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

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 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.


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....

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 1

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

This is the favorite verse of atheists. They use that to show that Jesus' prophecy did not come to pass and discredit him. There are several meanings that theologians have used to explained what He meant. Yes, they are conflicting. So, there is uncertainty in the real meaning of the passages that theologians have labeled the "little apocalypse." This is especially true when one takes the plain simple meaning of the text. Anyone who is honest would have to admit that it appears at first blush that Jesus referred to the generation alive at the time of his speaking, which would have meant within forty years at the most.

It all boils down to the meaning of the Greek word genea which is translated as "this generation." According to Strong's Greek Lexicon, it can mean either generation or nation. These two meanings account for all of the various interpretations out there. In a nutshell, it is thought to be this nation shall not pass away, or this generation alive at the time of the end will not pass away, or there are those who believe that it is the forty-year generation alive at the time of Jesus.

My answer to this interpretative conundrum is that he indeed meant the forty-year generation alive at the time he spoke. This of course has implications that tend to fly in the face of orthodoxy, but that should not alarm any of my regular readers as I challenge orthodoxy all the time.  It is however very important to unbelievers and believers alike.  We will look at this from several angles, but the first one that I would like to deal with is this: what was the question from his disciples that he was answering? This is an important question in establishing meaning as it provides context for the meaning of this generation.

"Teacher," they asked Him, "so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" 
(Luke 21:7 HCSB)

"While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?" 
(Matthew 24:3 HCSB)

"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?" 
(Mark 13:4 HCSB)

The statement that begat each of the above questions was as follows; Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!" (Mark 13:2 HCSB) So then to be clear, the event predicted is the destruction of the temple. It is fair to say then that Jesus answer, has to be seen tied to the destruction of the temple. The time frame is indeed the destruction of the temple. Many of those who speak of this bring up Matthew 24:3 and claim that it is tied to the end of the space time universe. This is largely because of the fact that the King James Version reads "your coming and the end of the world." However notice that in the other two accounts, the only question asked is when will these things take place. What things? Since Jesus only mentioned the destruction of the temple, it is imperative to see that they were asking the question based on the destruction of the temple.

So why was "his coming" and the end of the age mentioned in the Matthew account and not mentioned in Luke and Mark? I believe the answer is fairly strait forward and simple. Luke and Mark were written to a Gentile audience, and Matthew was written mostly for the Jews. The Jews alone, based upon Daniel prophecies were looking for the end of the age. Let's be clear that the end of the age in no way was considered to be the end of the space-time continuum by the first century Jews. Likewise, his coming, was considered only by the Jews as "a coming" in judgment against his enemies, in which he would make his enemies his footstool. This was based upon all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Therefore, one could legitimately say that they were only asking about the destruction of the temple also. The only difference was that they included the destruction of the temple with the prophesied judgment, and the end of the age. All three accounts of the question his disciples asked were before any apocalyptic language was introduced.

The most important thing to consider in this first post is that the entire conversation was linked directly to the destruction of the temple and cannot be removed from that event. I have not yet mentioned genea and its use but will in subsequent posts.

You can read Part 2 Here

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The obviously cultural aspects of the scripture; Paul the Rabbi/Paul the Mystic Part 2

This post is turning into a series. I am building on the theme that the scripture has cultural bias in it. Further, and more to the point, God did not mean for these biases to be legislated into belief and practice in perpetuity. After reading this, I would suggest you read the first post in the series here if you have not already done so. There are sound, biblical reasons for this. They center on what Jesus taught his followers about scripture interpretation, and what they in turn passed on in the writings that form the New Testament scripture. Jesus' focus was two fold. It was for the immediate future, his death, burial and resurrection, but also, it was more timeless, meant for a time, when the true meaning of his death burial and resurrection would be revealed. Paul referred to it as a mystery.

Likewise, Paul's mission was two fold. 1) He was to take his extensive Rabbi training, and make sense out of the gospel from a Jewish perspective and Jewish tradition. 2) He was a mystic, and given revelation that even he did not completely understand. That is why he called the gospel a mystery. The evidence of his rabbinical training is obvious. He was a student of Gamaliel; He continued, "I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today," (Acts 22:3 HCSB) Here is the other side of Paul, Paul the Mystic, "Boasting is necessary. It is not profitable, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don't know, God knows. I know that this man--whether in the body or out of the body I don't know, God knows-- was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4 HCSB)

I will expand on Paul the Rabbi - Paul the Mystic as time goes on but for this purpose, I want to make sure that it is obvious that God used Paul the Rabbi to explain how the Jewish Messiah, was actually, the Spiritual Messiah of all humanity, and He accomplished that through Paul the Mystic. Paul the Rabbi was for the first century. Paul the Mystic was for the future. The message that is timeless is Paul's mystical visions. The cultural aspects written about by Paul the Rabbi were for the first century and quite frankly need to be left there.

One of the more important mystical discoveries of Paul was the relationship of Law and Grace. As a rabbi he had been trained in the Law in great detail. He learned that even though God had commanded Law righteousness, it could not be attained. "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them." (Romans 10:5 HCSB) However, God had promised in Deuteronomy 30 a new covenant outcome, and Paul is given the actual meaning of Deu 30:14. It was never the plain sense simple meaning. Rather it was ALWAYS the redemptive meaning... the meaning that was given it before the foundation of the world (Ephesians chapter 1.) "On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim(Romans 10:8 HCSB)" This is a quote from Deu 30. Paul explains the message they are preaching.  And what precisely is that message? "If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13 HCSB)

So, it is clear that we have Paul the rabbi, dealing with the cultural aspects of Judaism, and the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God and His Kingdom, and we have Paul the mystic receiving timeless messages that explain the relationship God desires with all people. The legal aspect is the cultural, and the redemptive aspect is the mystical. Since Jesus taught a hermeneutic that was heavily redemptive in focus, and Paul did as well, that should be the ONLY focus of Christ followers. Whether you call them Christians, the church, the way, the believers by any name, should be taught a solely redemptive focus, and the cultural aspects should be left for the culture and occasion they were written too.  While the cultural can have timeless application, the problem comes in when the scripture is viewed as a legal-constitutional document.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Resurrection Life: a 24/7/365 reality!

Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You." "Your brother will rise again," Jesus told her. Martha said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die--ever. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world."
(John 11:21-27 HCSB)

Most of the Jews in second temple Judaism at the turn of the first century believed in the resurrection at the end of the age. They were expecting the end of the age. One of the main reasons for this was Daniel's "seventy-weeks" prophecy. The reason being they knew they were living in the time of fruition and fulfillment for that prophecy. They were expecting the end of the age, and Ola Ha Bah, the beginning of the age to come.

Yet in this passage of John's gospel, Jesus makes a very important statement. The statement does not get much notice for what it really was. The reason is that no one seems to think that he meant what he said and are awaiting a future fulfillment.  However, what he actually says to Martha is profound. He says... look here Martha, you all are awaiting for the resurrection. You expect a day of resurrection at the end of the age. Let me explain something to you.... "I'm the resurrection! I am shortly going to be living proof of the resurrection. I am going to be resurrected and it will be for the purpose of resurrecting everyone else." Anyone in this time who dares believe that I am the resurrection will surely never die. 

Furthermore, this is a redemptive decree. I have mentioned those in past posts. A redemptive decree is one that is stated in such a way that if it is not exactly the truth, not exactly the way in which something will happen, then, it is simply a false decree. Jesus is saying here; "The Resurrection" is not future to my resurrection. My resurrection IS THE RESURRECTION." Well, was this true? Let's look at another passage that is completely overlooked by most because it does not fit well with their theological systems of thought.

But the rest said, "Let's see if Elijah comes to save Him!" Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. 
(Matthew 27:49-53 HCSB)

It is clear from this passage that the saints dead at the time of His resurrection were in fact resurrected. Do we believe that? When you google this passage and land on www.gotquestions.org you find that they say that this was a partial resurrection to show the power of Jesus... HA, says who? There is nothing that suggests that this was partial.... it was just reported about the saints in Jerusalem but no where does it say that not ALL of the saints dead were resurrected that day. That like so much of evangelical doctrine is a theological construct. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How the Holy Spirit Transforms Believers; The operation of the gospel Part 2

The biggest lie that Satan has ever perpetrated on God's people is that once one is born again, the Holy Spirit, enables one to live the Law. This is definitely so far from truth that it has absolutely no basis in reality! Yet, it is the most popular and repeated concept in the sanctification process. It does a lot of irreparable harm. In the first post in this series I explained how the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to transform saints. How many times have you ever heard that proclaimed from a pulpit? Likely never!

When one reads the New Testament it should be easy to see that it is the gospel that the Holy Spirit uses to transform the believer. The problem is with the legal constitutional reading of scripture. It is viewed by way too many as a rule-book. This view of the scripture diminishes the gospel as the KEY transforming message. As I stated above, look at all the passages that demonstrate that the gospel, good news, God's grace, is in reality the transforming catalyst.

  1. Titus 2:11-13 HCSB For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, (12) instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, (13) while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  2. Romans 2:4 NKJV  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
  3. James 2:13 NKJV  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
  4. 1 John 4:10 NKJV  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
  5. Romans 6:14 NKJV  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
  6. John 1:17 NKJV  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
All of the above passages clearly show that the gospel of grace is the transforming power. The Holy Spirit uses God's grace to cause love for God established by the peace one has with God based upon the gospel message.

The book or Romans is such a clear example of how this works. Paul spends eight chapters of Romans explaining the gospel of grace in precise detail, he then takes three chapters to explain why the Jews are loosing out on the gospel and the Gentiles are included. However, even in Romans 9-11 Paul ends with a glorious proclamation about God's grace and how God is watching over Israel. Then... in Romans 12:1-2 Paul brings the argument to its conclusion. He says, I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God.... He is saying, I just spent a lot of time writing about the gospel, and the goodness and graciousness of God, and now, I am begging you by God's mercy to love God in such a way as to present yourselves a living sacrifice. This whole argument gets lost in the legal constitutional reading of the scripture.

It is a shame, that when one attends most churches, listens to most sermons, reads most evangelical books, that they never hear how the gospel via the Holy Spirit is the transformation catalyst. The read and do, legal approach is found NOWHERE in any of the epistles. Hearing the gospel message over and over produces the peace and love which allows the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bring about love for God that ultimately results in increased obedience, that is, the person grows closer to the image of Christ. Again, the letter kills, while the Spirit gives life!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How the Holy Spirit Transforms Believers; The operation of the gospel Part 1

I would like to begin a new series on the way in which the Holy Spirit transforms the believer. It is a well established fact that the Holy Spirit is the vehicle for transforming saints, but there is not a lot written about how the Spirit does it. The short answer is the Spirit uses the gospel. However, if you would ask the average evangelical, while they would tell you that the Holy Spirit is the transforming force, they would not be able to explain the operation short of saying, well the Holy Spirits enables saints to obey the commandments. But is that true? Is that what Paul and the other writers of the New Testament taught? I absolutely think not.

Here is an interesting verse that may open up our understanding a little better. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NASB "(15) So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." There was word of mouth teaching going on in the first century. That only makes sense, but think about how much of the teaching in your current church setting is word of mouth. Most right? Of-course! No matter how much your pastor or teacher sticks to the scripture, the bulk of every teaching is explanation that is word of mouth. Moreover, it is word of mouth based on the traditions and presuppositions that he or she has been taught. It is little wonder then that Paul would write about traditions that were taught by word of mouth as well as epistle. You can bet the farm that there was a lot more word of mouth than epistles.

Let's look a little deeper in the the passage in Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 NASB "(13) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (14) It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15) So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." The letter/epistle explains it well, but let me unpack it a little... let me expand with what the actual word of mouth interpretation of the passage would be. So, we see first that they were chosen from the beginning for sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the gospel. Yes, when Paul writes faith in the truth, he is speaking of faith in the "word of truth" which he defined as the gospel in Ephesians 1:13. It is the gospel that allows one to gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, how does it operate you ask? The gospel brings peace with Father God. It brings peace because one is accepted in Christ, completely forgiven, has been imputed the righteousness of Christ, God is no longer counting trespasses, but rather, has reconciled humanity to Himself through Christ. Paul said in Romans 5, "therefore, being justified by faith you have peace with God." Imagine that, having shalom with God. Peace with God is the foundation for transformation. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel message to create a sense of peace with God. That is the first and most important step in the transformation process.

Now then, follow on along this train of thought.... once a person believes the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, once one believes that they have peace with the Father based on Christ alone, at that moment, they begin to genuinely love God... How did John say it? Herein is love, not that we love God but that he loved us and sent His Son as a propitiation for our sin. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel message to give us peace with God and then as we believe the message, the Holy Spirit begins to generate within us a genuine love for God. Loving God for real.... not just saying so because we know it is a command, but because we believe the gospel. We believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting sin. How can you not love God when you focus on that gospel truth? I'll bet right now as you read this, there is a feeling of warm peace welling up in your bosom, that is bringing about a transforming love for God.... You are witnessing the way in which the Holy Spirit transforms... you are experiencing it even as you read on. Yes, it is just this simple.

This is why the Law kills and the Spirit gives life! When you believe the gospel you are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately too many preachers think you need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can enable you to obey the Law. That is a lie from Satan and his minions! In order for the Holy Ghost to transform you by the gospel... you have to continually hear the gospel... is that what you hear most of the time in most churches? Absolutely NOT! Most of the time you hear the killing letter... you should be starting to see clearly. We'll stop for now and continue on later.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The obviously cultural aspects of the scripture; Who would think for a minute, that the first century Roman Empire would be God's model society?

When one demands a legal-constitutional reading of the scripture for all time forward, I wonder, does one ever stop to think that the first century Roman Empire or first century Judaism is probably not God's ideal culture? It makes me shake my head in dis-belief. The Old Testament (the law and the prophets) was clearly a legal constitutional document for Old Covenant Israel. I get that. However, Jesus and his first century followers that wrote the New Testament brought the focus from legal-constitutional to the story of redemption. In other words it was shifted to a timeless theme. The focal point being Father God's desire to have a close relationship with his children.

Egalitarianism was not understood, nor for that matter, a part of the conversation of the first century culture. I am not the overlord of my wife by virtue of my plumbing. The true gospel does not operate on compulsion. Here is the gospel.... 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." No one thinks that because the scripture says that "he is a new creation" that women are not included in this gospel promise. It would be absurd to believe that. Yet, because of the time in history, because of the cultural way of speaking and writing Paul used "he." Of course we know it as a universal term that includes all of humanity both male and female. Paul was not saying, "hey there, all you men, be reconciled to God." No, Paul was saying, anyone hearing my words, anyone reading these words, male or female, "be reconciled to God." Still, the language used is male-centric, and if one was to take it literally, one would have to conclude that the gospel only applies to men. IT WAS CULTURAL!!! This was not God's ideal culture. It was the culture he worked with to bring forth the gospel.

My point here is that a culture cannot express ideas that are foreign to it. Can you imagine what one would have written and said back in the first century had they seen a vision of a 2017 automobile? Since they have nothing within their culture to compare it too, or describe it by, they could not describe it. We do a disservice to God when we assume that the cultural admonitions in the scripture are his endorsed ideal. However, when one insists on a legal constitutional reading of scripture, it cannot be escaped. Things in scripture that were cultural become a legislated ideal with a legal constitutional reading

So then, the important message of the scripture is found in the above passage. It is a message that if believed will bring peace and love to the individual. When one realizes that God made Christ who knew no sin to be made sin on our behalf, and further made it so we could be the righteousness of God in him, then one cannot help but love God based upon grace. Love for God in turn enables love for others supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit, but only so long as one focuses on redemption and grace. As Paul wrote, when it becomes a legal document, it kills the spirit.

The point of this post is that it is only common sense that much of what was written by inspired writers was cultural. It reflected the cultural advancement of the time in which it was written. If you are familiar with Spiral Dynamics, you would realize that the NT writings were written during the blue traditional stage of the development of culture. This is precisely why it is important to limit ones view of scripture to a redemptive focus. According to Jesus and his first century followers it was the redemptive narrative. This reflected in John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45.

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,...