Thursday, September 9, 2010

Answer to an Age Old Question About the Violent Old Testament

For centuries, those wishing to dismiss the Holy Scriptures as unholy and insignificant, have approached faith and belief with what they believe are 'unanswerable' questions, and they can fell even the best Bible student. Most often though, their questions are slightly skewed, and taking a hint from the serpent in the Garden, they misquote scripture and misrepresent what really occurred or what God said.


In the Bible Study Blog: Judahsglory.blogspot.com, we have recently looked at some standard objections which friendly or not-so-friendly heathen raise in attempts to undue faith. The particular question today though, I chose to answer in 'Warsofisrael.blogspot.com' because it deals at least in part with the wars in the Old Testament.


The question, often found among skeptics and on college campuses, goes something like this: OK well if the Bible is so good then why in the Old Testament are there so many wars, and slavery where it says to kill everybody but keep the female children: is that supposed to be good? Did Jesus say he fulfilled the Law? If he did....


Getting a Few Things Straight


1. There is a difference in the Old and New Testament between what God condones and what is merely DESCRIBED. The bloody and bloodless wars of Israel are sometimes ordered by God and sometimes occur.


2. If one notices in the wars of Israel in which the Children of Israel leave Goshen in Egypt, and march back home to Canaan, they are leaving under a God ordained and anointed Leader, Moses [Moshe] and the are going to Canaan in OBEDIENCE to God. Except by command, they are not imperialistic in the traditional sense:

a. The Land is the birthright established by Abraham, and ordained by God: they technically still own it.

b. While in Goshen, it has been overrun by violent brutal people, who have made it a grotesque slaughterhouse. Sodomy and rape are rampant, and the 'ites' [Perrezites, Amorites, Ammonites, Raphaites, etc] are known for wanton beheadings and mutilation, and even acts of cannibalism, and infant sacrifice.

c. When Israel confronts the encampments and cities which have overrun their original land, most often, if allowed to pass, they take up no arms at all against the people. The fear of a nation of a million and a half marching back to their land after the deliverance from Pharaoh and the Red Sea, and word of their victories in the necessary battles for their safety, often self-defense, causes many to let them pass. An example is when the prophet Balaam is called by Balak to curse Israel, willing to pay and honor him for the curse, and instead, Balaam can only praise and exalt Israel. In the meantime, Israel in the desert is described as a crouching lion:


Num 23:7 And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, [saying], Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.

Num 23:8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, [whom] the LORD hath not defied?

Num 23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.

Num 23:10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth [part] of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

Num 23:11 And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed [them] altogether.

] Num 23:12 And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?


and the blessing shows the way the cities viewed Israel:


Num 23:21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God [is] with him, and the shout of a king [is] among them.

Num 23:22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Num 23:23 Surely [there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!

Num 23:24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat [of] the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

Num 23:25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.

Num 23:26 But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?


Note that Balak, the King of Moab, doesn't LIKE what Balaam declares but also doesn't doubt it: they look out on the million in the desert, and understand that God's favor is with them, and that they could easily take the 'thousands' of Moab, and that no appeal to idols is of any avail. Israel is on the march, but en route, they mostly do not trouble those who did not oppose or threaten them.


3. Of the wars that Israel fought, a few really were bloodbaths. Many though, were fought or averted by the wisdom and intervention of God. For example:


Benhadad beseiges Samaria, and a horrible famine threatens the destruction of the city. Syria is encamped in the desert, but Elisha is caused, and the enemy is caused to flee by some unreasoned fear:


2Ki 7:5 And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, [there was] no man there. 2Ki 7:6 For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, [even] the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.


Another time, there is a crimson glint on the water in the morning which causes a formidable enemy to be taken, but in defense:

2Ki 3:20 And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.

2Ki 3:21 And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.

2Ki 3:22And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side [as] red as blood: 2Ki 3:23 And they said, This [is] blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.


Now in this and other wars, there is bloodshed, and sometimes a lot (the bloodiest battle was a civil war in Israel between the tribe of Benjamin and the other 11 tribes) but one hardly faults any nation in self defense or even God's direction. Gideon and his band of 300 ready warriors, takes 30,000 Midianites which threaten Israel with the slaughter of their women and little ones, not by a great confrontation,but by the notable prophetic 'cleverness' so entrenched in Israeli history: as directed, the men surround the valley where the Midianites encamp, and shout, break a vessel with a light in it, and terrify the Midianites into flight: Israel then pursues.


In some modern liberal thinking, which in one sense is right, and in another is naive, there is the notion that on earth God never wants nor involves himself in war. God is a God of peace, his very name on one account is Jehovah-Shalom or Yahweh-Shalom, and Jesus is called "Sar Shalom", Prince of Peace. Why then would God direct war?


War, is of course in essence, not right and not of God. That has always been the case: from the 7th day when God rested, His peace and rest were clearly declared. By the time though that war rose against Israel, war was in the world, not by God, but by men, and often by brutal men.


Judaism, or Christianity, or better, belief and true faith in "The One who Is" [Iam] begins in and in departing from Eden: faith is the issue in the promised of Genesis 3:16, the one who will 'crush the head of the serpent', or in the troubling of Abel by Cain, the first mentioned murderer who murders not over boundaries but over jealousy. Man and the curse of the Fall, bring in war and murder, not God.


Why then would God command war? In a dissensioned world, there is only one way back to God: faith and covenant. If one were directing a parade from a perch above, and when all in the parade listened to instructions, then the parade takes place in an ordered fashion. Such was the world in obedience to God. However, if one or a few started trying to lead from the street, lying about the director, causing all to go their own way, chaos would soon break out in warring factions, in crazy marches , music out of time and step, and cacaphony and confusion. The only hope would be to try and hear what the real director was saying, and get 'back in step' with the way it was supposed to go from the beginning. If a tuba player started running through the crowd wielding an axe or machete, or even a weapon that would kill many, would it be wrong for the Director to communicate defense against that one or group who were causing the ruin of the way and every one in it? It would be far more wrong to stop directing traffic. If in perfection, everyone would listen to our leader, God, then all 'parades' would go smoothly, but we can all attest few listen to God or even seek him anymore.


By the time Israel encountered war (the first is the war of the five kings who take Lot captive and Abraham fights to free him), Abraham, a man of peace, who came to Moreh and Shechem onthe plains of Mamre in peace, takes up arms and so do his servants, and yet we call him the father of Faith. In a perfect world, and as often as possible in an imperfect world, war is to be avoided. Some have the faith and strength to do that, even to the loss of their own lives.


A greater issue was at stake though, in the wars of Israel: the Chosen people, were created as the 'head' of nations and people on earth: they bear God's glory, they bear God's Word as his oracle, they bear his Messiah, etc, and the line of the Vine had to be protected, so that many, both Jew and Gentile could be saved, and in the end, so that communion with God, Paradise and the New Jerusalem could come to fruition, and all made right.


If Israel as a nation had disappeared to slaughter in those years, there would have been no Messiah, no Word, and no Healing of the world and peoples: the brutal nations who wrongfully inhabited the plains, had already made life unlivable for all, and the one healing vine possible was Israel back in the land, from whom Messiah would come to apply the blood covenant necessary to bring the whole thing back into health: the 'stick' in the bitter waters of Marah.


Judaeo-Christian belief is truly not a violent path or belief: atheists and agnostics always love to point to the crusade or inquisition as evidence of Christian violence, but those endeavors were a product of the 'Holy Roman Empire' and its perversion of the true church. This is no empty defense: religion is not 'relationship'. Religious wars come from the heart of man not from the heart of God. The reason we rush to 'slaughter unbelief' is a carnal one, from an 'evil heart of concupiscence' and not from the direction of God. The wars in the Old Testament which were bloody wars, and directed of God, were not showing God's violent nature, but his sorrowful knowledge of the only way of preserving His Way in the World, so that eventually things could be healed. When they sought him and listened through the word and the prophets, they often won with lesser or no bloodshed.


If God had said to Israel, 'my ways are always peace', or 'lay down your weapons and let them slaughter you': the world would probably have ceased before now. In WWII, when so few listened or sought Him, and the slaughter of the Chosen was great on the doorstep of Israel being returned, we almost lost the whole world. The Love of God, the Tender mercies of God, as C.S. Lewis once noted, at times are severe. Only God can use the dispensation of 'means to an end' logic, because He knows the future. Only God can direct the taking of life without punishment: it is because He is the Creator. The 'violent' Old Testament seems so only if we fail to remember the violence posed against them by Rome in the first century or after: Rome was never held as the plumbline for faith, but is portrayed as a whore on a scarlet beast in the end, drunk with the blood of martyrs.


In Heaven , in the New Jerusalem, under the perfect reign of God, which starts with belief, wars cease.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You Can't Believe the Bible: It's Just a "Book": How do you answer?



When I was a full time college student and later a university professor, when someone asked me about the Bible and whether I believed in it, I caustically answered as many university faculty members would, no, and when asked why I would give the stock answer without thought: "It's just a book written by men". I was not a believer then, mostly an agnostic when I gave God much thought, and religion was ridiculed on almost every campus I ever taught at save for one seminary and one church-related school.

The discussion never went terribly far, mostly because the only people I ever had even broach the subject were students who were not brave enough to take on a college professor about their faith, or perhaps worried about the consequences. While I was pretty fair in grading, and would not have done such a thing, I cannot say that there was not some reason for trepidation, for some might have 'halo-effected' the Christian student, as many former colleagues consider all of Christianity sort of 'moronic' mostly because that is the level of knowledge they hold about the faith: they cannot imagine that 'faith' could be intelligent, as they arrogantly ascribe it to the realm of archetype and fairy tale.

My faith, though, started with a few 'observations' but was brought into being by the Word of God. It was certainly not by some of the people who first talked to me about salvation, for they did little more than drive me farther away. People can tell when one is 'after them' with an agenda, or uses some sort of 'gimmick' as though Salvation and Jesus were a hard sell.

Being coerced once into reading the 'four spiritual laws', even after salvation I have had a distaste for easy abc 123 approaches to witnessing, or in college being asked in order, "What's your major", "Do you go to church". Those questions and techniques made me run in the opposite direction because they were terribly uncomfortable, and because while well meaning, coming to Christ in covenant and belief is not a debate or a convincing argument, on the level of human reason, but is on a different level of divine reason, reached by faith. Even harping on the particular sins many people commit, while one may mention forgiveness, what many people hear is condemnation. The Great Commission did not send us to argue people into Jesus and church membership, but to lift up Christ the Messiah, for all to see, that He might draw all men unto him. Preaching does that, healing does that, living our lives even silently but obediently does that, and genuinely just telling people who He is, how real he is and what He has done for us, is far more effective that trying to win the argument that there really is a God and he had a Son.

The Word of God

One of the things that may help in answering questions about the Bible though, is to call it the Word of God. We have heard the word 'Bible' so often, that save for generally it has lost its meaning to some. The most common objection I used and heard was "It's just a book written by men", and when you try to say, well it says it is the Word of God (and it does: almost every book of the Prophets starts with "The Word of God came to...", then sophistry takes hold and the greatly reasoned intellectual replies: well, you can't use the Bible to prove itself.

Too many Christians get hung up on that tried and true conversation stopper. Is there an answer? I had a hard time getting around that question.

There is an answer, though, and it is best approached by looking and the wonder and veracity of the book. Some same that there are many 'errors' but I have studied the Word (KJV) for 25 years now, and not found any error, only a few complexities that looked contradictory until one knew more of the Bible. Some argue for example that in the account of Jesus healing 'Bartimaeus' that one gospel says there were two blind men and another only one, but the truth is there were two, but only one was described in the more detailed account in depth. Most other seeming errors come from not understanding, for example, that there were a number of people in the Bible who shared a name, or similar incidents where a little more knowledge would clear up a passage.

Let's attend though to the question about the Word of God being used to prove itself. Let's consider instead some information about the Bible that makes it so phenomenal:

1. It was written over 5000 years, by multiple authors from all walks of life, and yet it consistently tells the same story. The promises in Genesis, are fulfilled in the Gospels, and every foreshadowing personality such as Joseph, Isaac, David and others live lives predictive of and pointing to Jesus the Messiah.

2. Every prophecy in the Word in the Old Testament was perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.
Statistically, it would be astounding for one or two to be fulfilled: but all 300+ prophecies of Messiah given by different prophets at different times, are fulfilled in the life of Jesus.

3. Even underlying Greek and Hebrew texts point ultimately to Jesus and the way he was, and to the time of his appearance, and to the events during his life.

4. The Name of Jesus, pronounced in the Word, has power. It is a point of verification.

5. If the Bible were not true, then accepting Christ as Savior, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would not bear out nor show power: yet one can observe healings. prophecy, and even miracles today, that would not be possible if the Word of God were not true.

6. The Word alone has phenomenally altered millions of lives over the centuries.

7.When Science and the Bible contradict one another, the scientific explanation is usually accepted, but is almost always done in when hard evidence is found in favor of the Bible account. This is true for history as well: chariot wheels have been found embedded in the sand at the site the Children of Israel crossed over.

8. Biblical prophecies about endtime events, such as the drying up of the Euphrates and the sea mingled with fire, are either coming true or currently foreshadowed.

9. While most 'sophisticated' professors cannot fathom a real 'Garden of Eden' and while anthropologists go looking for apelike origins of man, even they are drawn, almost entirely to the region referred to as the 'cradle of civilization' where since time Eden was thought to be, as the Euphrates and Pison rivers (Kishon) still exist at least in remnant form. Why do they not look in Antartica?

10. Human recorded history only goes back as far as the Bible describes dates.

11. Rather than man living longer with scientific advancement, the people of the Bible lived long in the beginning, but by the time of David was described as threescore and ten, the same average life expectancy as today.

12. The Bible far from archaic has given several scientists the solution to unsolved problems: e.g. the ocean currents including the Gulf Stream were discovered and charted by a man reading the Psalms, in the passage 'paths of the sea'. This is not an isolated incident.

13. The early apostles and countless believers since have been willing to die for it, including Tyndale, Bonhoeffer, the Scholls, Eric Liddell (the Olympic gold medalist), and the numerous other martyrs.

14. Jesus is introduced in the Book of John as the 'Logos' or Word incarnate, one with the father.

15. Voltaire the atheist once declared that in a generation the Bible would be dead. Voltaire died and it is his writing that has the far lesser effect. The longevity of the bible speaks to its truth and efficacy.

16. The Word has power. It comforts,gives hope, guides and directs, and teaches even proper nutrition, relationships, politics and even our system of government and the judicial system was based upon it. It keeps order in a society.


These are just a few 'external' issues regarding the Word. The real issue though is faith. Faith is the substance of things not seen, and for those who must see to believe, it remains a conundrum. These are observations outside of the Word defending itself. Human Reason seeks to be the final authority on all issues of life and spirituality: we see the vain attempts of men to try and include all ways everyone comes up with as truth, even while they are contradictory. Faith though, is a different 'economy' than human reason: it does not lack reason and is not ignorant, but involves 'divine reasoning'. Kierkegaard once noted that one must take a 'leap of faith' to find out if it is true. If one never 'leaps' into the unseen to believe, one never finds it. That is the nature of faith. Jesus was always stretching the faith of Israel: before many healings he would ask 'do you believe that I can do this' (in so many words), and upon belief, they were healed.

University minds are often too closed to attempt that 'leap of faith' to find if it is true or not. So they never find the power of God in the Word of God. They will entertain every other bizarre and unproven theory, but not even attempt faith in God. 150 years after Darwin, there are still no transitional types and they are not willing even now to reject the theory, but they will never read Genesis. Faith is not going to be found at the end of a textbook, lab or research article. Believing in the Word of God is not a surrender of one's intelligence, but 'surrendering ones intelligence'. Great and learned men have been both believers and non believers. Fahrenheit believed, so did Newton, and Pascal. Curie believed, and in the end of his life Darwin clung to his Bible. So there must be something beside raw intellect that realizes whether it is true or not. Could it be, that the brightest minds after years of human reason, found it insufficient? No objections to the Word of God ultimately hold water.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Judah's Glory: A moment of clarity



Recently there seems to be waves of gossip and rumor mills which occasionally swell in the church and then die down only to swell again. I wonder when we will come to our senses and realize we are never to interfere in a work of the Lord: it seems Judah's Glory even from the beginning has been beset by wrongful information that has reached a point I think is best addressed openly.

1. Currently, Judah's Glory is primarily an online resource of Bible Studies, Coloring Books, Music, Webart, and teaching, including audio teaching at sermon.net/judahsglory. It is not a free standing institution, and is not a government registered entity. We are respectful and law abiding, but not a corporation of the State.

2. We are pro-Israel, and teach the church their rightful and scriptural role towards the Jews of gratitude and Mercy (Romans 8-12). We are what I call a segue ministry about half way between the traditional gentile church, and full Torah observant Messianic Synagogues. I say Jesus and Yshua without flinching.

3. WE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT Jehovah's Witness, or any other dissensioned version of the faith once delivered. WE ARE NOT CATHOLIC! but I am a former Catholic, a former agnostic, and have been a Gospel believing born again Christian for 25 years. I am a former college professor with a doctorate in Psychology, which is also 'another gospel'. I left the field formally in 1987 in obedience to the Lord.

4. I am not insane. By the way, that is a legal rubric, not a diagnostic category. Part of the rumors that have beset this small ministry have come from those of dissension faiths or carnal Christians trying to take over the ministry materials.

5. Judah's Glory is in no way affiliated with Elwood McQuaid's magazine "Israel My Glory": that is another title, thing and concept. Judah's Glory is not the term mentioned in a catholic hymn about Mary: the term is not directly found in the scriptures, but refers to Judah, the head of the tribes of Israel, and her Glory which is Messiah. He is the Lion of Judah, from the house of Judah, and who else would possibly match his claim to the title "Judah's Glory".

6. We are not affiliated with Jews for Jesus, IBJM mission board or any other group. Because of the nature of town I reside in, a Messianic ministry is not currently possible because of the trouble it would start. As soon as a move is accomplished, I will begin Judah's Glory as at least a Saturday Bible Study ministry, and teach it myself until an appropriate pastor/rabbi may be found. My doctrinal statement may be found on the site.

7. We believe first and foremost in the perfect, infallible Word of God, expressed in Creation by the Creator, expressed in the Word of God written down and through the Prophets, and the Incarnate Word, the Logos, Yeshua HaMeschiach, Jesus Christ the Messiah of Israel, the Holy One of Israel. We believe in a blood bought salvation, the blood atonement on the Cross, and a literal resurrection which gave eternal life to all those who believe. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and there in no other name given by which we may be saved. After thorough study, I believe that the preserved Word of God is found currently only in the Authorized, King James Version, as it is the 'apostolic' line of transmission. I believe completely that all gifts taught and given from Pentecost on, (and before) are still extant, and in power to those who believe and surrender to the Messiah. The power of God is not a dispensational age. Man divided the Word into segments and theoretical eras, not God, who breathed a whole Word for all time. I believe in healing, tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, and all the rest, when they line up with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, acknowledging there are counterfeits. While I would best be characterized as an 'eternal security' believer, I believe that a true understanding is that we are truly saved and kept by the Lord and Savior, but that we also must truly follow after, walking in the Holy Spirit, the 'Way, the Truth, and the Life'. But then why wouldn't you?

7. Judah's Glory is not for sale ever nor are its materials. Free use however does not mean stealing the publications, rewriting them a little, commercializing them and then charging money for some other ministry or pocketbook. That is actually a felony and is destroying the church, watering down the Gospel into whatever sells, and ruining small sincere ministries who care only about the Lord. The big ministries who do this are often not ministries at all, but fund raising organizations who couldn't care less about the Word of God or the real Gospel. When the Church dissolves into warmongering dogfights and copyright theft, it ruins the church, sincere ministries, and eventually the country. Judah's Glory ministry has stood against those foul practices since the beginning and will continue.

Any other questions, please write to either judahsglory@gmail.com or elizabeth.best@gmail.com. Please, though help us to put an end to exaggerated misinformation, so that I can continue this labor intensive and for-free ministry, without compromise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back to Antioch and Jerusalem Indeed




With so many modern believers who truly have been born again from above, who believe in the Gospel fully, and wince at what goes under the name 'church' today, I have been accused of many things, including being insane and wanting more than is possible in some believer's eyes. The standard charge is that we want everyone to go 'back to Antioch' and wear sandals and wear tunics. Even the charge of being archaic though is wrought with error: while many consider Antioch to be the traditional birthplace of the church, the Church was born in Jerusalem and Galilee and the surrounds, and even when the great move of God took place in Antioch, where they were first 'called' Christians, the apostles and other disciples still saw the Jews in Jerusalem as central, under the headship of Messiah. Nonetheless, modernists continue to ridicule the notion of true belief and genuine adherence to the Word of God being a possibility, and see as shortsighted those who really do desire a return to true belief.

For centuries, there was never a quandary about what the Gospel was or wasn't, although it was often somewhat dissensioned by the Roman Church and other entities which worked through language and obscurity to keep the Word of God out of the hands of regular folk who might see that far more was required than membership in some 'mother church'. Wycliffe endeavored to place the Bible in the hands of the masses, though still translating off Latin versions, but until Tyndale, Coverdale, Stephanus and others, the English bible off the Received Texts did not come about. By 1611 when the KJV committee added a finishing touch to Tyndale's version, the Word of God was finally in the general public's hands, so that all could determine true faith without the sieve of the Nicolaitans.

Even then though, the Church was still a far cry from the form of the Church taught by Jesus and his early followers. They had over the centuries fallen into rituals, false practices, austere 'priesthoods' not of believers but of a special class of clergy who alone could interpret the scriptures, sacraments, indulgences etc, and even Henry VIII's break with Rome was not over doctrine, but over his carnal lust for divorce and new wives. Unfortunately, though there was a great move to return to essential doctrines such as Salvation by Grace in the Reformation, there was not an equivalent move to return to the true form and nature of the Church, and while some doctrine was corrected and many went back to a lived and not a contrived faith, the form and order of the church was still seen 'through a glass darkly' and the seditioned form of the church, across denominations degenerated even further, until today in Western civilization, where what we call 'church' is more of a fraternity with entertainment value.

The first real parting of the ways for the early church, came when certain heresies began to be introduced: Arianism and Marcionism tried to divorce Jesus from the incarnation, and the New Testament from the Old, declaring a different God for those who remained in Judaism. Gnostics brought in 'damnable heresies' and 'another gospel' mixed with legends, eastern and mystery religions, and before the close of the true canon in the late 60s ad, the apostles were already warning of heresies and deceptive practices. One could easily even go so far as to say that the first divorce of the true form of the church was the marriage of the State and Church, so prevalent in the first century, that by the end of Gospel, the Pharisees who turned Jesus over to Rome were crying

The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. John 19:15

The true church lasted mostly in biblical form until around 313ad when Constantine, thinking to do God a favor, and with the help of his mentor Eusebius, legalized christian worship, but went on to do a few things otherwise which have affected the church till now:

1. He declared the Christian Church the official State Church
2. He introduced Arianism fully as the accepted position on Christ
3. He expelled the Jews
4. He mingled pagan concepts, deities , practices, and symbols with basic Christian doctrine
5. He ordered 50 Bibles from Eusebius which were brought back from the area of Alexandria, which were highly suspect as gnostic-tainted texts supporting Arianism and other heresies, the position of the palace. These bibles became the standard in what the church of Constantine would develop into: the Holy Roman Empire, and Roman Catholic [Universal] Church.


Most modern churches have taken on the form of Constantine's State Church, and while over the years some have been more like it and some less, our churches in Europe and the US, and even most of the world bear some common elements that are NOT scriptural, and are so rigidly held, that by continuing such practices, we are stating that we are a 'rebellious house' and that we are not walking in the 'Way, the Truth and the Life."

Major Ways Our Church Today differs from the True Church


One could no doubt write an entire book regarding the differences between the Church described in scripture and the thing we call church today. Before talking about the differences, we need to consider just a few basic descriptions of the church: mind you this is not an all inclusive consideration, nor is it denominational or doctrinal: the Bible is extremely clear on what a church is.

The very name 'church' is so misused today that most consider it the building where a group of people meet to worship. Most biblically based faiths know this to be error: the word 'church' in Greek is ikklesia, meaning 'an assembly', and the Word of God talks about the Church being the body of Christ, with Christ as the head.

Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:


The Lord loves the Church. The Church is comprised of a body of believers, with Christ as the head. The Lord added "daily to their numbers such as would be saved".(Acts). The Church is loved and nourished by Christ, who as head appointed it offices and ministries and gifts, in a living body, doing his will in his created world. The gifts are a topic for another time, but include the gifts of prophecy,discernment, tongues, a word of knowledge, etc. (I Corinthians), and also offices of prophet, bishop, deacons, and so forth. The place of worship most often mentioned in the New Testament was either synagogues or homes, though toward the end , homes prevailed. Old Testament worship of the 'congregation of God' was first at altars in the open air, and then at the Tabernacle, later at a fixed Temple by Solomon's time, and when the church went into captivity, even a river bank suffied, and synagogues were mentioned as early as David in psalms:

Psa 74:8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.


The whole point is, that the 'congregation of God' like the New Testament 'ikklesia' or church, were groups or a body of worshipers, not a building with particular fixtures.

How does our Modern Church hold up in comparison to the church God created? Consider the following:

1. Most do not consider a church a church without a building.
2. Most governments either outlaw home churches
, or disdain them.
3. Most modern churches think an altar is a stage, with a platform and podium: no where in either the Old or New Testament is an altar a place apart from the congregation where things are done to be watched. An altar in the Old Testament began as rocks, wood and fire , pillars and a lamb or bullock for sacrifice under an Oak or Terebinth tree. Later worship and sacrifice would occur in the linen curtain surrounded Tabernacle, and still later, a house built with hands, in Solomon's temple. Modern 'altars' are stages. They hold speeches, and entertainment, but they are primarily 'watched' events with some participation.
4. Pastors are no longer called bishops
in most churches, and bishops are seen as a regional bureaucrat. Bishops of the early church were to be temperate 'ministers' who guided and taught, were of high moral character and belief, but who shepherded the body of Christ under his headship to its fullest and most fruitful state. They are to 'lift up in love'.
5. Deacons were appointed and anointed ministers, called to their positions to minister and teach the body. They were not 'boards of directors' with a CEO pastor or administrator.
6. Most critically: Christ is the head of the church: no ifs,ands or buts: he died for the Church, rose and gave it life at Pentecost. All are to answer to him ultimately. A state registered church (5013c) which answers daily and yearly to the State, like any other agency, which pays taxes to the state, has the State as head. Modern churches keep a US flag on the altar, though it is called in federal code a 'living thing' making it an idol by God's Word. (No, I am not a JW). They submit yearly or more often the bound minutes of meetings of a board of directors, and are considered by the state a registered corporation in the same way exactly that United Way, or nonprofit homosexual organizations are: the state sees no difference. Christ does.
7. Music in too many modern churches is performance, not praise, or repetitive verses which lose all meaning. There is almost no 'singing in the spirit'.
8. Services are timed, delineated by ages old liturgy, which never changes, and are not lead nor prompted by the Holy Spirit. Most pastors who preach beyond 12pm lose congregates who have to get home or go out to eat. If the pastor received a Word from the Lord regarding the world ending tomorrow, most would not stay to listen.
9. Most pastors today are not called, anointed, or often even saved, a great travesty. People pick theology and pastoral training the way they choose any other career: I knew of one seminary who used a Personality inventory to determine a 'call'. That is not the call of Jesus. Because seminaries are set up like colleges, any one with recommendations, the money and paperwork and grades can attend and get a degree. I have met seminarians who did not even believe in God, or in the basic tenets of the faith once delivered.
10. Most churches have abandoned the laying on of hands, healing, the practice of the gifts of the Holy spirit and other foundational marks of the church: some even teach that the gifts died in the first century.
11. Churches no longer send out missionaries per se: they send contributions to corporations called Mission Boards: an unscriptural practice. Local churches are to appoint and anoint called missionaries and fund them, pray and support them. Missionaries should not have to go on deputation to raise money to go on a field. That ought to bring the wrath of Kahn upon me.
12.The Word of God is now seen as relative
: more of as a guideline than as God's Word and commandments. Further, the influx of hundreds of translations and versions has lead to division and doctrinal apathy: teaching from the Received Text of centuries leads to being called a bigot or ignorant, when it truly provides more unity and cohesion and sound doctrine.
13. Churches were not meant to be thousand person entities, where one might never interact with over 95 percent of the members. The church is a living breathing body.
14. The breaking of bread and taking of communion was to be every service, though not in a line walking up to a stage, nor passed around in silver tins. The meaning is lost.

We will discuss further differences in the next entry.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rainbows and Unicorns: The Beautiful Side of God



In the late 80's, my children and I were relatively new Christians. We were determined to be as dedicated as we could be, so we tried to obey everything in the scriptures we could find. We believed without question that the Lord Jesus had paid it all, so we were not oriented towards 'works salvation', but like many new Christians who are on fire for the Lord, we wanted to obey completely. With a little less discernment in those beginning years, we were not always carefully adapting to who to listen to and who not: we listened often to radio programs exposing one of 16 or 17 commonly exposed cults, admonitions about whether mighty mouse might be metaphorically encouraging crack cocaine when he sniffed flowers for power, and we heard all about how Madeleine Murray Ohare wanted to forbid Christian programming forever, and how Proctor and Gamble were really occultist because of their old logo.

Witchcraft was a popular topic 20 or so years ago, and testimonies were given by those who had been in covens, or come out of satanic cults or wicca, but even then, we listened with a grain of salt, because we were daily in the Word, and began sifting the wheat from the chaff. A very popular book back then called "The Beautiful Side of Evil" came out inciting riot against Rainbows and Unicorns, etc, as sinister symbols of the New Age. One day when we expected a visit from a local 'cult hobbyist' who wanted to start a newsletter, we knocked the horn off my daughter's unicorn pencil holder just to make sure we weren't typecast. I'm not sure she ever forgave me, because she really liked that pencil holder, and well, in the end, it was the cult guy that turned out not to be kosher.

Now, we were true believing Christians back then, and I've held strongly to my faith for 25 years, so we cut out TV, (which was a right choice), homeschooled, and really walked the walk, ridding the house of what was not right nor pleasing to the Lord, and we had a pretty peaceful household. I am not advocating throwing all that away and returning to the world at all, because I have seen the difference when things which counter the Word of God are brought into one's life, and there is a real power of the demonic which attaches itself to things like occultism and the dark arts, and holding on to that sort of stuff is like an invitation to chaos and the demonic.

I do feel the need though to remark on the opposite extreme, when we become so legalistic towards a few things, like rainbows and Unicorns, that some people will not allow a sleepover for a child if their friend has unicorn blankets. Some christians would not read nor see "Chronicles of Narnia" because they had fauns and the like, even though they represented believers that are sort of 'half and half', even knowing the great faith and understanding of C.S. Lewis. What I am striking for is balance, in thoroughly obeying the Word and casting out idolatry and elements of 'darkness' but not being so foolish as to throw away the depth of understanding that God offers, even using the same things.

I am not talking about cartoons like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" or sitcoms about teen witches and vampires: I still even today, even with a doctorate in Psychology do not agree with that influence, seeing it as a 'boiling frog' which begins a serious dissension in thinking about the world, but there are these two things which I would like to take back from the whole hysteria, and put them back in the Bible where they came from and belong: Rainbows, and Unicorns.

Rainbows
Can rainbows be used as occult symbols? Sure: and they can be used on candy, and on logos, and toys, and Rainbow brite dolls if they are still around, and on 3d pencils, etc. etc. etc. The use of rainbows though is too significant in the Word of God to ignore, nor to allow a 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' mentality.

When Noah landed on dry ground, the few saved out of the many, the beginning of the line of Shem, and the re-establishment of the human race and the confirmation of the covenant begun from when Adam and Eve left the Garden, God sets a rainbow in sky as a seal on the covenant, that he will no more destroy all flesh in a flood. While there are only a few mentions of rainbows in the Bible, each is a seal of the Noahic covenant, or mentioned in conjunction with the throne of God:

Gen 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
Gen 9:14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
Gen 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that [is] upon the earth.

This is not to be ignored, nor assigned to some Christian taboo because today alot of occultists use it symbolically. That bow in the cloud was:

1. A sign of God's Love
2. A sign of the Everlasting Covenant
3. A sign of God's Glory
4. A seal on the covenant, meaning, it was immutable.


The bow is seen again as an element of the likeness of God's glory:

Eze 1:28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so [was] the appearance of the brightness round about. This [was] the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw [it], I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

And is mentioned with regard to the throne and glory of God:

Rev 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Rev 10:1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow [was] upon his head, and his face [was] as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:

In earlier days, closer to the time of Noah, in the years of replenishing the earth, we can only imagine how wondrous it must have been to see that bow in the sky, in the clouds. Every time it appeared, with prism colors, it was God showing his seal of his Covenant with man: a tangible, God given ensign of salvation and deliverance. A foreshadowing of glory yet to be revealed in the clouds. Even now, rather than search our children's closets when they go to school or out to play for their 'rainbow' stash, shouldn't we 'take back the rainbow' and hold it for the gift it is: the sign of God with us and for us. The sign of an everlasting covenant!

Unicorns:

Contrary to some modern bible translations, unicorn(s) really are in the Bible, and were most likely a real species, but the greatest reference to a unicorn in scripture, points to the Messiah:

Num 24:8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce [them] through with his arrows.

The reference is part of Balaam's prophecy which turned to a blessing of Israel, and her Messiah. A similar passage is:

Num 23:22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

A 'horn' in scripture is a symbol of power: even Moses is spoken of as sporting horns. The unicorn is in Hebrew, 'Re'em', which some lexicons denote as an extinct and wild animal. The word 'horn' is in the useage at hand, qeren, which can mean e.g. a ram's horn, but can also refer to rays of light, as in a radiant array. In Dt 33:17 Jacob in his blessings mentions Joseph, a type of Messiah,as pushing back the nations with the horn of a unicorn.

Deu 33:17 His glory [is like] the firstling of his bullock, and his horns [are like] the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they [are] the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they [are] the thousands of Manasseh.

Unicorns are used also as a metaphor of the uniqueness of the glory of God:

Psa 22:21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

and the 'horns of the unicorns', particularly of 'the' unicorn, is the singular power of the Son of God. The 'horns' of the altar (same word) are the place of the blood anointing of the sacrifice for sin. (!)

David correlates his God given glory, as the King of Israel with power over enmity with a unicorn:

Psa 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like [the horn of] an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.

A number of other passages refer to this unique, powerful, free and remarkable creature, and the symbol of the unicorn representing Messiah has been generally agreed upon since very early.

God is not Mocked: Rendering unto God, the things of God
There will be those no doubt that will misrepresent what I am saying and say that I have backslidden and am advocating New Age thinking , for that is the unfortunate state of affairs in Church today: we always want to think the worst. It was God, though, who set the bow in the cloud: it was God who ordained the metaphor of the unicorn in His Word, and one can never suggest that because those in the dark arts may take and run with a Christian or Jewish symbol, that it in any way makes the symbol occultic: it rather makes the misunderstanding occultic.

As time proceeds, and satanic thought and practice becomes more and more prevalent, not just the 'spooky' stuff portrayed these days, but concepts which really overthrow any orientation toward 'The Mind of Christ', it will be more and more important to reserve Christian concepts and metaphor from being misunderstood, or adopted out from under us. New Age use of unicorns, does not need to undermine a Biblical understanding, nor overthrow us in our thinking. This does not mean we start purchasing New Age crystals with glowing unicorns, or consume massive doses of 'Princess Shira' riding unicorns (she still around?), but that whether it is Rainbows, Unicorns, dragons, leviathan, or any other reference to unusual things in the Word of God, we think about such things in terms of careful Bible study,and teach our children not to 'fear' such symbols, but teach them to know the difference between their biblical and right use and meaning vs. the way worldly people use them or the way those in satanic cults use them.

I say, take back the things that belong to God, like the beautiful side of rainbows and unicorns, and learn discernment instead of attitudes which the world will never understand, and may unnecessarily polarize Christians, who are already more than seen as a 'peculiar people'. One can always use the misunderstanding as a segue into discussing the wondrous seal of the Covenant, from the singular and unique one with the horn of power who will push back nations.

Why are there so many songs about Rainbows? hmm?

ekb

Monday, February 22, 2010

Twisted Excuses for Disobedience


I have now been a Christian for 25 years, and like so many of you, I've seen things I never suspected could possibly be. The 'visible' Church, I have learned, has become an essentially state registered Church, where Jesus is mentioned often as LORD, but not CEO. With the Lord and Savior being relegated to second position or lower as head of the Church, I cannot truly endorse according to the Word of God, that the modern American 5013c non-profit status corporation with trademarked signs out front is even remotely the church Jesus Christ died to save. I am not attacking the true church, in fact far from it: the true church though, alive somewhere in, around, and outside the modern corporate churches is being suffocated by the ways of the world. Admonishments to 'love not the world' are met with cold stares as though one is trying to run one's life or tell them what to do, and too many regard that command to be an unloving legalism, but it is the admonishment to walk in the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Christ. A passage I read the other day in one of Paul's epistles said,

Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit requires some discipline and I do not write this as 'finger pointing' without three pointing back, having just watched a movie instead of studying my Bible in quiet, but the rebuke is there: I have two choices: I can turn away from my 'lazy' carnal habits, or I can find an excuse for them. It is that second path, that modern Christians are using almost exclusively, and it is destroying churches and the 'faith once delivered'. When we do wrong, we need to repent and turn from it, pray for help and victory in it, or ask others for counsel and prayer, but before all, we need to learn not to make excuses.

There are a few fairly common excuses that are used for everything from minor peccadilloes all the way to the deadly 7. (All sin 'counts', save for the blood of Christ). A few are included here, and we need to lovingly but firmly say 'no more' to some of these verbal excuses we think so little of using, and yet are doorways into serious damage of some lives and faith. Consider the following:

1.The Lord hath need of it..... This passage comes from the time of preparation for the Passover dinner at which the Messiah breaks bread and offers his body and blood for atonement. The disciples are asked to go to a certain field where a foal is tied up, untie it, and if the owner questions say 'the Lord hath need of it':
Luk 19:31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose [him]? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.

This one verse has accounted for more 'christianized' stealing than any other. To begin with, it was the Lord, the creator of the animal, who was merely requistioning his property which he already owned, from the 'earthly' owner, his caretaker. Under the rarest of circumstances, it is not impossible that the Holy Spirit would not direct such an action today, but I have seen even computer equipment walk out of offices, and cars stolen and joy-ridden using that verse by severely twisting its intent to commit a crime. Did God direct you to steal those office supplies? Or notes? God is the author of donkeys, but is also NOT the author of confusion. Confront this one---it is not o.k. to steal from anyone, much less another Christian, but it instead causes trial, trouble and heartache in the church which leads to serious division.

2.David and Solomon both had many wives
Well, folks, David and Solomon lived in ancient Israel,and their multiple wives and concubines led to multiple problems and partially even the division later in the Kingdom. The excuse "David and Solomon had many wives" is used by preachers and other church folk being seduced or seducing into sexual sin and adultery, by trying to justify the clearly sinful act as merely some common human need that everyone participates in! Even today, even among the unsaved, not all marriages succumb to adultery. Of marriages that go the distance, only a lesser percentage are troubled by former 'flings'. How about, "you are not David or Solomon". Multiple wives back then among Kings was still against God's Law. For the better part of the '1000s', they were political marriages solidifying alliances with other Kingdoms, and many of those other kingdoms were idolatrous. It was a form of not trusting God enough to obey his law, but trusting convention and human 'reasoning', political reasoning to assure allies against e.g. Babylon or Assyria. Solomon's many alliances and wives from them, produced a reintroduction of worship of false gods:

1Ki 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, [that] his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as [was] the heart of David his father.

No adultery goes unnoticed, no adultery goes uncovered at least to some extent, and no adultery is painless and without consequences, often affecting wives, children, finances, households and careers. It certainly affects faith, and quenches the Holy Spirit. Do not let that reasoning prosper.

We have to find a better person to represent your work.
This one is a little dear to my heart, because I have found it used by church people whom we met sometimes 10,15, and 20 years ago, who think every Bible Study I write or publish on the net or in another form, is somehow free for their pocketbooks, and that they are somehow 'better' because they:
1. Weigh less
2. Smell Better
3. Dress better
4. Have more money
5. Go to a _______________Church (fill in the blank)
6. Have different doctrine
7. Are infinitely less 'peculiar'.

We are, dear friends, a peculiar people and we are all a little odd, are we not, especially under the worst of circumstances. We are still tied though to the law of the land and we are called to be good stewards of our work. I have heard repeated , "she just doesn't know how much her work is worth, and I do"....this statement would be funny if people did not use it as an excuse to plagiarize or steal. Charles Spurgeon, D.L.Moody, and a few others were hefty folk, but it did not require their replacement. The Christian sense of smell is among the finest in the world: many in church smell everything, and have very high standards, so that no one meets them, on any given day, save for themselves. That suggestion is an age old degradation, and still does not affect opportunity or authorship. Dress better? Well, perhaps one does dress more expensively and better, but again, it bears no effect on who owns or governs a work: Jeremiah, the prophet was once instructed to hide a loin cloth in the dirt and then put it on for God's illustration in a prophetic utterance: imagine how a few Baptist ladies would have handled that! Isaiah once walked naked through the desert....but enough. The issue of clothing, smell, looks, weight, age or height are such peripherals to the work of God, that they should not be considered. This is not broadcast news. Most Christians if they have the ability to afford it, groom themselves acceptably, and cleanliness within reasonable limits is in all but a few cases well within bounds. Some may have only one pair of often repaired jeans: would that preclude them from singing with a beautiful and anointed voice? Should your best preacher be seldom called on because he wears the same suit when he preaches? Maybe his 'suit money' went to feed the poor or help a widow. Does he preach less well than the shouter on TV with the rolex and somebody else's sermon notes? Of course not. We lose the power of God in our worship, lives and services, because we keep making lesser human choices based upon personal preference, instead of considering what God wants, or what may grieve the Holy Spirit. Some poorer folks may actually tithe more quietly than the well to do, who do not tithe at all, but consider a church blessed to have them.
When God makes a choice, by gifting someone with a talent or ability, and then via the Spirit points that person out to the Church for service, those personal opinions need to be laid aside. The notion that money and grooming have to do with whom God selects and anoints is ludicrous. Right up to the end, as far as I remember, most prophets (except the Kings perhaps) had dirty feet. John ate locusts and honey and lived in the wilderness. He prepared the way of the LORD.

This does not conversely mean that just because someone is poor and downtrodden that they should be used for an appointment either: the issues is OBEDIENCE. We err in the opposite direction far too often, but the plumbline, is whether or not the choice is of the LORD. While opinion differs regarding the choosing of the last apostle to replace Judas, scripture notes that the other apostles pray and then cast lots, and they fall on Malchus

Act 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

but it could be argued that they did not wait long enough, and that Paul was to be considered the selection of the Holy Spirit as the 12th apostle, since Matthias, although of 'good report' is not mentioned again in the Book of Acts after the selection. At the time, Paul was still Saul of Tarsus and had not only not encountered the Lord, but was imprisoning believers. Likewise, [MY DAUGHTER SARAH SAW THIS FIRST] when the apostles were confronted by the Greeks who claimed their widows were being left out of the 'daily ministration' they appointed two to attend to their needs, because in their words:

Act 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples [unto them], and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

It probably was best that those who had been with the Messiah continued teaching, but it is noteworthy that Stephen, who agreed to waiting tables, ended up giving a sermon as he was being stoned that lasted 2000 years, and led to the appointment of the apostle Paul, standing at the stoning watching the coats.

Further, no one from any doctrinal position, has the write to rewrite someone else's doctrine to their liking. We are all sure we are right. I am not nor will ever be a doctrinal relativist, holding to the firm line of the scriptures as final authority, but when I hear as I did the other day a great sermon Billy Graham preached back in the late 50s, and wanted to add a few more points, it is simply NOT my right, and if I did, it would cause division and heartache. J. Vernon McGee tells of an incident such as this when he attended a young preacher's sermon only to find out he was preaching one of McGee's better known sermons! While he did think it was well written, it ruffled some feathers, and would have come to blows with a lesser person. We do not all have the same calling, and until we find our calling and gift, and have hands layed upon us for the knowledge and appointment/anointing of it, we will be walking afoul of the Holy Spirit. Some people spend their whole Christian lives wanting to Preach, or write, or sing, but it is not their calling. Not their gift. Spiritual gift inventories are malarkey! If one is uncertain, someone with the gift of prophecy , or a word of knowledge may be able to help, and often other Christians can see a gifting in us which we cannot see ourselves, while we run after things we think we would like to do, but are not appointed to.

4. Bodily Exercise Profiteth Little

Now, for those of us in our 50s who have a little extra girth than when younger, we may like to quote Paul's words "bodily exercise profiteth little" or "those who trust in the Lord shall be made fat", but the truth is, we are given a body described as a temple, and many of us neglect the care of it till we get older. Jokes about it do the same as the other excuses: it seriously diminishes the likelihood we will be obedient in that area. Paul was right: bodily exercise does indeed profit little in the realm of the Spirit, or with regard to eternal life, so no scripture is in any way in error, but we can't pull it out of context.

1Ti 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Paul never suggested that overweight people never go on a diet to combat gluttony, or that we should all become sedentary couch potatoes. In another passage, he makes the point that the body is a temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit:

1Cr 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

We are appointed caretakers and are accountable for what God has given us.

5. We are a Peculiar People

This verse is a real scripture verse, referring to the called of God being sanctified and separated from the world:

1Pe 2:9 But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Being a 'peculiar people' means being set apart. The word peculiar in the above in Greek is περιποίησις, and refers to ownership and setting apart, and a corollary use in Titus is
περιούσιος- very similar which has the connotation of a called out people. It does not mean that we have an excuse to act unnecessarily odd or weird. Real Christians have no trouble around the world being seen as 'peculiar'---most do not drink, smoke, or participate in other activities so freely appreciated by the world, and even those peripheral marks separate them out of hand from others. They may speak in tongues, or pray and study the Bible often, causing them to be seen as strange and overly religious, even for what we are commanded to do by the Word. A lot of persons use this scripture lightly with a sense of humor to excuse 'goofy' behavior (I've done it too), but when we do, we lighten our respect for the Word, and if we are not careful, we can grieve the Holy Spirit. I laugh at some Christian comedy one can view on Youtube.com but the truth is, some of it is well over the line of disrespecting God's house and Word. We don't have to fall into legalism, but on the other hand, we are not on earth for entertainment, but for the telling of the Everlasting Gospel which heals for ever.
Conclusion
These are just a few misquotes or misuses of excuses we use to disobey God, and quench the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What's more important? God doing a work through us, or us 'fitting in'? Or experiencing a carnal satisfaction? As one surrenders, God goes to work. Does the world so cloud your eyes, or your own wants and desires, that we would rather have the momentary 'turkish taffy' (apologies to Narnia) than see God use us in great ways? The power to overcome the temptations and excuses is not our own: it comes from the LORD. Better to do away with 'Twisted excuses' and obey the Lord and Savior, learning surrender, instead of how to live in the Lord without ever surrendering the World. ekbest

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mocking



Among the less notable things that have increased over the past 30 or 40 years in our society is the mocking and bullying of people who believe in the Lord.

The above'Youtube' episode show a campus street preacher confronted with a young man who dresses like hitler and begins to imitate what he feels is the 'style' of street preaching. The young man, quite obviously not a Christian, is cutting and cruel and far from 'teasing' is outright decrying the preacher for exercising his free speech rights. If it had occurred to an Islamic preacher, or to Hari Krishnas, or to a Rabbi explaining Judaism, no doubt the student might have been held on hate crime charges and possibly even expelled. Christians, though, it seems are first to be mocked, cruelly imitated and bullied with the rest of society looking on, muttering something about how they probably deserved it.

TV shows regularly mock Christians and Christ. SNL became well known for the 'church lady' many years ago, which was fairly funny because she really was like a lot of unsaved church ladies, and other shows like the Colbert Report and the one with that other fellow whose name I can't remember make cruel fun of belief in Jesus all the time. Recently a few have taken to ridiculing healing, and the gift of prophecy, and movies galore make mincemeat of Bible stories relegating belief in the Word of God to foolish superstition.

Street preachers, God love them they are often on the front line, get ridiculed on a regular basis, only some of the mocking and ridicule has turned violent. I don't agree with all the methods street preachers use: some are very condemnatory and rather than preach about Jesus and Salvation, focus very message on going to hell, sending every one that walks buy there with a bullhorn. I am not one of the lighthearted who believe hell should not be preached, I believe it should and even in public, but the job of the preacher is to lift up the Savior so that he can draw all men unto him, because as he notes,
"John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. "

Whether I would preach their way or not though is immaterial: while we may occasionally foster some extra mocking by being unkind, the kindest, gentlest most loving preacher in the world, or minister or missionary, or Sunday school teacher or any believer, are finding themselves prey to sometimes even tortuous mocking and bullying in an effort to shut down preaching and teaching about the love of Jesus Christ.

The Youtube video above is not a singular example. There are dozens of clips of street preachers being arrested for very little trangressions if any at all, having rocks or bottles thrown at them, bikes and motorbikes run at them, or in one clip I saw, two young bikini clad college students on spring break ran up and posed sexually in front of the preacher. He went right on preaching. Even now, writing at a wee hour of the morning, what I write is constantly 'attended' ---I was a college professor who stopped teaching Psychology to follow Christ---you cannot imagine,nor could have I, the psychotic abuse that has been attendant on that choice, much less on any preaching , teaching or writing that I have done. "Well, you wouldn't, like really, stand up out in public and preach would you?" "Would you tell them where you got your degree?" Yea, maybe. So what? I've seen what the mockers do in their private lives and out in public: drunkenness, lewdness, perversions, beliefs in the occult, homosexuality,etc, yet if I mocked or even pointed out their lifestyles, I'd probably be charged with a hate crime.

Now, I'll be frank. I don't care for big yeller and black pasteboards that say 'yer dyin and goin' to hell' even though I believe its true. I was in the world for the first 30 years of my 55 years, and when I heard that kind of rhetoric, even if true, I didn't fear hell or not being saved, I, well, I MOCKED it. The public doesn't see hell as eternal anguish,suffering and degeneration, as the nemesis for unbelief---the general public sees hell as a joke with costumed devils who they think like to do 'sin' stuff. How many times have we all heard about how some dear fellow wants to go to hell because all of his friends will be there? C.S. Lewis once noted in the Screwtape Letters that the embodiment of all evil, the Devil, or whatever name one chooses [the Adversary, Satan, Abaddon, etc] appreciates the amelioration of Hell: he intends to gather what he can. There can be things as Christians we do, annoying little peccadilloes which make people want to mock us, but the kind of mocking I am referring to, is a form of hatred and violent railing against the whole idea of God, and against the love of God.

Mocking Since the Beginning of Time


We can't really as believers expect that we will not be mocked. The first incident I can think of in the Bible is of Balaam accusing his donkey of mocking him, or when Delilah accuses Samson. Elijah at one point is confronted by mocking boys:
2Ki 2:23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

and one must be made aware, that the mocking of the Prophet brought out bears which mauled the poor fellows. Elijah has his own turn at mocking the prophets of Ba-al:

1Ki 18:27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he [is] a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, [or] peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
Hezekiah's posts are mocked when they travel throughout Israel declaring a return to the observation of Passover. Sanballat mocks the Jews who are trying to rebuild Jerusalem as though it was a hopeless task:

Neh 4:1 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

The worst mocking of all comes at various times in the Gospel [e.g. 'can anything good come out of Nazareth?] as the crowds and Pharisees at various times mocked Jesus, and the culmination of the worst mocking comes on the way to the Cross and on the Cross:
Mat 27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put [it] upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
Mat 27:31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify [him].

but that mocking had been predicted:

Luk 18:32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

and the mocking at the cross was the worst: they fed him Gall, a vinegar type wine in jest, he wore a crown of thorns, and even above his head the sign though declaring the glory of God was a mocking one:
Luk 23:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

He really was the King of the Jews then as now, but Pilate meant it as a cruel remark to the Jews [see your king?]

Later, belief in the resurrection was mocked and so was the idea that God could come in the form of a man and then rise from the dead, as Paul speaks at Aeropagus on Mars Hill:

Act 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this [matter].

Even the thief next to Jesus on the Cross mocked him, as had Herod asking him in dying breath for a display of his power.

All that said, it is imminently clear we cannot escape that no matter how loving and kind we might try to be, the reaction of many in an increasing cruel world is to mock true belief. They cannot see, they are blind, and to them, as Corinthians notes, it seems foolishness because it requires divine understanding and not merely limited human reasoning.

Reacting to Mocking


The great task for all of us then, becomes whether preaching the Gospel in a pulpit or the open air, or merely having a Bible in a drawer at work, or even for no reason at all, the task is to confront mocking not with railing and mocking back (I am particularly good at that), but with Holy Spirit control, and a little Holy Spirit 'strategy'. There are a few loving ways that can defuse at least some mocking:

1. Turn the mocking into self-teasing, e.g. 'O---the lady really does carry a big black bible, yes I do, but I don't thump I study and this is what I've found..." or "You mean you don't like my big yellow sign with the big red letters telling you that you are a sinner?---maybe I should have said...fill in the blank".

2. Diffuse anger: when people hear the Gospel preached they are afraid of being criticized, condemned and having to toe a line they don't feel they can reach: they are not hearing the Word of God nor the Love of God: they are hearing some guy with a loudspeaker telling them they are no ----good. At least many are mocking that. Humor, righteous humor can go a long way to diffuse anger so can 'a soft answer'. Ask God for a way to meet anger.

3. Realize it is a spiritual war: Remember all the teaching about the armor of God? The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God: that's your weapon. I have found when people get out of hand, or argue false doctrine, the thing that works is that sword! Not an argument or debate. I don't know HOW it works, I know THAT it works. Someone wants to argue 'soul sleep'? Respond, "It is given unto man once to die and then the judgment". It is the Word that heals, convicts, corrects,and teaches.

4. Some mocking requires interpersonal skills, not psychologically oriented but biblically: learn biblically how to deal with demonic people: missionaries on many fields have had to. You can take authority over the powers that are not of God. You may though merely need to reflect back the anger and mocking, by outwardly asking the mocker, "Why do you think this is funny?" It engages a conversation, and when they find out you care for them and are a kind-hearted sort of guy or gal, you may find them opening up, and receiving the Word. Or even confront: "You mean you don't love Jesus? Why? "Do you think hard-hearted people who claim they believe, were for real? It at least carries the conversation out of the mocking realm.
5. BE KIND. Have an extra pepsi? Offer it to mocker. Ask his or her name. etc.etc.
6. Some people will not be diffused in their anger or mocking. Lately, preachers are getting more and more abuse, many undeservedly. The Lord did not promise you a rose garden, but a Gethsemane. You will be mocked. Some will be beat up. Some will have vile substances thrown at them, or bottles, or rocks. Count it all joy and don't give up. Once when Paul was beat up with in an inch of his life, he dusted himself off and went back into the city that beat him up, and stayed one more night before moving on. [Look it up] Some of what I have experienced overwhelmed me: why would people hate great love? They do though, they hate it with a passion. They are blinded and you have to see them that way. They will break bones in this world, trample old women, put rodents in your house or on your person, beat with sticks or even hammers, break backs, throw scalding water, cut your hair, disfigure your face, and pour caustic substances down your throat. Tyndale before being burned at the stake had been poisoned and persecuted: the apostles died the cruelest deaths imaginable: but they could see Heaven from where they stood.
7. Fight the battle divinely. This has already been mentioned, but one can use the Word to fight, prayer to fight, [never go out in public preaching without praying mightily for God's protection, guidance and anointing;], and remember to plead the blood of Jesus, or affirm His blood covenant, and that God inhabits the praises of His people. When all else fails, start praising God. I have never seen it fail.

The more you obey, the less the mocking and violence affects you. Its not that you relish physical harm, or cruel taunts, in fact the taunts can be more demoralizing than physical injuries which heal. The closer you get though to accomplishing God's Will for your life, the closer to Him, the more you will understand and tolerate the weaknesses of others and the need to let God render justice. Above all, stay daily and often in the Word of God. It is the Word of Life. And thank God for being accounted worthy to suffer for His Name's Sake.

In His healing Name, E.K.Best