving the “gospel but” sermon doesn’t have a clue as to how Jesus will do it for him or her and they always feel inadequate also.... never satisfied.... never secure.... always presenting the gospel “but,”
There are over nineteen volumes of the Talmud containing thousands of pages of writings. This was written down to explain the operation of obeying the Law of Moses. It took thousands of pages and at the end of the day there is no one way of interpretation.... that’s right, the rabbis simply do not agree. This by the way is likely what Jesus referred to when he spoke to the Pharisees about their traditions and the traditions of the fathers. Jesus on the other hand was able to explain this in just a few words. He spoke those in Matthew 7:12 and Matthew 22:38-40.
 
So then, what is it that the gospel is supposed to produce in the saint? The answer is love (the fruit of the Spirit.) It is not the “gospel but” this or that. It is simply the gospel and love. Oddly, the “gospel but” preaching does the opposite of producing love. It produces anger, fear, anxiety, despondency and resentment. This is precisely why the people of God, the saints are so doggone mean. This is the source of their angry judgmental attitudes. This is the source of their fear of never being quite acceptable... always thinking.... God did all that for me, how can I commit myself to him? So sad.
 
This all stems from a constitutional, legal reading of the scripture. The constitutional reading is forced by seeing the bible as the word of God and not just the Holy Scriptures. This is precisely why Jesus and his followers redefined the phrase word of God to mean the gospel or Jesus,the living gospel. Yet the constructional reading reigns. This is unfortunate because we have established many times in this blog that Jesus taught a redemptive focus to the scripture. He taught that the scripture was a narrative of redemption and God’s grace. He taught that God was abba (papa).
The truth is that faith in the gospel alone... without the “buts” produces in us a love for God and what’s more, peace with God. This is so important. This is reconciliation. Being reconciled to God is realizing that he is not mad at us... not expecting anything from us and, only desiring that we love him with all our heart, mind and, strength. We can only do this from resting in the peace he has provided; a peace that passes all understanding. We will NEVER see the true transformation of this world until we totally embrace the gospel without the “buts.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eleven Biblical Reasons Evangelical Orthodoxy is in Error

The title of this post will eventually be the title of a book I am writing. Each one of the eleven reasons will be explored in detail with biblical references. Many of these have already been investigated on this blog.

List of the eleven reasons:
  1. Jesus taught a totally redemptive hermeneutic and orthodoxy adopted a grammatical historical hermeneutic which was similar to the hermeneutic of the first century rabbis.
  2. Jesus and his followers redefined the word of God to mean either Jesus or the gospel with an emphasis on the gospel. Orthodoxy adopted the rabbis’ definition Torah/scripture.
  3. The New Covenant has been in complete force since the resurrection. God allowed a transition period between the Old Covenant and New Covenant for forty-years from the cross event to the destruction of the temple. Orthodxy is awaiting the New Covenant
  4. Evangelical orthodoxy fails to recognize that the bulk of the gospels were written to Jews still under the Old Covenant before the cross event. (especially the sermon on the mount)
  5. Evangelical orthodoxy fails to realize that there is an obvious transition from John the Baptist (last Jewish prophet) to Jesus (the Jewish Messiah) to Pentecost (the Jewish Church) to Cornelius (inclusion of the Gentiles) to Paul’s messages to the New Creation. Evangelical orthodoxy sees essentially two divisions old and new testament.
  6. Evangelical orthodoxy ignores the vast amount of passages of the New Testament writings that show an expectation of imminent fulfillment of prophecy tied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple
  7. Evangelical orthodoxy does not see the book of Hebrews as the “rosetta stone” for the New Covenant opening an understanding of how the New Covenant will be the only covenant in force when the temple is destroyed. God allowed the old covenant to limp during the forty-year transition period in hopes of coverting the maximum amount of Jews.
  8. Evangelical orthodoxy misses the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was the fulfillment of the prophesied day of the Lord in Joel and other prophets
  9. Evangelical orthodoxy does not provide the proper understanding and explanation of the catalyst of the spiritual transformation process in believers; how God transforms by love via the gospel and grace.
  10. Evangelical orthodoxy fails to see that the falling away and the strong delusion of 2Thess 2 happened in the first century.
  11. Evangelical orthodoxy misses the fact that Jesus reference to Gehenna was prophetic of the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and the judgment of the Jews and, not a warning of eternal punishment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Preach the word; what did Paul mean in 2Timothy 4:2-4?

I find it sadly interesting that the current evangelical view of scripture ends up perverting the very words meant to uphold the gospel of grace. One such passage is 2Tim 4:2-4. Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. What did Paul mean when he had a scribe pen the words preach the word? Well, he did not mean preach the bible or the scripture for sure. He meant preach the gospel. We have amply shown through out this blog that Jesus, Paul and the other writers of the New Testament defined the word... word of God as the gospel or Jesus and it was never truer in this instance.



Paul defines the word of truth as the gospel in Ephesians 1:13. We have shown how substituting the phrase word of God, word of truth and word only makes sense when it is substituted with Jesus or the gospel. This is easy to establish in Paul’s use of the term in both of the letters to Timothy. Look at what Paul says in 2Tim 2:8-9 “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, (9) for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.” Here just like in 2Tim 2:15 and Ephesians 1:13 Paul defines the word of God as the gospel. It is obvious that Paul does not mean the scripture.

So then, what about his admonition to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach? It is the very opposite of what most evangelical preachers lead one to believe about the passage. The conventional wisdom is to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach those whose doctrines do not line up with the bible. That is not correct however. What Paul is really saying is to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach those who do not insist on the gospel of grace. That is the sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is not what we think scripture plainly or subtly teaches. Sound doctrine is to proclaim unabashedly the gospel of God’s mercy, love and grace and to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach those who do not.

Turning away to fables; turning from the truth is to veer off the course of proclaiming the gospel. Paul suffered as an evil doer for preaching the gospel of grace. He did not suffer for teaching what the bible says about correct behavior. He suffered because he preached the gospel to the Gentiles and Jesus suffered because he taught the gospel to tax collectors and prostitutes. It saddens me how twisted sound doctrine has become.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The gospel but,

Paul said that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more. John tells us that the law was given by Moses but, grace and truth came from Jesus Christ. And Paul again says that you are not under law you are under grace. And still, the church as a whole and, especially its leaders and shepherds are hung up on this thought... I teach the gospel but.... Can I share this? When you teach the gospel but.... whatever the but may be, you cease to preach and teach the gospel. That quite frankly is why the church is in the state it is in today. What is that state you ask? Thirty-eight thousand denominations, battles over heterodoxy and orthodoxy, marginalized and scorned by most of society, failing to promote significant social change and, most importantly, impotent to produce real transformation in people or society. This is quite a serious indictment but ever so true. Get up, look in the mirror and tell me that this is not true. Thought so!
I read an interesting book a few years back; it was called The Nature of Revival, compiled, edited and abridged by Clare George Weakley Jr. It contains the diaries of John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitfield that chronicle the great revival that took place in England in the 1700,s under the preaching of George Whitefield. What caused that great revival? ...The preaching of George Whitefield. What did he preach? ...The gospel of grace! With no buts!
It is the love of God, and only the love of God, that transforms us spiritually. The love of God is best understood in the gospel of grace and, the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ. The gospel does not contain one but! For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever shall believe on him..... that if you shall confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you shall.... no buts at all. Furthermore, it is faith in the love of God.... apprehending this love by our steadfast trust in God and his mercy grace and love that ignites our transformation process. Unfortunately, all to often may I say almost always.... it is quenched by a big but. No I did not say by a big butt! The butt with the but can be a big butt or a little butt but the but that is always big.... overwhelmingly big is the gospel but.
What caused the revival to die out you ask? People asking the question .... how then shall we live? And, tying it to salvation with a but. God’s love is a radical love and it is projected and transmitted by a radical grace. We will never see a great sustainable encompassing revival until we rid ourselves of the gospel but mentality. Let God be God, us be us, and the gospel given without buts! Until we do we will not see transformation in ourselves or society.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A fresh look at the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent

Genesis 3:15 is regarded as the first prophecy of Jesus in the Old Testament. Here is how it reads in the NKJV: Gen 3:15Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." So then, we know that the seed of the woman is Christ but, who is the seed of the Serpent? This is an interesting question with what I believe to be an equally interesting answer.

The first person to definitively answer the question was John the Baptist. He made this statement when the Sadducees and the Pharisees came out to see him. Mat 3:7 NKJV But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? What is a brood of vipers if not the seed of the serpent? Brood is offspring...seed and, a viper is a snake/serpent. So then, John the Baptizer identified the seed of the serpent in his forerunner vocation. It was the religious elite leadership.

John was not alone in this proclamation it was also echoed by Jesus himself. Mat 12:34 NKJV Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Jesus also used the same description in Matthew 23:33 and in that passage called them serpents... brood of vipers as he warned them of the coming hell that they would experience in the destruction of the temple and their city. The plain answer for the question regarding the seed of the serpent is plain and simply the religious. By religious I mean those that would try to find a righteousness of their own before God.

It started with the first parents in the garden right after the unlawful meal. They, realizing that they were naked before God gathered fig leaves to try to cover their shame and, began the first religious practice of trying to gain favor and acceptance before God with their own efforts. I would submit to you for your consideration that the sewing of fig leaves, to make a covering, was in fact the first religious act. They thought that somehow this would make up for their disobedience.

God then killed and skinned animals to give them a covering. The reason is that only God can give us relationship with him. He had to do it for them. If they were to be properly covered he had to do it and, he had to shed blood to do it. The skinned animals were indeed sacrifices for the covering they needed. Why? Because the fig leave would not have lasted at all? No; The skins, while not eternal were much more permenant and practical; especially in such a hostile environment but, they were not able to cleanse the conscience rather, they did allow relationship between God and them to continue.

No doubt, some reasoning philosopher is wondering why an animal had to be killed? Well, it wasn’t because God cared that they were naked. He made them that way. So then, the sacrifice was not to satisfy God... no.... it was to cleanse Adam and Eve’s conscience because it was done by God and not them! And, for any that think that this was cruel to animals... what about the fig leaves??? They had to die didn’t they? Aren't he leaves just as important as the animals? They died in Adam and Eve’s attempt to cleanse their conscience through religious ritual.

So here is the bottom line folks; Jesus died because of religion. Religion cannot ever cleanse the conscience. Only God showing that he has forgiven once for all... never to take it up again... can cleanse the conscience. I have often wondered why a sinner like me could have such confidence in Jesus? How can I have such a cleansed conscience? Well, today I have been given the answer. It is because Jesus has taken care of my religion problem once and for all... and yes, I am saying that religion and sin are synonymous. Relationship is the reason for the cleansed conscience. Religion will only frustrate.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The read and do mentality is antithetical to the gospel

Several Christian leaders are questioning the way that most evangelicals read the scripture. Brian McLaren calls it a constitutional reading and I have heard Darin Hufford refer to it as a policy manual reading. So to be clear, I would call it a constitutional, legislative, policy manual approach that can be most easily explained as a read and do mentality. Read and do is the foundational proposition undergirding a constitution, legal code or, policy manual. My point is that no matter what you call it, the concept is antithetical to the gospel message.
Still, a large portion of the words written in the scripture deals with constitutional, legislative and, policy manual type issues and, it is easy to see why so many evangelicals view it that way. Commandments are not suggestions; they are edicts... aren’t they? In fact, I think that it would be fair to say that the Old Covenant was indeed a constitutional, legislative, policy manual type covenant and the read, memorize and do edict was just that, a commandment.
The question becomes; how has the new covenant changed that if at all? It appears that the New Testament writings are full of instructions that answer a different question... a question that asks; how then shall we live? That after all is an important question and not one to be easily dismissed. One would hope that redeemed people would be different than those who do not believe that they have been redeemed. This however, does not answer my first question; has the new covenant changed the read and do aspect of the scripture? Has it changed from a constitutional, legislative, policy manual reading to an all together different reading method? I think that the answer is a definite yes.
So the question then is what type of reading method is taught? The short answer is a redemptive method. The gospel of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus is the focus of the scripture (John 5:39-40; Luke 24:27; 44-48 ). The redemptive reading is meant to spiritually transform the individual that believes the gospel. So then, it is the transformation of the person that should not and can not be accomplished by a constitutional, legislative, policy manual, read and do reading method.
Unfortunately, the above mentioned reading method is the one that is stressed by evangelicals the world around. Here is how it works: Believe the gospel and be born again.... then, begin immediately to apply the read and do method to change your behavior and answer the question how then shall we live with proper obedience. I have explained it as Nike Slogan Christians.... Just do it!
However, I think that the redemptive reading method emphasizes the spiritual reality of our situation. We must first believe and accept the spiritual reality of our situation and position. What is the spiritual reality of our situation and position when using a redemptive reading of scripture? The spiritual reality is the affirmation of the redemptive decrees. All are declared righteous by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I like the way that the New Living Translation puts it: Col 1:19-22 For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, (20) and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross. (21) This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. (22) Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.
The positional declaration of righteousness is very important in the true transformation of the individual. If one believes the good news.... that is.... that we are holy and blameless as we stand because of Jesus... then and only then, will the Spirit of God in us begin to cajole us to have our behavior line up with our actual position... it is all generated out of love that is based upon the grace of God. Read and do is eliminated and yet, if we are resting in the redemptive decrees about us and our positional righteousness... we can attempt the read and do as long as we do not see it as evidence of our transformation and, instead see it as a natural response out flowing from God’s love and grace. This completely eliminates the constitutional, legislative, policy manual, read and do method of scripture reading.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace


Many times ecumenical movements are perceived to be the result of the spirit of unity rather than unity of the Spirit. This causes a great concern for some evangelicals. Quite frankly, there are many evangelicals that cannot get beyond this idea and, will not strive to unite with other believers that they perceive to be of a different doctrinal stance. As a result there are thousands and thousands of denominations and divisions. Wikipedia reports that there are 38,000 various denominations.
Yet, the apostle Paul wrote the following to the church in Ephesus. Eph 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Okay.... is it possible that we can find the way to exercise the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Is it possible to find a way that believers can be more inclusive, especially of each other? All of the divisions center on our reading and understanding of scripture. Those who use what Brian McLaren calls a constitutional reading of scripture, use this to take their various doctrinal stances that they then divide on.
Let’s just look at Ephesians 4:1-4: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Walking worthy of the calling should mean walking in love.
What would we expect the Spirit to unify believers on? First of all, it should be evident that the Spirit would unite believers in the fruit of the Spirit. So let’s look at the fruit of the Spirit in bullet form:
  • Love (agape) selfless love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patiences
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self Control
I’m sorry, I do not see doctrine, scripture interpretation... etc. Think about the definition of each word in the list above, realizing that they all together make up agape and, then ask yourself, about the fruit of those who divide, judge, accuse, condemn and demand doctrinal purity. It seems to me that by definition those who divide and condemn do not exhibit any of the above fruit.
Further, if one uses the scripture interpretation method of Jesus and his followers.... that is... a strictly redemptive interpretation.... and, I think that we have sufficiently proven over the entries in this blog... that in fact, that was Jesus method.... the one he taught to his followers always; And more than this, if you witness the inclusiveness of Jesus as he ate and interacted with sinners it should be crystal clear that he was focused on the fruit you see listed above. That should be the source of the unity of the Spirit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

God is Love; how I was recently chastised.

The apostle John tells us in no uncertain terms that God is love... However, he spoke something to me that hit me like a ton of bricks. I read 1John 4:8, Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. How many times and in how many ways do I NOT love? I think far too often. I don’t have a problem including the outcasts; for me, that’s easy, but, lately I have been confronted with the fact that I have been pretty unloving to those who I would say are religiously dogmatic. I’m sorry but I have struggled loving the self righteous... the judgmental. I have gone so far as to judge them and that is the source of my growing pains.
I hear the Spirit telling me this: “ My love is radical Joe... you are very correct, I love the outcasts; I love those who are judged and further, I am not judging them at all... I love them and accept them just where they are”...
Big smile on my face but, then, the Spirit goes on to say...” I love the judgmental also... yes indeed, I love the Pharisaic spirited person... I radically love all people and, that is why I was willing to go to the cross. I went there for the outcasts and, the self righteous.”
Whoa! ... that stings! I’m thinking to myself....”but Lord you yelled at the Pharisees!.”
The Spirit reading my mind says... “yes, I did but it was out of love.... why have you yelled at them?”
I immediately had to realize and answer honestly... “out of anger,” my head drops.
Then the Spirit asks, “Can you love from a place of anger?”
My reply has to be “No,” a little shame sneaks in.
Ok, I have bared my heart a little. I need to repent... If I have hurt you with my ministry please forgive me. Understand that when I begin to be critical from now on... I am going to try to be loving, considerate and, if I have to come from a place of anger... I am going to try to just be silent.
Still, I want to point out that God is Love. God is agape (ahg-a-pay). So what is this love that is what God is? I like this definition; Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being” In other words, it is making the situation better. Agape has the highest and best outcome at purpose. This is the highest and best outcome for all people. This is radical love. This is the love that Jesus possesses and, guess what, if I truly have Jesus in me it should be the love that I possess. All of us who name the name of Jesus should have this love for all. This is not syrupy love. It is love that causes us to esteem others greater than we esteem ourselves.
Can I confess? Can I be honest? This is painful. This is hard. This will take some radical rethinking on my part. Pray for me as I seek the Lord’s help in cultivating this love.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herod.

I can still remember my grandmother’s baking days. She made some awesome bread. It smelled so good when you walked on the porch and the closer you got the more inviting it became but, goodness gracious.... when you tasted it warm and buttery it was soooo good! The substance that made it rise and be airy was yeast, leaven. I have watched her make it from scratch. I have smelled the yeast in warm water just fermenting waiting to do its magic. When introduced to flour, water and other ingredients it took over. It permeated the entire batch of dough.

Jesus is warning that the doctrine of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians was just like my grandmother’s yeast. Except, instead of bringing goodness into the loaf it just would take over. Yeast, leaven is a metaphor that is used often in scripture. It is a metaphor that is used for sin and interestingly, the Jews were instructed to get rid of all leaven for the Passover meal. They could not even keep it in the house. It was a metaphor for sin and contamination.

Jesus went on to say that the leaven of the Pharisees was their teaching and, that it was hypocrisy. Mat 16:6-7 Jesus said to them, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (7) And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread."....... Mat 16:12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In other words, Jesus said that the teaching/doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees was just like leaven. It would permeate and ruin the purity of the teaching that he had taught them. In Luke 12:1 Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees hypocrisy and in Mark 8:15 he mentioned to beware of the leaven of Herod which was the leaven of the Herodians... that is, people who followed Herod.

Let me describe the historical context of each of these groups. The Pharisees were strict lawyers, self righteous and very judgmental. They believed in the imminent resurrection but they were very exclusive in their acceptance of people and extremely dogmatic about their beliefs and rigid with their understanding of God’s will.

The second group was equally religious and self righteous when it came to the Law of Moses but were far more liberal in the spiritual realm and, did not believe as much in the supernatural. They did not believe in an imminent resurrection. Likewise, they were not expecting the kingdom of God to be manifested in a supernatural way. They were the wealthy elite ruling class.

Finally, the third group was called the Herodians. They were followers of Herod who thought that co-operation with the government was the best way to aid the kingdom advancing. They wanted to see Herod in power and, believed that they could best advance the issues important to the Jews by supporting and, working with Herod and the Roman government.

I find it interesting that there are such close parallels to these groups within the church today. There are modern day Pharisees who are self righteous and exclusive. They are judgmental and claim to speak for God and exclude all who do not believe as they believe... do not interpret the scripture the way that they do.

Likewise, there are modern day Sadducees. They have removed much of the supernatural from Christianity. They self righteously tout the teachings of the sermon on the mount but, deny the power of the Holy Spirit and, the efficacy of the cross. They play down humanities need for redemption and the fact that Jesus put the world to rights for all by his death, burial and resurrection.

Also, we have the Herodians.... militia groups and saints that believe that we need to take over the government and rule by the Ten Commandments. They believe that the best way to change the world is to have government officials elected that have a biblical agenda.
Was it Solomon that said there is nothing new under the sun? In subsequent articles we will dig deeper into this topic.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Godly Sorrow vs. Condemnation

Paul states emphatically that there is absolutely no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1-5) and, John reports in his gospel that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it... rather to save it (John 3:17-19). Yet, Paul teaches that godly sorrow leads to repentance (2Cor 7:10). So, we see that there is a proper and, an improper response to our sin. The proper response is godly sorrow or grief and the improper response is condemnation. We must ask ourselves this question; Does our teaching and preaching produce condemnation or godly sorrow? All too often the answer is that it produces either condemnation or nothing. It seems to me that much of current evangelical doctrine (teaching) is geared toward producing condemnation. Why is this so? Let’s examine it for a short time in this blog post.
What is the difference between godly sorrow and condemnation? One produces repentance and closeness to God and, the other produces despair and distance from God. Godly sorrow produces the closeness. Condemnation produces despair. How do these affect obedience? Well, condemnation leads to obedience from fear and, godly sorrow produces obedience from love. Condemnation demands obedience and, godly sorrow coaxes obedience. Condemnation demands perfection. Godly sorrow recognizes process and striving toward a goal. Condemnation makes no allowances for failure. Godly sorrow encourages the failing to reach forward with a hope for a better tomorrow.
Condemnation emphasizes God’s justice and, godly sorrow is achieved by emphasizing God’s mercy and grace. The difference between condemnation and godly sorrow is highlighted by where the emphasis is placed on the various message of scripture. This appears to be the great divide between the apparent apostle’s doctrine found in the pages of the New Testament and, the early church father’s doctrine that comprises much of our evangelical teaching.
This is precisely the reason that Jesus taught his followers a new hermeneutic... a solely redemptive hermeneutic that pointed always to him... the author and finisher of our faith and salvation. This is also the reason for his shift in definition of the phrase word of God. He and his apostles redefined it to mean him or the gospel. This nuance makes all the difference in the world when it comes to producing condemnation or godly sorrow. It is the reason that we must only look to the scarlet thread of redemption that runs through the pages of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
If the redemptive focus is always preeminent then, the scripture will always produce godly sorrow in the one who finds him or herself coming up short and wanting. If not, it will always produce condemnation and despair. The concept of need, rest and, reasonable service is critical to proper spiritual growth... a growth that is absent of fear and despair. My prayer is that the saints of God, especially those who believe that they have been called to minister and lead, will embrace the redemptive focus and, will begin to help produce saints that can grow in the grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which, will in turn allow a growth toward true holiness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Haggai’s Message For Today

I am reposting this article that I wrote a while back. It came from a bible study that I and my wife did in Haggai.

Hag 1:2-4 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt."'" (3) Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, (4) "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"
The Prophet Haggai prophesied, during the time that the people of Israel had been allowed to go back to Jerusalem, to begin to rebuild the temple of the Lord. This was the return from Babylonian captivity. Work had stopped on the temple of the Lord and they were busy building their own houses and pursuing their own agendas. Here, by the Prophet, the Lord asks if it makes sense that they should have finished houses while His house, the Lord’s house lay desolate.
Today, in this world of denominations and factions, the people of God are busy making their houses beautiful, stained glass and fine plush pews, while the true House, the body of Jesus is lying in desolation. The factions grow with ever increasing numbers day by day; dividing and growing like a cancerous cell. In the meantime, the world sees the denominations and debate, and concludes that Christianity, is merely another alternative of the relative choices that one has in life about what to believe. There is no chance for the powerful witness of the body of
Christ to go forth with crystal clarity.
When we ignore this, we continue to say, “the time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” I proclaim today, that the time is long since passed!
Look on to what else Haggai says:
Hag 1:7-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! (8) "Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD. (9) "You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. (10) "Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. (11) "I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands."
Look at the Spiritual implication of what is written here. The spiritual drought that besets the land is the result of God’s efforts. He blows it away! We may see a little harvest of anointing oil and a small portion of fruit from time to time, but the heavy due and the new wine and fat cattle are merely a thought of some future move of God. The plain truth is that the harvest is being held in check because the house of the Lord is desolate. The Lord says to consider our ways. We are to rebuild the temple. This will take heavy lifting. This will require much hard labor.
Haggai goes on to say:
Hag 2:6-9 "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. (7) 'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. (8) 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts. (9) 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."
So what is the answer? What is the heavy lifting? What is the work that must be accomplished to make the latter glory of the Lord’s house greater than the former glory? The temple must be built on the proper foundation. The foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ and above that is the Apostles Doctrine. But, what is the Apostles Doctrine? Don’t we have it? Well, we will ask the question this way. With all of the factions that exist in Christianity do we have it today? The answer is absolutely not!
The truth is that we all have pieces of the truth, but we must have our earth shaken. We must allow the Spirit of the Lord shake our individual nations. What we must do, is come together to search out the apostles’ doctrine by means of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. This will require heavy lifting. This will require us to lay all of our agendas on the table and examine them together with the Holy Ghost’s direction. We cannot divide, but like a family intent on ironing out differences so that it is no longer a house divided, we must resolve to stay at it, until we have found the answers, and further, that the Holy Ghost has witnessed to us as a group, that we have indeed found the answers. At the end of this will come a return of the Apostolic Doctrine, and the Lord will bless as He promised in Haggai. The latter glory of the house will be greater than the former.
No longer will Larry King be able to have a Catholic Priest, John Macarthur an evangelical preacher, and a new age advocate debating truth, for the true temple of the Living God, the body of Christ, will be demonstrating in the Land, and Christ Himself will stamp his approval with a greater works ministry, that is so profoundly miraculous, that the whole world will take notice and see that the Temple of God is in the land.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What about authority, Protestantism and Acts 2:42? Part I: An answer to Father Barron



Anne Rice’s recent announcement has stirred up some very interesting debate and discussion. A recent face book posting of a YouTube video of Fr. Barron, speaking of Anne’s announcement led to another posting of a video by him on Protestantism and authority. These videos pose interesting questions about what is the church and where does it get its authority. So, on the one hand we have the Roman Catholic Church and the various branches of the Orthodox Churches claiming apostolic succession. On the other hand, the Protestant Churches claim that scripture alone is authoritative. Thus the question; Who has authority?
In fairness to the Roman Catholics and Orthodoxy, scripture alone... sola scriptura... has allowed the development of thirty thousand plus denominations. But, equally problematic is the schism of 1054 which divided the Eastern Church from the western church. Let’s just say that it is uncertain which of the factions were right... I lean to the eastern side but still, authority?
Yet, the New Testament suggests that there was at least in the first century church an authoritative apostolic doctrine or teaching. Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Also, Paul said this to the Thessalonians (2Th 2:15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. It is pretty clear that one needed two things for correct doctrine; (1) The epistles written and, (2) the traditions that they were taught by word of mouth. It therefore seems obvious to me that there was at one time an apostolic doctrine. So the question remains; what was the apostolic doctrine and who has it? Was it handed down or was it lost?
Are there ideas that can be clearly seen from scripture that show that the current church doctrine whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or protestant is incorrect? The answer is yes indeed! First, the apostolic definition of the phrase the word of God meant gospel or Jesus and did not mean scripture. This was to establish the authority of Jesus and the gospel. Yet, when you listen to or, read about the debates over sola scriptura both sides, the Roman Catholic and, the Protestants both refer to the scripture as the word of God. That was the Pharisaic emphasis but was certainly not the apostolic emphasis. The true authority was the interpretation that Jesus gave to the scripture and, aside from that interpretation there was not scriptural authority.
Secondly, the apostolic teaching about scripture emphasized that it was solely redemptive; pointing to the work and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. When one examines 2Tim 3:16 it must be placed in its wider context of verse 15 and 17. It is only profitable for doctrine when it makes one wise for salvation. This again is a solely redemptive purpose. It is only good for doctrine, reproof, etc. in its redemptive context. Scripture used outside of its redemptive focus is in reality the leaven of the Pharisees.
So, the question remains what is the apostle’s doctrine and what happened to the church? The apostle’s doctrine always puts grace and forgiveness first. This is the catalyst for all of the benefits of the gospel. That is why it is truly good news and, no one can out sin grace. This is the foundational premise. Paul stated that where sin abounded grace abounded all the more and James proclaimed that mercy always triumphs over judgment. This is the source of the Sabbath Rest.
Unfortunately for the truth, this does not make sense to the natural mind steeped in the knowledge of good and evil. The good news, when stated as it actually is, sounds too good to be true. Secondly, when one understands the truth of the gospel... really believes it.... it becomes harder to control people. The leaven of the Pharisees and the current church doctrine emphasize controlling people. However, the gospel states that it is the love of Christ that constrains or controls (2Corn5:14). Therefore, current doctrine is used to control or constrain behavior. This inhibits the natural love for God that flows from the true gospel.
We will look at this more in the next post.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anne Rice’s announcement; examining her position on Christianity Part I


Respected American author, Anne Rice, announced on her face book page the other day that she was leaving Christianity. While she was raised Roman Catholic as a child, in her adult life and, for the bulk of her life until about twelve years ago, she was a self proclaimed atheist. She returned to Roman Catholicism and had a profound experience with Christ. The following are the posts from her face book page on July 29, 2010:
"For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."
A few hours later she posted this:
“As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
And finally one hour later she posted this:
"My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."
The above quotes show thoughtful, painful reflection and, an honesty that is completely refreshing. I personally think it is sad that she had to make this choice but I understand why she did. Yet, certainly it would be unthinkable to believe that Christianity has missed the mark for two thousand years... I mean it couldn’t be that orthodox doctrine has it wrong... could it? My answer is a resounding yes! In a world that has 38,000 plus denominations, many that will not share communion with each other... many that will not allow the possibility that the others are even followers of Christ... that the others have salvation and on and on... in this world of Christianity, in the now, I personally cannot see how it could be any other way. It cannot be the case that orthodoxy has it right... especially in view of Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter four stating that there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism. Really?
Still, Ms. Rice demonstrates that she has had a profound relational experience with God through Jesus. She has an unshakeable faith in the Lord and his mercy, love and, grace. There are many, myself included, who feel this same way. In fact, I believe that if people are honest with themselves that there are millions who share this view. There are many things that need to be rethought and reexamined; Theology, hermeneutics, eschatology and our view of the bible are but a few. The key is in examining what Jesus taught his followers about himself, the scripture, redemption, judgment etc. Maybe orthodoxy has a few things wrong. In the next post we will examine what these may be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Integral to the Christian Transformation Process; authentic living and righteousness

A face book friend of mine, Phil Chamberlin, posted this as his status the other day. It read; “When holiness is viewed as perfection instead of process, it creates a system that rewards self-righteousness and inauthentic living.” I would like to use this to kick off this blog post. Seeking holiness as part of the transformation process and finding a way to live authentically as a believer is a noble pursuit indeed. It is a way to incorporate loving accountability into body life.
The problem as I see it is as follows; Phil identified it precisely in his face book status but I would like to unpack it a little. When we see perfect holiness as a command... it opens the door for condemnation and unrest whenever we feel that we fall short. I don’t think that the scripture calls for perfect holiness at all but rather, it calls for a progression toward holiness. Paul says, (Php 3:12-14) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Pressing toward the goal is what is called for. Laying hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

First, let me emphatically state that we cannot transform ourselves. We can only allow the Holy Spirit to use our faith in Jesus and the gospel to facilitate our transformation. We end up with a dilemma of sorts. Do we trust Jesus to keep us in him right where we are at or, do we strive to improve on our own? Well, if our striving to improve is motivated by a wish to be acceptable to God we ere. Yet, if we see holiness as a command then, we are put into a position where condemnation easily creeps into the mix and, either forces us to try to hide from God or, to make our behavior line up with holiness. In either case this is not the way of transformation. Transformation is brought about by our trusting in and resting in the finished work of Jesus right where we are and, allowing that to produce peace with and love for God. Then, out of love for God without fear of condemnation we can strive for the upward calling in Christ Jesus. Not out of fear but, from love and peace. The motivation is completely changed.
This is the place where loving accountability can come into play. true transformation can never be realized as long as holiness is viewed as perfection or a goal. If however, we shift our paradigms to view holiness as a continuing process we can strive for holiness without fear and not be upset if we fail from time to time; Resting in the gospel, the love of Christ and, God’s redemption. We will explore this further in the next blog post.

Love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 2

Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) All of you, take up My yoke an...