Thursday, October 5, 2017

Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he was speaking about was they were too concerned about how people dressed and appeared. Yet, this message spoke to me on a different level. Oh, I am not hung up on how people dress when they go to church. Heck, given the current state of evangelical doctrine and the error that is ever present, I am not hung up on people going to church.

So back to majoring in minors... This is at the crux of what is wrong with evangelical doctrine these days. Jesus focus was redemptive. This is obvious from John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45. So then, the mandate for the church as I see it is to major/focus on the gospel and Jesus. That is where all the emphasis should be placed. Methods of baptism and other creed concerns are far less important.

This is why I think that 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 is so vital in our understanding of the gospel, and in reality, the best statement of the gospel. The passage of this letter from 3:1 through 5:21 is important in understanding what the "majors" are. Paul differentiates between the new covenant and the old covenant in this passage. He starts out by calling the Old Covenant the ministry of death, and conversely gets on to the New Covenant being the ministry of the Spirit and life.  He points out in chapter 4 that the New Covenant provides something better and unique. The ministry of life is housed in earthen jars as Paul poetically points out that though we are human and flesh, Christ and His ministry is alive within us.

The "major" is not placed on the letter of the law. It is not placed in a read and do context. It is not necessitated by a legal constitutional reading of scripture. That was Old Covenant. That was wrapped in the fact that if one obeyed the legal requirements there were blessings, and if one was not obedient there was curses. We find out that Christ took on the curse/curses of the law for us. Since the Gentile was never really under the law, this was more for the Jew, but still is a benefit to the Gentile. Why? So that the promises of Deuteronomy 28 could be "yes and amen" for all, both Jew and Gentile. In essence, both Jew and Gentile can be blessed in the city and in the field, blessed coming and going. The question is not are we blessed. The question is do we believe we are blessed?

Therefore the major idea is Christ and the gospel. Yet, it seems that it is so often neglected in favor of explaining to people how they can improve morally. People are scolded and shamed about their lack of being able to measure up to the law. It would be laughable if it was not so brutally true. So you ask, why was there so much ink in the New Testament about the law and obedience? The answer is quite simple. It was before the destruction of the temple when God made his choice in who his real children were. The Jews still had the old covenant in force. Once the temple was destroyed, there was practically no Old Covenant. There was no means of atonement. The reason was that the atonement of Christ was a once for all act.

Certainly the law can inform us in what love looks like. I am not railing against the law to show us the heart of God, and how we should treat our fellow humanity. I am arguing that it is wrong to allow the law to determine our righteousness. The thing in the new covenant that determines our righteousness, our right standing before God is faith in Christ and God's grace.  Further, real true faith in the grace and love of God will produce within us, supernaturally, a love for God that will translate into us being more loving and actually more obedient,. It is strictly a matter of focus.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Love Letter to the Broken Hearted: Part 3 Humble yourself as a child

Matthew 18:3 NASB and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew chapter eighteen has a valuable lesson for us if we will look at it with fresh eyes. It is important for me to emphasize fresh eyes. Fresh eyes means in this case with a shift in paradigms. It is the shift that Jesus himself taught, and likewise the one that his first century followers who wrote the New Testament writings taught. What was the shift you ask? Well, according to John 5:39-40 it was a shift to a redemptive purpose for the scripture. You can also find it backed up in Luke 24:27 & 43-45. With this in mind... let's take a look at Matthew 18:3 in its wider context. Jesus disciples asked him a question. Here is the passage Matthew 18:1-6 NASB "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (2) And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, (3) and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5) "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; (6) but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

If one has a paradigm that demands a legal constitutional reading of scripture the above words of Jesus could be very scary. However, with an understanding of first century Judaism, which would allow one to understand His words as his disciples would it takes on a significantly different meaning. Notice that Jesus called a child to Himself and set "him" before them. So, it was not just any child it was a male child. So what you ask? Well, in first century Judaism it was important for young boys to go to Torah school. In fact, they attended until the age of twelve. It was no doubt near a Torah school that Jesus was speaking with his disciples. They often met outside because the weather warranted it. So then, it is in answer to the question who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven that he calls this young boy to him. One can imagine that this was a young student. One who had not studied long. 

The point Jesus was making to his disciples was that they are going to have to turn around and forget what they have learned. The only way to enter the kingdom, much less be greatest, is to forget your religious upbringing. Think about that for a minute. I am not just pulling this out of my hat. I am basing it on what Jesus taught, and how things were in the first century. All of his disciples had been to Torah school. They currently may be fishermen now, but when they were young they went to Torah school just like this little one. But there is more in the story....

This little person also believed in Jesus. That is, he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus also knew that there was a chance that as the little one grew up and learned in Torah school that he could be persuaded not to believe in Jesus any longer. The scribes and Pharisees, men similar to this little ones teachers, used the Torah to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah (John 7:46-52.) So who is Jesus addressing in the sixth verse of the above Matthew passage? It is anyone who uses the scripture to cause one to stumble, and not believe in the grace and goodness of God. There are tons of preachers who should be concerned about this. They take baby saints, just converted, and use the scripture to beat them over the head to get them to walk the chalk. 

However, this is yet another love letter to the brokenhearted. In fact, the entire scripture has the redemptive purpose of guiding one to a child like faith in Jesus, and the love and grace of the Father. Yet, how many times have you seen someone use this passage to beat people up. Jesus was simply telling his disciples that the only way that they will experience the true kingdom of heaven, which is also the kingdom of God is by faith. Faith in a loving Father that was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting trespasses. One that had made Christ who knew no sin to be made sin so that those believing could be the righteousness of God in and through Him.

Friday, September 1, 2017

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 and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This is a second post in the series, Love Letter to the Brokenhearted. I will post a link at the bottom to the first one in case you have not yet read it. 

If you are happy with your continual striving to please God this is not for you. But if you continually try to please God only to find that you are never certain you do, and are stressed out wondering if you are truly on the correct path then read on. It saddens me to see all the people who are striving to the point of being completely burned out to be obedient, to be a good saint, to help the church cause, to give enough, to win the favor of leadership, and on and on. This is not new. There were many in the first century in Jesus time that were under the same pressure. That is why Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 11:28-30. There were then, and are now, a multitude of folks that were weary and burdened. If you are like a rat or mouse on a wheel, chasing you're not sure what. Get off!

The yoke of a disciple is easy and the burden is light. Too many leaders keep people on a treadmill, and dangle in front of them a carrot on a stick. You will be blessed if you do this. Your work will be rewarded and on and on. All the while, the leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do. What are they supposed to do you ask? They are supposed to be proclaiming the gospel, (God's Good News.) Instead, they ignorantly continue to try to keep you from sinning. They focus on sin. They focus on works. They focus on disobedience. They focus on God's wrath. They focus on what you must do to be in right standing with the Father. THEY SELDOM FOCUS ON THE GOOD NEWS!

Yet Jesus is saying come unto me and I will give you rest. Rest from what? Rest from striving. Rest from fear of the Father. Rest from a sense of failure. Rest from worry. This is why Paul spoke these words to the Corinthian saints. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses to them, and instead made the one who knew no sin to be made sin for the sinner, that the sinner might become the righteousness of God.... How so, by God's declaration!

There is so much misunderstanding about preaching. There is so much misunderstanding about the calling and mission of a preacher. The New Testament forcefully states that they should only preach the gospel. Preaching is not yelling at people. We have a connotation today of the word preach to be scolding. When the New Testament says go into the world and preach, it means proclaim. Shout it from the rooftops. Proclaim what? PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL! It is the ministry of reconciliation. The reconciliation is complete. Paul says tell people they HAVE BEEN RECONCILED to God. That is part of God's love letter to humanity. It is not presented often enough. Sure those who have ignorantly preached a different gospel, or something different then the gospel will be judged for that. One day they will give account, and realize their error, however that does not help the multitudes who have been brow beaten, and wearied, and burdened.

Just rest! You have been reconciled to God! Demand that your leaders dwell on the truth and proclaim the gospel. I guarantee that if they truly proclaim the good news that people will work and not be weary. They will strive out of love and not be burdened. They will run to assembling to hear the good news, and the Holy Spirit will use the good news to transform saints into the image of Christ.

If you are weary and burdened, it is not Christ that has caused it. It is men. REST!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 1

Isaiah 61:1 HCSB The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;

This blog is going to begin a new series, and take the blog in a new direction. In the past, I have ministered to those who think they know God's will, think they have correct doctrine but are sadly on the wrong path. My heart breaks for the state of religion and the church. Too many people are too religious, and too busy trying to establish their own righteousness to really apprehend and benefit from the love of God.

However! If you are brokenhearted, tired of the struggle to perform, feel as though you have been a failure, this blog is shifting to be a beacon of light and love for you. Yes, there are those out there that will read this blog post, realize that they are unsatisfied in their spiritual life and desperate for an answer. If this is you down deep inside, be encouraged. The gospel was NEVER meant to provide a self help solution to your moral dilemma. The gospel was meant to provide a bridge over the gap you feel in the separation between you and the creator of the universe that loves you so much that you cannot even comprehend it!

I'm reminded of the beatitudes. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit. The Greek word that is translated poor is POCHOS... it means destitute, beyond hope. The reason that Jesus said the poor in spirit was blessed was because they were the substance of the kingdom of heaven. Yes my friend. If poor in spirit, destitute in spirit describes you way down deep in the recesses of your deepest most secret self, then indeed you are the stuff the kingdom of heaven is made of.

The verse from Isaiah that I have quoted at the top of this post is Jesus' mission statement. He said so when he quoted it in a synagogue in Luke chapter 4. The really good news is that He wants to heal your broken heart, no matter what your current situation is. Throw away the demands that the religionists have saddled you with and concentrate on the love of the Father demonstrated in the earthly mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are brokenhearted because you can't seem to measure up to religious standards that have been foisted on you by ignorant people who are without understanding when it comes to the real gospel and the true message of Jesus. You need to just simply believe. Now belief is not just a mental assent to an idea. Belief is an apprehension of the depth of the love of God. If you are having a hard time believing what I am writing here, just go back through the many blog posts where I have shown over and over in a multitude of ways why those who put the focus on religion are wrong. I have article after article of chapter and verses that prove how wrong the religious are. But I suggest that you simply listen to the words of the Apostle Paul that I am going to quote below.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 HCSB (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. (18) Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." (21) He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Read that over and over and over until you understand exactly what it is saying to you. No matter what you see, feel, or hear, if you have turned to Christ,  YOU ARE a new creature! Think about the ramifications of the following... God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM! Further, read that He made Jesus, the one who did not even know sin to be made sin for us.... why, so that we could in-turn be the righteousness of God in Him.

It is simple... YOU ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD!.  Believe it, apprehend it with every fiber of your being, rest in it and BE ENCOURAGED! More to come in this vain so stay tuned.....




Thursday, August 10, 2017

The New, "Politically Correct"

I think it was a right wing talk show host who originally coined the phrase "politically correct." It was a reaction to the left wing's effort to acknowledge and control sexism and racism in conversation. It certainly fell within the category of trying to impede free speech in favor of being socially polite. Yes, it was carried too far many times. And yes, sometimes it was down right silly.

However, now there has broken onto the scene a "political correctness" that is sinister and seeks to control free speech on the part of those who want to be socially sensitive and inclusive. It is the "politically correct" standard espoused by the far right and it is enforced by bullying and vulgar badgering. Yes, a new day has indeed dawned, and the pendulum has swung so far to the right that I fear we are in danger of repercussions that could be very damaging to the fabric of our society.

The new "political correctness" is touted by ignorant puppets of right-wing radio talk show hosts who have fomented this vitriol speech while making themselves mega-millionaires, many of whom cannot possibly believe what they say. Adding to this, politics itself is being taken over by these types of individuals. It has developed to the point that now our countries President is spewing this new form of political correctness on twitter. It my view it is disgraceful

The problem is there is no middle road. The factions in this country are so polarized that it is impossible for Congress and the Senate to get anything done. Healthcare needs a drastic overhaul and it needs to be reformed. The Affordable Care Act became anything but that. The reason in my view is that it was a one party effort. Had the moderates of each party been willing to work together they could have achieved something that would have really helped to change the broken system. Instead, they continue to force the pendulum to swing endlessly from left to right and then back from right to left. When will we realize that neither side of the ideological spectrum can really help. It can only truly be changed by compromise. A good solution has everyone a little upset. Why, because it is the fair solution. However, with a good solution, everyone can overlook their concerns because on the whole, it works for everyone. That is completely missing today in the current political arena.

While the politicians, (both sides of the isle) and the radio personalities, (again both sides) understand that a lot of their message is political rhetoric, and hyperbole, the crazies on the fringes do not. This breeds an atmosphere that will almost surely explode into violence at some point. The ugliest side of this conflict can be seen daily on social media. However, I believe that there is a "silent majority" (never thought I would be using that phrase) that really would like to see our government actually govern with compromise, forging acceptable solutions that would ultimately be acceptable to all. Again, not loved by all, but acceptable to all.

Further, those in political power need to tackle head on all of the areas of conflict. There needs to be discussions of race, gender, and class that actually acknowledges and seeks to address and improve the situation as it currently exists. I believe that if politicians in general would heed this advice and behave in this manner that they would not have a problem at election time. Likewise, politicians need to have the courage to reform election funding. Corporations are given an unfair advantage in the current system and need to be brought under control. With the current structure of financing campaigns. Corporations, and the uber wealthy have an unfair advantage in the actual legislation process.

I am calling for moderation and not a president who cannot quit tweeting and a house and senate that cannot ever compromise with the other party.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Word

John 1:1-17 HCSB In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. (6) There was a man named John who was sent from God. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

(14) The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Every time I hear someone speak about the word, realizing that they mean the bible, I cringe. It hits me deeply in my Spirit, and not in a good way. Moreover, when one refers to the bible as the word, it gives it a status that puts it on par with God himself. First of all, it is necessary to understand the use and meaning of language from the first century. It was a time where Jewish Religion and Greek Philosophy had reached its zenith. Paul Tillich, the Lutheran Theologian stated that Christ came on the scene at the ripe time in history. It was the time when the gospel message could properly be understood. In Greek, the word is the logos. Greek philosophy had defined the logos as the divine seed. The logos was much more than the spoken or written word. It was the creative force in the universe.

In essence, the New Testament teaches that the word, logos was Jesus Christ. It is absurd to put Jesus on the same plain as a book. I know that theologians have meant well. They wanted to elevate the bible over other books. The fact is though, and I have proven it over and over again in the posts of this blog, that Jesus and his first century followers defined the word of God as the gospel. It is the good news of Jesus Christ the word made flesh. If you look at verse 14 of the above passage, it can readily be seen that the creative force became human flesh and made his dwelling among humanity. It was for a purpose however. The purpose was to bring for the gospel (good news) of God. Jesus was the gospel of God. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was before the world was, before creation. Paul, in Ephesians explains that God chose BEFORE the foundation of the world, BEFORE anything was created, to bless humanity with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So you see, that not only is the bible not on par with Jesus, it is not on par with the gospel. In fact, Jesus stated in John 5:39-40 that the purpose of the scripture was to point to, prophesy about, and proclaim the gospel. When I say gospel, I do not mean the books written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I mean the fact of the good news. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. And, in Ephesians, Paul explains that it was God's plan from before creation. There is so much misunderstanding in evangelical Christianity about this. It is time to awake and see what God has done in Christ. I mean what really God has done in Christ. He has completely restored the creation. That's why John writes in verse 17 of the above passage that the Law was given through Moses, but that GRACE and TRUTH was brought about and through Jesus.

Had the law not been given, there would never be an understanding of grace. It was necessary to give the Law to establish the wondrous aspect of grace. And furthermore, Grace is the TRUTH. Grace is the very nature of God. Yes, Jesus was God manifested in human flesh and verse 14 of the above passage says that he was full of GRACE and TRUTH. He was the exact image of God the father so that means that God is grace and truth.

This is precisely the reason that so many of the Jews rejected Jesus. It too was part of God's gracious plan. Romans 11:5-6 HCSB In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. (6) Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace. God had given the Jews the Law to underscore the meaning of grace. They mistakenly thought that they had received it for righteousness. So then, Jesus came on the scene, full of grace and truth to introduce the heart of the Father concerning His creation. The Law was never meant for righteousness. In fact, that is why Paul said in Romans ten that Christ was the end of the Law for righteousness. The purpose of the Law was to show us how truly great grace was! It was to show us how to be at peace with God by grace, and just how fortunate we are that God is full of grace and truth.

Back to the word... I love the scripture. I know that it is God breathed. It is not a legal constitutional document however. It is a love story. It is God's love story of redemption that he had planned, purposed, and put into effect before creation. This is truly good news. My prayer is that the church will wake up to the real gospel..




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are many evangelicals spiritual jihadists?

Notice right off the bat that I say many and not all evangelicals are spiritual jihadists. A Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Muslims, but is there a "holy war" being waged by evangelical fundamentalist Christians? I think so. No, they do not wage physical war. They are waging a war against people in the spiritual realm but it has a real physical effect. Please do not confuse what I am referring to as spiritual warfare. It is not that. This is a war that aims at killing the spirit, and the weapon of choice is the scripture. The purpose behind killing the spirit is to gain conformity to the norms of the group. It, in a nutshell, is designed to control.

You're probably saying to yourself, "isn't that a good thing?" The answer to your question is absolutely not! These evangelicals are using the scripture as a weapon in a way that it was NEVER meant to be used. Paul said that the letter kills while the Spirit gives life. How is the scripture used as a killing letter? The answer is simple. When it is viewed in a legal constitutional way, with a strong emphasis on literal interpretation, it becomes a lethal weapon. This has been brought to the forefront of my mind based on the reaction to Eugene Peterson and Bishop T. D. Jakes. They both have been mentioned in the press recently with what could be best described as evolving views on homosexuality and the church. And, they both have made public statements about it, and both are moving backward from what they originally said.This has been the result of this spiritual jihad in my view.

I have no doubt that their views are evolving. And, I think it is in no small part because of the work and witness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is active in many Christian pastors and theologians today working to show that the legal constitutional understanding and interpretation of scripture is a grossly damaging error that needs major correction. It is sad to me that they can be manipulated by these vocal spiritual jihadists. Jesus and his first century followers went to great lengths, and he was crucified in part, because of his efforts to change the view of the scripture from a legal constitutional document to a redemptive narrative. There is a lot of nuance in what he taught and much of it was necessary because of the legal constitutional understanding that the first century rabbis and Jews had. In fact, he came on the scene at a time when the legal constitutional reading of scripture was at its zenith. He chose rather to tell them that the purpose of the scripture was to point to him and thus bring life. He told the pharisees that the legal constitutional reading of scripture they were using did not, and would not bring life. Life only came through him and his Spirit. You can find the proof text for this in John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27; 43-45.

The nuance comes into play with the two different covenants. The first being the Old Covenant or Mosaic Covenant for Jews and their converts only, and the New Covenant for all who would believe in Jesus as the Israel of God.... in other words, Israel the nation, and its scripture, was meant to point to Him alone. Much of what Jesus said is misconstrued because what he said was strictly to people under the Old Covenant before the New Covenant was instituted. Furthermore, Paul and the other writers of the first century scriptures were writing to a transition period, where the Old Covenant and the New Covenant were concurrently in operation. Since the destruction of the temple, the fulfillment of Jesus prophecy, there is no apparatus for the operation of the old covenant, so it is either the new covenant or nothing.

Even in the transition period before the destruction of the temple, Paul had already explained liberty of conscience on various matters. They had liberty of conscience on what to eat or not eat and what days to acknowledge and esteem. People today decide things like participating in war or not as a matter of the liberty of conscience. In my view, a loving monogamous couple, who have faith in Jesus can be a matter of the liberty of conscience no matter what their particular sexual preference is. I will let others debate the verses and terms that are used in the scripture that the debate centers on. However, the bottom line of all bottom lines is that Jesus and his first century followers who wrote the New Testament scriptures changed the focus from a legal constitutional document to the story of redemption. They did that in two ways. First, they stated that Jesus was the sole purpose and goal of the scripture, and second, they redefined the phrase "word of God" from Torah to the gospel and also Jesus the gospel made flesh.

Further, they explained a different dynamic for obedience. The new dynamic was to love. While some of the ways of loving would overlap with the commandments, the catalyst for doing so was peace with the Father via the gospel of grace. Peace with the Father would result in love for the Father that would translate into actions. I am convinced that the main focus that all Christians should have, and I include evangelicals in that group, should be the gospel of grace. That is the supernatural, spiritual catalyst for transformation.

However, evangelicals with a bent on legal constitutional interpretation of scripture continue to use the scripture as a weapon and it truly is lethal to the Spirit. It is a jihad that has overarching consequences and it will over time lead to the demise of the gospel.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

When you "Do Not Know" what you "Do Not" Know; Making the paradigm shift accessible Part 1

This blog chronicles my paradigm shift. Once the paradigm shifts, it is easy to look back and marvel at the fact that you held the former paradigm in the past. So to be clear let's look at the definition of paradigm found at dictionary.com. For the purposes of this blog and my "paradigm shift" this definition is the operative one: "A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community... and it goes on to include... such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group." I certainly believe that theology and theological doctrine falls squarely within the confines of this definition. To describe it further in theological terms, a paradigm is a lens that one sees theology through. It includes hermeneutics and exegesis. Most importantly, it deals with the way in which we look at and interpret scripture.

In my experience, evangelical doctrine and dogma have a limiting effect on the paradigm. I do not want to make this post a dictionary per se, but I feel that it is necessary to define dogma to be certain that the meaning is clear for the title. Again, the kind folks at dictionary.com define dogma this way: "An official system of principles and tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior etc. as of a church, ... prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a group." I want to emphasize "prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true" for my purposes here in stating that dogma, more than any one other thing stands in the way of a paradigm shifting.

So then, the title of the post "do not know" what one "does not" know explains the dynamic of being so afraid to question dogma that one becomes stuck in a paradigm without a way to shift it even if a shift seems indeed necessary. I believe that Christianity in general is standing on the precipice of a paradigm shift that seems as fearful as a dark abyss, but is in reality, merely a step through a curtain into another dimension of greater understanding.

Here are the facts for me: In the past, I saw a lot of contradictions in the scripture that dogma had a way of dismissing that did not seem to make sense. However, can one dare to to question dogma and the authoritarian position it holds? If one dares to question dogma, immediately one is accused of not truly believing, not being a true and good follower of Christ and on and on. When one has heard a paradigm over and over it becomes impossible to change. When a paradigm begins to change, the first thing to go is the norms that groups establish with respect to appearance. Suits and ties are discarded in favor of less formal attire. However, this does nothing to free one up from restrictive and unhealthy dogma, and even more to the point, restrictive and unhealthy theology.

I hear repeatedly people saying that the scripture plainly teaches this or that. The truth however is that the paradigm insists that the scripture teaches this or that. How can someone realize that the paradigm with which they look at the scripture is faulty when they cannot ever challenge the paradigm? It is funny, because since I have had the paradigm shift, I see that it plainly teaches what I have come to believe. Now, have I got some things wrong, or do I not see it in totality? Of course I do not. It is only a logical conclusion that I do not have it ALL right, but so much of my paradigm rings true, and ALL of the apparent contradiction disappears.

What I observe is this: There are many people questioning much of dogma, but it is on the fringe, and this questioning does not question basic doctrinal tenets. Or, and this is equally detrimental, doctrine is questioned so much that the divinity of Christ, salvation, and a supernatural relationship with God is dismissed as superstition. In any event, the gospel as it was presented by the first century saints is compromised. What do I mean you ask? I mean the gospel (good news of the grace of God) which was the main focus of Paul and the other New Testament authors is neglected in favor of a different gospel. It seems to always include some kind of performance standards and required good works. Let me just say this. There is a performance standard in my paradigm as well. It demands that you believe God's declaration that he was indeed in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and that the full reconciliation was accomplished in full. The required performance is to rest in that fact, and rely completely on God's grace.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Three Errors That Hinder the Effectiveness of the Gospel; Part 2

Two:
The second error that hinders the effectiveness of the gospel is not giving Ephesians 1:3-7 the importance it demands. Let's look at what it says to us: Ephesians 1:3-7 NKJV  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  (4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  (5)  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." The three phrases and clauses that I have emboldened and underlined become very important in recognizing the error.

The first underlined phrase "before the foundation of the world," places the timing on subjects of this passage. It was before the foundation of the world, in other words, it was before creation. So then, we can see that God's purpose in creation was redemption... let me emphasize that, God's purpose in creation was redemption! Also, he gives the reason... it was to the praise of the glory of his grace, and it was according to the good pleasure of His will. This passage, and John chapter one are the two passages in the scripture that tell about the farthest reaches of time. The subject of this passage predates Genesis 1:1... IT IS BEFORE THE BEGINNING! The fact, that God's purpose in creation was redemption holds a myriad of implications. Further, that the purpose is to the praise of the glory of His grace, holds even further implications. add to this Ephesians 1:11, and we see that God works ALL THINGS to the council of His will.

So what is written about God's will? In 2Pe 3 we find that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and in John's gospel, Jesus states the Father's will (Jn 6:39-40) as being Jesus, raising up in the last day, all those given to him by the Father, and likewise, all who see the Son and believe would also be raised up on the last day. So think about it. God is sovereign. If he is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, and if He works ALL THINGS after the council of his will... how indeed can anyone perish? I know... I know, you will tell me that there are so many passages about hell, death and Hades, about the lake of fire and Gehenna, but wait a minute... perhaps we should look for other ways to gain meaning from those passages. In fact, that is precisely what is needed. My answer is that in those references, Jesus and others were metaphorically speaking of the impending destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. I am certain beyond doubt that Jesus reference in Mark 9:43-44 relate one to one with Isaiah 66 which is most definitely a prophesy about the destruction of the temple. How can I be certain you ask? By the language link between the two passages. Jesus is referring to Isaiah 66:24 and there is a definite grammatical link that is common among first century Jewish Rabbi's. Believe me, the first century Jews would have known his reference, and they would not have considered it to be eternal torment.

When one is confronted with the idea that redemption was the reason for creation, and that it was to get the creation, to praise God for his grace, it becomes clear that the penal substitution atonement theory is out of whack. God had judged the creation very good in Genesis 1:31, and this was knowing about the fall, the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil, and ALL that would take place there after. It was humanity that hid from God. It was humanity that covered themselves with fig leaves. God had to shed the blood of a creature, take the skins to cover their shame. Of course, the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, whether metaphorical, or an actual fruit of a tree, brought judgment. It brought about the ability for humanity to judge itself, him and herself, as evil, and not acceptable to God. It also allowed the entrance of doubt and unbelief. Unbelief in the concept of God. That is the source of the need for redemption. While it is true that humanity must now face judgment as the result of the fall, God has graciously made a way to undo the damage done from the knowledge of good and evil. His solution was redemption, and it was the first thing that we know about God as creator.

Christ was the victor over the knowledge of good and evil, and death. He was willing to die, to confirm his faith in a loving Father that would indeed raise him from the grave. He is living proof that we are eternal, and have an eternal relationship with a loving Father. He aids us by His Spirit to believe the gospel. That is, that God the Father, was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Notice that Paul did not say reconciling the elect to Himself, no... indeed, God was reconciling the kosmos to Himself. How? By not imputing sin. Further, He made Jesus who did not know the concept of sin, (He always believed the Father) to be made sin on the behalf of humanity, that humanity might then be made the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection restored, redeemed, God's original declaration in Genesis 1:31.

Yes, there is judgment. Yes, we are responsible for our actions, most specifically, our love toward God, and our fellow humanity. Yes, there is justice. But how that operates we do not know for sure. We only can be sure that God's judgment does not end in eternal torture of individuals. We can base that on the fact that God's purpose in creation was redemption, and if God purposed it, you can bet that it will be accomplished! Do not be afraid to think outside the box. Do not fear the labels of heresy. The truth is that I have come to realize that those who hold to strict orthodoxy are actually the false teachers and false prophets. I do not think they are that purposefully. I just think that they do not know any better, and are too frightened by religion to really experience the freedom of real relationship with the Father.

It comes from they way they erroneously look at the scripture and we will address that in Part 3.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Three errors that hinders the effectiveness of the gospel; Part 1

One:
One of the biggest and most debilitating errors that actually does harm to the effectiveness of the gospel message is the explanation and understanding of the transformation process. When Paul says, “and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” he means something very different than most people believe and are taught. The most common understanding, of “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” is a variation on this theme and explanation. Once one is saved, i.e. regenerated, the Holy Spirit will use our reading of scripture to help us understand and supernaturally obey the Law of God. This is also known as the most popular explanation of the sanctification process. In other words, sanctification comes about by reading scripture and applying it, and the application is made possible by the Holy Ghost in a mystical way. In fact, people go so far as to judge that if one cannot see the sanctification process active, i.e., the individual applying the scripture to themselves, they can doubt that the person was really, truly regenerated and saved. This causes fear and doubt in the minds of people who are saved, and furthermore, rather than aiding sanctification, this thought process definitely hinders sanctification.

So how does the Spirit transform you ask? The answer is through the gospel. Yes, you read it correctly, the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to aid in sanctification, and provide the mechanism for “the renewing” of the mind. When Paul says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he most assuredly means having one’s mind renewed to the gospel of grace. The transforming power that the Holy Spirit uses for sanctification is the assurance of the gospel of grace and peace. Paul explained it this way, “therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” It is peace with the Father that generates the genuine love for God that the Holy Spirit uses to transform. This is the reason that Shalom (peace) is such an important concept in Judaism. It was stressed by the Torah to prepare the understanding of the effect of the gospel of grace. Shalom with the Father automatically produces love for the Father. In fact, it is the only way that one can fulfill the first and greatest commandment… “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” If you think about it, this is impossible to keep short of believing the gospel of grace. One can desire to do it, but one cannot perform it without the aid of the Holy Spirit in believing the gospel of grace. That the Holy Spirit enables us to believe the gospel, is precisely the source of the regeneration. Immediately upon hearing and believing the gospel, one has peace with God which in turn wells up into overwhelming love for God. One cannot hear and believe the gospel without overwhelmingly loving God. It is impossible.

So then, as long as one’s attention is focused on the gospel of grace, one’s affection for God is a prime driving force in all that is said and done. I have met so many prophets, evangelists, and self-proclaimed apostles who erroneously believe that the gospel is merely an entry point, a portal to sanctification that is entered once, and set aside for the greater purpose of conforming to the Law of God. For them, believing the gospel is the measure of a baby Christian… it is not the focus of the seasoned saint. The season saint should be focused on the sanctification process, and become more and more Christ like by living the law more and more. Come on now! You know I am speaking the truth here. It is so sad that people teach that one should grow up from that infancy. They should get passed the baptism and regeneration and should get on to the meat. This is such a grave error that it grieves me, and I know that it grieves God, and the Holy Spirit as well. This simply comes from misunderstanding the message, and occasion of the letter to the Hebrews. Getting on to the meat is actually getting on to understanding the gospel of grace in such a way that the Holy Spirit can give us confidence in the effectiveness of the gospel. How did the writer of Hebrews put it? “Hold fast to your confidence that has great recompense of reward. The meat is the NEW COVENANT! The meat is the NEW AND BETTER WAY! The meat is the way that the gospel of Christ can CLEANSE THE CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD!

Why do people follow after these teachers, preachers and prophets? It is to sidestep the actual sanctification process that comes from believing the gospel. The human mind demands religious practice. The human mind cannot accept the gospel of grace. It seems too simplistic. Surely God demands religious practice to prove and establish worthiness. Surely it cannot be that simple. But that is error. That is erroneous thought. Religious practice is “the way which seems right to a man.” It is the way that leads to death. What death you ask? The death of the spirit… death of real love for the Father. It is a symptom of the killing letter. Only the Holy Spirit, through the gospel of grace gives life to an otherwise dead corpse.

Now is the time… REPENT (change your mind/renew your mind) and believe the gospel of grace!


We will look at the other two errors in subsequent posts, and quite probably will add some insight into sanctification.                

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Declaring the ungodly righteous: A fresh look at total depravity

Romans 4:5 HCSB But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.

In the above passage of Romans, Paul is explaining and justifying imputed righteousness. I encounter so many evangelicals who are skeptical of imputed righteousness, yet, for humanity, imputed righteousness is the only available righteousness. Paul declares in the previous chapter in Romans that by the "works of the Law" NO ONE will be justified. So then, what does it mean "but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous?" It means that people must believe what God declares. This would begin with all that is recorded that God said. Genesis 1:31 HCSB "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day." All that he had made included humanity. God had declared humanity to be good. When Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden, it was because they thought that they were evil. Why did they think they were evil? It was because they did not believe God, and had partaken of the fruit. The serpent had promised Eve the fruit of the tree would make her wise. Paul explained it this way in Romans one..."claiming to be wise, they became fools." The knowledge of good and evil allowed them to doubt God. They were unwilling to accept God's way of being righteous.

Paul states that God's way is not found in having humanity be righteous by works of the law. God's way was to declare humanity righteous, simply because he was God, and he was the creator. Then, if one would simply believe God, God would in-turn credit that belief as righteousness. Words matter, and evangelical theology is so twisted that many times we make words of no effect with our traditions. John writes: John 1:29 HCSB "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" The word for world is kosmos and it means literally the world and everything in it. This includes ALL humans. If Calvinism, and Reformed theology was correct about election, this verse would read "who takes away the sin of the elect." However, that is not what was written. Here again we have a declaration of God uttered through the Prophet John the Baptist.  Jesus was the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the whole world. The question is, do you believe it?

Again, evangelical orthodox doctrine confuses sin and sins. Sin is unbelief. Sins are infractions of Old Covenant Law. Sins are merely a manifestation of a deeper reality. The deeper reality is SIN (unbelief.) The children of Israel of the Exodus, died in the wilderness because of un-belief. They did not believe God when promised them the land. They used the knowledge of good and evil, informed by their eyes and ears, and allowed the fear of what they saw, to prevent them from entering in, and taking the land that God had given them. I think that Total Depravity should be replaced by Total Inefficacy. The true state of the saint post fall is the inability to have faith without the aid of the Holy Spirit. One is not totally depraved, but totally in-efficacious. I think this change is demanded to accurately describe a life without the knowledge of the gospel of Christ. While I will admit that total inefficacy can lead to depraved behavior, even the best person, that tries to be positive and faithful, still has considerable doubt without the supernatural effect of the gospel assured by the Holy Spirit. I admit that the person that has believed the gospel can have doubt as well, but it is different as the Holy Spirit always wins out in the debate. At the end of the day, the one believing the gospel is confidently convinced that she/he is a child of God no matter what.

Even knowing that Jesus took away the SIN of the world, does not diminish the need for the gospel to be rehearsed and proclaimed over and over. It is the way in which the Holy Spirit supernaturally transforms. The one continually hearing the gospel of grace, develops such a deep love for God that it cannot help but transform their behavior. It saddens me so deeply that the main doctrine of evangelical Christianity, so pathetically misses the mark and so adversely misinforms the hearers.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Works of the flesh, or Spiritual Fruit?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance--as I told you before--that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23 HCSB)

It always amazes me how passages of scripture are totally ignored, especially in their context. Galatians chapter five is certainly no exception. This is a most important passage in its greater context, especially when asking the question that always follows the gospel. What question you ask? How then shall we live? Paul answers the question in verse 16: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16 HCSB) What I would like to unpack in this post is what it means to WALK in the Spirit. Paul clearly states that if one is walking in the Spirit they will NOT carry out the desires of the flesh. Why? I believe the answer to be a change of mind.

For the sake of clarity, let's look at the works of the flesh in a bullet list:

  • sexual immorality
  • moral impurity
  • promiscuity
  • idolatry
  • sorcery
  • hatreds
  • jealousy
  • outbursts of anger
  • selfish ambitions
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • drunkenness
  • carousing
  • all other things similar
When one looks at this list it should become OBVIOUS that much of evangelical doctrine and practice is way off the mark. Paul's main message in Galatians 5 is that the believer is NOT under the Law but under Grace! While he is speaking about circumcision, he is in reality speaking about every fleshly way of being made right before God. The list he gives however, is not an exhaustive list of the works of the flesh. He points out at the end, that it is EVERY fleshly endeavor. Every fleshly endeavor is a work of the flesh. The contrast he makes in verses 19-23 is the between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. First, look at the words works and fruit. Work is something one does and fruit is something that grows naturally.

Now then, if you look at what a new Christian is taught, you would think that the fruit of the Spirit is simply NOT DOING those things on the list. Further, you will find that evangelical doctrine puts most of the emphasis on just a few. The Christian right, seems to believe that selfish ambitions is a fruit of the Spirit, but that is for another post. Isn't it obvious, that all of our religious denominations are factions? That alone renders most of the efforts of evangelical Christianity as a work of the flesh. People in factions are NOT walking in the Spirit! Hmnn----interesting. In case you prefer a different version of the bible, Let me make clear that the Greek word Paul used for factions is hairesis which means sect, or faction.

Again for clarity, look at the fruit of the Spirit in a bullet list:
  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faith
  • gentleness
  • self-control
The fruit of the spirit is made up of qualities not actions. While it is true that the qualities will result in certain actions it is NOT action focused. I also think that fruit singular, and not fruits plural is very significant. They all emanate from truly believing the gospel.  First, it is caused from God's love for us found in Christ. It is in peace with the Father from believing the gospel of grace. This in-turn creates love for the Father, and joy from believing the gospel. The presence of the top three, love, joy, and peace, naturally produce all the rest. It makes the person believing the gospel patient, kind, good gentle, and it also provides self-control. However, it must come from faith in the gospel of grace. This is precisely why it is so important to make sure that the gospel is preached over and over; even to seasoned saints. It is also the reason that the continual preaching against sin is so ineffective, and why all the preachers who do so are so misguided.

This is why the Apostle Paul wrote that he was determined to know nothing among the saints except the gospel, Jesus Christ crucified. This is yet another proof of how far off the mark evangelical Christianity really is. It is also the reason that ALL that ever should be preached by preachers is the gospel. The Spirit uses the gospel to produce its fruit.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spiritual but not religious: Christianity and Mysticism

What is the difference between spirituality and religion? To jump off on this post we will look at definitions of both words:

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. A particular system of faith and worship.‘the world's great religions’

Spirituality: The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.‘the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way’ ‘a deep sense of spirituality that connects them to the natural environment’

You hear a lot of people these days saying that they are spiritual but not religious. I think that is equally true of many who claim to be Christian or are believers in Jesus Christ. In the 1970's I read a book by Maslow, entitled "Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. The point of the book was there were those who followed religion having vicarious experiences of others, and there were those, he called "peakers" who experienced spirituality on their own.

In my view, religion is the structure and form that a spiritual person uses to express their spirituality. Therefore, people who say they are spiritual but not religious really mean that they do not follow another's form of religion. Spirituality is personally experiential and religion is corporately experiential. So when you hear someone say they are spiritual but not religious, what they are saying in effect is my religion is solely experiential. Religion in and of itself is not bad or good. It is merely a way in which to acknowledge ones idea of God and the purpose of life/existence. 

The damaging aspect of religion comes into play when people are forced to follow without questioning, a leader, or a group. They are thereby, often times, forced to actually go against their spirituality to be acceptable to the standard of religion. Moreover, religion tends to give people creeds to believe, know and follow. By creeds I mean a formal set of beliefs that are necessary to adhere to by the group. It creates the atmosphere where there is orthodoxy and heresy. However, orthodoxy and heresy are merely two words that mean either acceptable by the group or not acceptable to the group. Think about that for a minute. Orthodoxy is merely a set of beliefs that have been deemed acceptable by the group.  Still it has such a profound strength for many within religion.

Here is something to consider. Jesus was not orthodox. Paul was not orthodox. Martin Luther was not orthodox. John Calvin was not orthodox. Zwingli, Tyndale, and Menno Simmons were not orthodox. In fact, all of those mentioned above were called heretics. Interesting! You should understand that heresy is merely a word. It is a word used to control and so is orthodoxy, it too is a word mean to control.

Here is something else to consider. A person can be profoundly religious and spiritual, and not conform to the demands of the group. Here is a passage of scripture that those who want to control your life and your purse ignore a lot.... But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don't need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true--it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. (1 John 2:27 NLT)

Yes indeed, the prime teacher of spirituality is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God. Each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is continually trying to produce spiritual fruit within us. The fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control.





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Friday, May 5, 2017

Jesus use of "this generation" in Matt 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13; Part 6

I have provided a list below of all of the verses in the New Testament with the word generation in them. If you take the time to read through all of them you will find that all of the verses except Matt 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32 definitely mean generation in the forty-year sense of children growing up and having children become of age. I also believe that is the meaning in the three verses I have cited, and have shown that to be the case in previous posts in this series. However, theologians throughout the history of the church have tried to preform linguistic gymnastics that remove the very plain sense of the text. Their reason for doing so is that they cannot see how all the things prophesied in these passages were fulfilled, and they find it necessary to change the meaning of generation in these three verses to keep the integrity of the New Testament writings.

I would like to draw attention to the verse below from Matthew 23: 36 I assure you: "All these things will come on this generation!" In Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking to the crowds assembled and his disciples, and he is upbraiding the Pharisees. Here he brings his harsh criticism to a climax: "and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn't have taken part with them in shedding the prophets' blood.' You, therefore, testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' sins! "Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell/Gehenna? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!" (Matthew 23:30-36 HCSB) He is not addressing a future generation of scribes and Pharisees, he is speaking specifically about that generation of scribes and Pharisees that is alive at his speaking.

It is really absurd to take three verses out of 28 and claim that generation there does not mean generation but rather it means "this kind" of people. It is also absurd to claim that it is the generation alive at the time of the end. So then, perhaps it would be wiser to find ways that all of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 were fulfilled. These three chapters are known as the little apocalypses. Take for example Jesus' words: Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell/Gehenna? When Jesus was speaking about Gehenna he WAS NOT referring to eternal torturous punishment, but rather, the impending judgment that was immediately to come on that generation. I have written a couple of blog posts on Jesus use of the word Gehenna that is translated here as hell. I am not suggesting that everyone is saved though as it is possible that some will simply be annihilated at death but he is definitely not referring to eternal torture as so many claim.

Here's the way I see it. I have had a long term personal relationship with Jesus spanning most of my life. I know he is real, and I know that the real gospel is true. Therefore, he cannot, as so many liberal theologians say just be plain wrong about this prophecy. The only alternative, is to try to find a way in which it all came to pass. Jesus, not some groups interpretation of the scripture is my focal point. Many of those that insist that he meant something other than "a generation" in the main definition of the world, do so because they are actually more interested in the integrity of the scripture than the integrity of Jesus. They insist that the end of the world has not come. That is true. But, Jesus was NOT predicting the end of the space time universe. He was predicting the end of the age. Most specifically, he was predicting the end of the age of the Mosaic Covenant with the replacement of it by the New Covenant. The Old Testament equates the Old Covenant with heaven and earth (Deu 4:26 & 30:19.) Heaven and earth is the witness of the covenant. Therefore, the "New Heaven and Earth" is a witness to the New Covenant. It is indeed that simple. The scripture is full of figurative language, and this is especially true of apocalyptic writing. Taking the plain simple interpretation is perilous when it comes to things like Heaven's being rolled up and fire rained down. And, not taking the simple plain interpretation of words like generation is equally perilous.

Here is my challenge: Read all the passages below, in context if you are willing, but read the verses for sure. Then ask yourself what did generation mean in each verse. Then look in the mirror and consider your integrity as a honest person.

The Verses in red show all the uses of generation in the New Testament:
Mat_11:16  "To what should I compare this generation? It's like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to each other: 
Mat_12:39  But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 
Mat_12:41  The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation; and look--something greater than Jonah is here! 
Mat_12:42  The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look--something greater than Solomon is here! 
Mat_12:45  Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man's last condition is worse than the first. That's how it will also be with this evil generation." 
Mat_16:4  An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." Then He left them and went away. 
Mat_17:17  Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 
Mat_23:36  I assure you: All these things will come on this generation! 
Mat_24:34  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 
Mar_8:12  But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, "Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!" 
Mar_8:38  For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." 
Mar_9:19  He replied to them, "You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me." 
Mar_13:30  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 
Luk_1:50  His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 
Luk_7:31  "To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 
Luk_9:41  Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here." 
Luk_11:29  As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: "This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 
Luk_11:30  For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 
Luk_11:31  The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look--something greater than Solomon is here! 
Luk_11:32  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation, and look--something greater than Jonah is here! 
Luk_11:50  so that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world -- 
Luk_11:51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. "Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible. 
Luk_17:25  But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 
Luk_21:32  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place. 
Act_2:40  And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, "Be saved from this corrupt generation!" 
Act_8:33  In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who will describe His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. 
Act_13:36  For David, after serving his own generation in God's plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 
Php_2:15  so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 
Heb_3:10  for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said, "They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways." 
Jud_1:14  And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones 


Monday, May 1, 2017

Jesus use of "this generation": Part 5

This is the fifth post in a series on Jesus use of the phrase "this generation." It is a phrase he used often throughout the synoptic gospels. The main reason for looking at this is to determine the most likely meaning when Jesus said it in Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32; Mark 13:30. In this post we will look at the passage posited below:

"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation; and look--something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look--something greater than Solomon is here!"
(Matthew 12:38-42 HCSB)

First off, let it be stated that Jesus did in fact come in the flesh to a specific generation. It was the generation of first century second temple Judaism. Secondly, when you look at the Old Testament, and when you see the word generation it is always the result of the Hebrew word DOR/dore. The meaning of DOR/dore is always a forty-year generation. And, it should be noted that in the Old Testament, much was made of the forty year period of a generation. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of the disobedience of a specific generation. Further, Jesus being a Jew, raised as a Torah Observant Jew, attending the Torah school that all young Jewish boys attended, it follows that his thought and speech patterns would be akin to first century, second temple Judaism. He would have a strong knowledge of Hebrew, Hebrew thought and language, and would be very familiar with the language of the Old Testament.

Secondly, when the text refers to the scribes and the Pharisees, it is actually referring to rabbis who spent their time studying, discussing and teaching the Torah and Tanakh (Old Testament.) So then, when he addresses them, and goes on to say that they are an evil and adulterous generation, he is directing their thought processes back to Deu 1:35. In Deu 1:35 the reference is definitively to a forty-year revolution of people. It is the pronouncing of the sentence on the unbelieving who would not enter the promised land. There is such a strong connection between the Old Testament promised land of Canaan and the spiritual promised land of Sabbath Rest. The writer of Hebrews devotes chapters three and four to this premise.

Thirdly, in the above text, Jesus is replying to their request for a sign. He very frankly states that they will be given no sign other than his death, burial, and most of all his resurrection. The Ninevites repented from the preaching of Jonah and they (this generation) have a greater than Jonah in their midst. Further, the Queen of Sheba will stand in judgment of them (this generation) as she came seeking King Solomon, and a much greater King than Solomon was in their midst. One by one as we look at Jesus references to "this generation" we will see that he meant a generation of forty-years.

Now then, it becomes absurd when theologians try to jump through linguistic hoops to deny that Jesus meant that whenever he used the phrase "this generation" and most especially, in  Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32; Mark 13:30. I am convinced that whenever Jesus spoke the words translated as "this generation' he meant the forty-year revolution of time that makes a Jewish generation.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Jesus' use of this generation and this evil generation; Return of an unclean spirit Matt 24, Luke 21, and Mk 13 Part 4

I have been doing a series on Jesus use of this generation in the synoptic gospels. Specifically his use of this phrase in the little apocalypse Matt 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. Below, is another verse where he uses "this evil generation" which is a reference back to Deu 1:35. There is a connection between the generation that perished in the wilderness in Moses time, and the generation alive at Jesus time, both missed the promised land of rest... for those in Deuteronomy it was Canaan, and in Jesus day, HE was the "Sabbath Rest" their land of promise (Hebrews 3 & 4.)

However, in the following passage, we see that they could not rest as they were busy sweeping their own places clean but it just made a space for more evil and self effort. 

"When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn't find any. Then it says, 'I'll go back to my house that I came from.' And returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man's last condition is worse than the first. That's how it will also be with this evil generation." 
(Matthew 12:43-45 HCSB)

Who was the audience that Jesus spoke too, and who was the evil generation that he was addressing? There are often essential questions one must ask when reading scripture. Let me answer my two essential questions. Jesus was always speaking to Jews, under the Mosaic Covenant. So then, the evil generation he addressed was the generation living at his advent. Also, it was made up of religious, Torah observant Jews. The evil generation was not the unbelieving Gentiles. It was not the decadent Romans. The evil generation was the religious Jews that had their Messiah walking in their midst and did not recognize him for who he was. Further, they were the unbelieving Torah observant Jews who used their Torah to prove that he was not the Messiah... "Then the temple police came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why haven't you brought Him?" The police answered, "No man ever spoke like this!" Then the Pharisees responded to them: "Are you fooled too? Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, which doesn't know the law, is accursed!" 
(John 7:45-49 HCSB)

This evil generation was an unbelieving generation. Unbelief was the ultimate evil. God had sent Jesus. He had distinguished and set him apart with signs and wonders. He used the miraculous to set him apart, and the scribes and Pharisees; the ones who sat in Moses Seat, did not believe. The writer of Hebrews in chapter three and four establishes the similitude between unbelief and sin. If you read the chapters that develop the real meaning of the "Sabbath Rest," it will become crystal clear, that for the writer of Hebrews sin, disobedience, and unbelief were synonymous.  That is the real evil that came into the world from the garden, unbelief. It was unbelief that caused death to enter into the world. In real terms, death was a gift. The LORD God said, "Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever." 
(Genesis 3:22 HCSB) Yes, death was a gift as it did not condemn humanity to live perpetually in unbelief. This is a profound thought that needs some unpacking. Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and he was purposed for redemption from BEFORE the foundation of the world. It is clear then that God, before creation, had devised a plan that would allow people to once again partake of the tree of life.

I find it interesting that so many evangelicals, especially Pentecostals, make Matt 12:43-45 about demonic possession when it is clearly about self righteous religion. That is the focus that Jesus was speaking about with the evil generation. They were trying to overcome death by religious effort. God had declared humanity good in Genesis 1:31 and Jesus was willing to die to prove it by being resurrected from the dead. Faith in the resurrection brings peace with Father God, and transforms the heart with love. This is why it is so important to present the pristine gospel that Paul and the first century saints proclaimed. It is also important to realize that when Jesus spoke of "this generation," he was speaking of the generation alive at his first coming.


Friday, April 21, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 3

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 

(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

This is the third post in this series. You can find the first one here and the second one here. I would suggest that you read all three but it is not necessary to to read the others before reading this. However, after reading this you may want to go back and read the other two.

How do we interpret what we read. Yes, the question is a valid one. All written material has to be interpreted. Some is more straight forward, and less open to varying interpretations, and some is more obtuse, and thereby open to multiple interpretations. There are several things to consider. Who was the intended audience? What was the writer trying to convey? Was there literary devices used? What would the intended audience understand the writing to mean? I think it is safe to assume that the writings that comprise the New Testament were written to the first century audience unless it is expressly explained to be more universal. Am I saying that the messages cannot have a timeless universal meaning, absolutely not. However, I most definitely am saying that they WERE NOT specifically written to us or any generations before us or after us except for the first century church.

Yet, that is precisely how so much theology is determined. It is as though the scripture was written to us here in the 21st century. However, Jesus said these words, to his disciples, as he was leaving the temple. I have shown so far that the questions asked by his disciples tied his "this generation" directly to the destruction of the temple which took place in 70AD, and that his use of "this generation" / haute genea was most likely, the forty-year generation alive at the time he said it, similar to the forty-year generation that died in the wilderness in Moses Day.

Here is a chart I made a few years ago that illustrates how I think that Jesus indeed could have meant this generation as the forty-year generation alive at this speaking:


The above timeline is the record of redemptive history that coincides with the biblical narrative. It shows a little over six thousand years of history recorded in the bible. I realize that some of you may believe the world is much older than six thousand years, and quite frankly so do I, yet this makes a coherent illustration no matter the time from creation to Abraham.

There are however, several salient points to be made. First and foremost let's look at the Mosaic Covenant. It makes up a rather small piece of the timeline given all of the emphasis that is attached to the Law. I find that surprising in view of current evangelical and orthodox doctrine about the importance of law righteousness. What should be even more glaring on this timeline is the small, almost bullseye nature of the two top most periods. I am referring to the orange time of all the prophets, and the red span of the Christ event from Antiochus Ephiphanes to the destruction of the temple. The prophets make their prophecies in the orange period, and they come to fruition in the red period. That is almost like a bulls eye and if the timeline was stretched out proportionally, they would indeed be mere bulls eyes on an enormously long line.

This is especially interesting in light of Jesus words in the little apocalypse: "So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place" (let the reader understand)," (Matthew 24:15 HCSB) Especially when you read the Apocrypha Book, (1 Maccabees 1:54 KJV-1611)  "Now the fifteenth day of the moneth Casleu, in the hundreth fourtie and fift yeere, they set vp the abomination of desolation vpon the Altar, and builded idole altars throughout the cities of Iuda, on euery side:" So, since First Maccabees was known in Jesus time, he was aware of the passage in 1Maccabees 1:54, He was aware that the scribes and Pharisees believed that Aniochus was the abominator, and I think that is exactly why he said "let the reader understand." It was abominated by Antiochus Ephiphanes in 167BC but it would not be desolated until 70AD, still forty-years (one-generation... this generation) in the future. So, it is very likely that the abomination of desolation was not one event but a series on that bulls eye of the timeline.

There are other things to be gleaned from the above chart but we'll let this settle in for this time.






Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 2

This is the second post in this series. You can find the first one here

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 
(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

In this post we will look at the word generation as it was used in the Greek in the first century. The word is genea. But for starters, since generation is in an English translation of the bible let's look at the definition in English first, here is the definition on Wikipedia. It is not that I find Wikipedia exceptionally reliable in information, but this definition articulates what I believe to be the common meaning when one hears this generation. generation is "all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively." It can also be described as, "the average period, generally considered to be about thirty years, during which children are born and grow up, become adults, and begin to have children of their own." These two definitions sum it up.

Secondly, and this is important... Jesus was a Jew, he was familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, and also the Septuagint which was the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek. So then, it is very important to see the use of the Greek word genea in the Septuagint. When I do a search of the Old Testament for the word generation, I find that it is always translated from the Hebrew word dor. Interestingly, it has the same meaning as the second definition in Wikipedia. That is, dor is a generation of thirty to forty years, and in Hebrew though it was forty years as signified by the forty year span that the disobedient Hebrews had to roam the desert without making it into the promised land.'

So then, even though Greek would allow the usage of genea to sometimes be a nation, that would not be the likely use that Jesus would use. Especially when one looks at Jewish hermeneutical devices. The first century Rabbi's often used words that would take one back to a former passage of scripture. That was a common device in first century Judea, and is everywhere in the new testament. So, when Jesus said. this evil generation he was bringing to remembrence "None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers," (Deuteronomy 1:35 HCSB) He did not just make this statement once but several times. It can be found in Matt 12:39,45; Matt 16:4 & Luke 11:29. It becomes very clear that for two reasons, one that the Septuagint only translated dor as genea, and secondly, that He referred back to Deu 1:35 when he used the word genea, that he would mean dor when he spoke about this generation. Especially in view of the fact that each and every time he said "this generation" he was being critical.

The other reason that theologians use to show that he did not mean the current generation when he said "this generation" is so weak that it is actually absurd when you hear it given. They say that he did not mean the current generation but rather the generation dor alive at the time of the end. Why would he even say that? Of course, it is obvious that at the end of the world, the end of the space time continuum, the generation alive then would see it come to fruition. When you stop and think about it, that argument is idiotic at best, but worse than that, it is deceptive to try to put a spin on the statement because of the fear that it did not come to pass and then one has a dilemma of large proportions. But, there is another solution. One that keeps the integrity of the prophecy.

I am not like the atheists. I do not think that Jesus' prophecy failed. I think it came to pass just the way he meant it but, since people want to stick to a strictly literal translation of the things said in the little apocalypse, they cannot accept that it indeed was fulfilled in the generation of the first century Jews that were contemporary with Jesus. However, it most definitely was!

We will look into this further next time....



Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he...