Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are seminaries helpful or harmful?


A friend of mine on the Facebook group “outlaw preachers” asked this question on the wall recently.
“I just read the following: "What would be the outcome in the Kingdom if all seminaries went bankrupt?" Thought it was a great question. What do you think would happen?”
I would like to interrupt my series on “the presence of God in the present” to address this question. I think this is an interesting question. Different believers will no doubt answer it differently. I have found different groups that really have little if anything in common to agree that seminaries are basically problematic.

Let me explain further what I am saying. I have friends and acquaintances in very conservative Pentecostal churches who feel that seminaries are spiritually dead, and believe that studying doctrinal issues is essentially a waste of time. On the other extreme, I have friends who are fairly liberal that believe that studying doctrinal issues is a waste of time.

Here is my take… seminaries are not the problem. Dogma is the problem! You do not have to attend a seminary to be indoctrinated with dogma. In fact, just the opposite is the case in most instances. Let’s take a look at how dictionary.com  defines dogma: 1. an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church. Synonyms: doctrine, teachings, set of beliefs, philosophy…   2. a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption; the recently defined dogma of papal infallibility. Synonyms: tenet, canon, law…  3. prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group: the difficulty of resisting political dogma…  4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle: the classic dogma of objectivity in scientific observation. Synonyms: conviction, certainty.

Dogma is passed on in sermons, Sunday school classes and seminars…  by aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers… It is interesting to me just how much dogma believers know. It is passed on in all the categories of systematic theology. People are continually schooled in the doctrine of Christ… doctrine of salvation… doctrine of the Holy Spirit… doctrine of sin… doctrine of man and on and on. It is drilled into the minds of people from the time they are youngsters in junior church to the elderly in retirement homes.

It is something that people are encouraged not to question. I can remember my relatives warning me that if I was go to a secular university that I would have my faith shaken. What surprises me, is the amount of people that are totally unaware of how much dogma affects the way they think and believe. It is pervasive in the evangelical church. It is chalked up as biblical training.

There is just one problem… people do not stop to examine how they look at the biblical data. The dogma exists in the lens that is used to read and understand the bible. People are certain that they are reading it correctly… that they are bringing the correct presuppositions to the reading. This all happens in spite of seminaries. This would continue if there were no seminaries. Seminaries are not the problem. They could in fact be part of the solution if people would examine their indoctrination to dogma.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

His Presence; In the present: Part I


Psalms 16:11  “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

This shall be the first of a series of posts that examine the presence of the Lord as it applies to the New Covenant believer in the New Heavens and Earth. I have established over and over, in a series of posts from time to time here on this blog, that the new heavens and earth are synonymous with the new covenant. This is made fairly clear by Paul in Galatians chapter four (Gal 4:22-28.) The New Jerusalem, the one coming down out of heaven is made up of all those made free in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the New Jerusalem is the New Heaven and Earth. It is clear from this passage in Galatians that it is not something that will happen in the future. It is in the present.

I want to lay the groundwork in this post that explains why the current New Covenant believer must realize that they are in the presence of the Lord all the time. It is something that one could not escape if they wanted too, and once one understands the significance of His presence, no one in his or her right mind would want to escape it. David is a type of Christ, but is also a type of Christian or believer. The Psalms prophesy about the person and work of Christ, but also about the standing of the one united with Christ and therefore “in Christ.”

 Here is what David knew by faith: Psa 139:7-16  “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  (8)  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  (9)  If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,  (10)  Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.  (11)  If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me;  (12)  Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.  (13)  For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.  (14)  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.  (15)  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  (16)  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them”

David knew well what we should all accept. You cannot escape the presence of the Lord… not ever. David rejoiced in the fact. You DO NOT need some praise and worship leader to usher you into the presence of the Lord. How can anyone take you where you already are? You are always in the presence of the Lord twenty four hours every day and every day of every year. It is a reality. I hope to use this series to make you so aware of it that you will begin to receive the benefits that go along with His presence.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Relationship with God; what it means to be Spirit led


Jeremiah 31:34  “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 31:31-34 gives a clear promise of the new covenant. This promise is strictly to Israel in this particular passage of scripture. However, there are many other passages that include the Gentiles in the promised New Covenant. To list but a few examples; Isaiah 54:1, Isaiah 55:1-5 are some. I have shown in previous posts that jots and tittles have indeed passed from the law. Most importantly, the way in which Gentiles become a part of the people of God… the way they become Israel. They become Israel in Christ Jesus who is the “Israel of God,” and thereby become heirs of the promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:16-29.) My point in this is that the New Covenant is the ONLY covenant that is in force today. Jews and Gentiles, men and women alike are grafted into the people of God by virtue of apprehending the Israel of God, (Jesus of Nazareth) by faith. Apprehending is a very important word to consider. It means to arrest and grab a hold of, to not let go under any circumstances. It means to persevere in the apprehension for good.

I bring this up because of a question that comes to my mind. Is the contemporary believer to be Spirit led or biblically led? The answer is most definitely that the saint is to be Spirit led. You can ask the question; isn’t being biblically led the same as being Spirit led? I am sorry to have to inform you that the answer is unequivocally no! I hear people say all the time that the Spirit will NEVER contradict something that is written in the bible. Oh? Is that so? Actually, the Spirit has NEGATED what was written before many times. Here is the most glaring example. Exodus 12:48-49 explains how Gentiles could become part of the people of God. The males had to be circumcised and they had to obey the Torah. On the other hand, Acts 15 explains just the opposite. Gentiles DO NOT have to be circumcised and they DO NOT have to become Torah observant.

So now you throw your hands in the air and ask this question; how can I know when I’m being Spirit led? Excellent question! Here is the simple answer. You know that you are being led by the Spirit when the leading produces the fruit of the Spirit. Will the leading produce love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience and self-control? That is the standard by which we should all judge our “out of self” promptings.  Some may call it a still small voice, others say the Lord told me, but whatever the case if it is leading from the Spirit you will ALWAYS see spiritual fruit. It will always assure you of your connectedness to the Father. His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

So then, the Spirit can certainly speak through the bible but even that must be tested by spiritual fruit. However, the Spirit can speak directly to us aside from the scripture. And, there are times when the Spirit may tell us something that seems to contradict what is written in the scripture. You can always judge it by Spiritual fruit.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Faith is obedience


(Rom 14:23 NKJV)  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Paul wrote about the obedience of faith in Romans 1:5 and 16:26. In the NKJV and many of the new translations it is translated “obedience to the faith”… In the KJV it is translated as obedience to the faith in Romans 1:5 and the obedience of faith in 16:26. The Greek phrase definitely states “obedience of faith.” So why was it mistranslated? The obvious answer is it must have been for theological reasons. The thinking had to be that Paul could not have meant the “obedience of faith.” I say without equivocation… oh yes he did!

The writer of the book of Hebrews… (I see Hebrews as the Rosetta Stone of the New Covenant) made it a point to equate faith and obedience and unbelief and disobedience and unbelief and sin (Hebrews 3:7-19.) The Israelites in the days of Moses, Joshua and Caleb would not enter the rest of God because of sin/disobedience/unbelief. And, the Sabbath Rest back then was a metaphor for the Sabbath Rest of believing in Christ for those contemporary to the writing of the Book of Hebrews. Therefore, faith is obedience and sin is lack of faith. That is precisely why Paul wrote what he did in the above passage from Romans telling the saints that if they acted without faith it was sin, but if they acted with faith it was not.

Further, the Holy Spirit made it very plain in Hebrews 11:6. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Then again He announced in the gospels… “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It becomes easy to see that Jesus perfect obedience was his perfect faith in the Father. Jesus faith was so perfect that he was willing to die a shameful death, (everyone saying that he was not who he said he was) knowing by faith, that the Father would raise him from the dead, and exonerate him. That is precisely why you do not find places in scripture where Jesus’ law obedience was touted. The fact was the Jesus obeyed the Shema perfectly. He loved his Father with all his soul, heart, and strength and, he loved his neighbor as himself… even more than himself. He was willing to die to save his neighbor and perfect faith made that possible.

So what can we glean from this? What if faith is our obedience? It is the difference between resting in Jesus and God’s mercy, love and grace and living in a continual state of fear. Knowing that faith is obedience and trusting in it completely frees us up by providing perfect peace with God. It generates love for God and ultimately brings about the fertile soil in us that will produce real transformation; A soil that richly produces the fruit of the Spirit. I keep writing this over and over, in many different ways. Hopefully, eventually, you will see a pattern that you can trust and rest in. You will be drawn ever closer to God in Christ. You will be willing to surrender more and more to the one you love and trust. May God richly bless us as we enter more deeply into the Sabbath Rest.