Monday, December 20, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I always benefit from the perspective his experience gives, but most importantly I benefit from the way he insists we would see things through the truth of scripture.
Responsibility for the Jewish Condition
There is no question that for most of the last 2,000 years, the predominantly Gentile church has been primarily engaged in provocation rather than the Biblical mandate expressed by Paul to "provoke the Jews to a spiritual jealousy." Yes, to a significant degree, it has contributed to a hardening of Jewish hearts to the Gospel. Having said that, though, it may, and continuing to be, a valid negative influence upon Jewish openness to the Gospel, it is, ultimately, no excuse for their rejection of the Gospel. We are all "without excuse." It is Christ, Himself, who is a "rock of offense," a stone of stumbling." "For when you search for Me with all your heart, then you will find Me."
Moreover, it is also true that much of this rejection is due to a religious self-righteousness of which Paul speaks of in Romans 10:2-3 by the Orthodox Jewish community and ranging to a general indifference or humanism not unlike Gentile unbelievers by non-religious Jews. The bottom line has always been, and will forever be, "But, who do you say that I am?" That is the ultimate question, which demands the ultimate answer. That is the literal heart of the matter. Not unlike much of the "new and improved" Emergent Church, in my opinion, much of the Messianic Jewish Movement has also bought into the philosophy of "Maybe if they like us, they'll like our Jesus, too?" So there is plenty of culpability to go around.
I have been on the "inside" for many years and on the "outside" for many years. Although one can certainly draw from those experiences in deepening their understanding of the dynamics involved, they can only be validated by applying them to the truth of Scripture, which is "able to discern between soul and spirit." And, if rightly applied, is able to trump any soulish bias related to personal experience, something I always endeavor to apply in my own Biblically-related inquiries. Although I may not always hit the mark, I at least know where to aim, and therefore, in that regard, I myself am without excuse.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Quotes from Dave Daubenmire:
Most Christians are not. Not really disciples of Jesus that is.
Everyone wants to “follow Jesus” until they find out where He is going… He is heading to a Cross… and He asks you to take up yours and follow Him. This flies in the face of popular Christianity and its “felt needs”…
See the full article here:
Thursday, December 09, 2010
4 ½ years ago I moved from Sydney to a country town 4 hours to the west. In church there was regular prayer for rain. Living in the country where farmer’s livelihoods are dependant on suitable climatic conditions it is very easy to empathise with that desire for rain. Without the rain their crops will fail, they get no income. Many have given up. Many have been forced from repossessed farms, driven into debt by years without a saleable crop.
One high profile Christian minister led nationwide prayer meetings to seek the Lord for rain. When the rain did come after one of his meetings, credit was taken for the breaking of the drought through prayer.
It is the natural thing to pray for the nation’s situation to be resolved through reliable rainfall. But while that is the “natural thing” was it the RIGHT thing to do?
Would the drought being broken bring people closer to God? Or would restored comfort mean increased complacency?
Over the last year the drought finally came to an end. Dams that had fallen to frighteningly low levels were filling. A few months ago a local dam was below 4% capacity. In recent weeks it rose to almost 60%.
Farmers were confident of their best crops ever.
Until two weeks ago!
In less than two weeks there have been record rainfalls. Major dams can’t cope and are now spilling excessive water into rivers. Flooding is extensive. The combination of rain and floods has destroyed much of the “best crop ever”.
Why? Is this the answer to prayer against drought?
While considering this situation a clear phrase came to my mind:
Rain without repentance.
In prayer should we be put earthly comfort first or should we take a more eternal viewpoint? What does this nation (and others) really need?
Rain or repentance?
James 5:17-18 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
To listen follow this link:
To download right click on the following links and select "save target as".
Who is Entitled to Jerusalem?
Jerusalem and Israel in Galatians
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Recently I've seen a lot of anti-Christmas articles written by Christians. I'm not sure whether that's because general Christian attitudes are changing or maybe it's just the kind of Christian company I keep.
Here is a link to an article I posted 5 years ago.
Friday, November 26, 2010
We have been led to believe that sin has separated mankind from God – but that is not always the case.
Man’s goodness can be a greater hindrance than his sin.
Acknowledgement of sin can lead to repentance and a desire for forgiveness, but a man’s good deeds often blind him to his need. Surely his good deeds will outweigh those times everyone goes through, where the rules are bent or where behaviour is known to fall short. A few sinful acts will be overlooked when more good deeds are done – won’t they?
Surely keeping more commandments than are broken would give a pass mark (6 out of the 10; or 307 out of the 613 of the Mosaic Law)?
One of the more widely held theological doctrines is that of man’s “Total Depravity” – describing the innate condition which separates man from God. It’s a term I don’t like because it conveys a false impression. The word “total” speaks of fullness, completion, an UTTER state that can't be increased. The term “total depravity”: therefore conveys and impression that ALL men are equally depraved to the full capacity: that ALL men could not be worse than they are.
That is clearly NOT the case. Some men ARE worse than others. Not all are Hitlers, Stalins or Pol Pots. To portray mankind as ALL being equally and fully depraved is a misrepresentation.
How would an unsaved person who is “good” in human terms respond to being putting in the same “TOTAL” category as Hitler? Could they accept that judgement?
NO, because they can see it is not true. Therefore, what is likely to be their response to the offer of cleansing and forgiveness through Jesus?
They won’t see the need!
The thing separating man from God is NOT “total depravity” – it is PARTIAL depravity or SUFFICIENT depravity. To a God who demands perfection, a person does not need to be TOTALLY depraved to miss the mark. The slightest blemish of character will be enough to spoil the perfection required. It doesn’t need the breaking of all commandments or even a majority of them for a person to fall short of God’s standard. Break one and you’ve broken the whole law.
ALL men are sufficiently sinful (depraved) to separate them from God.
There is NOTHING mankind can do to earn or deserve any favour from God. ALL of mankind has fallen short of His perfect standard, with the exception of one man – Jesus. And it is through HIM and HIS righteousness (not our own) through HIS fulfilment of the law (not our own) that relationship with God has been made possible.
It is through trusting HIM instead of ourselves, trusting what HE did instead of what we do, that we will be accepted by God
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
1. constituting or comprising the whole; entire; whole: the total expenditure.
2. of or pertaining to the whole of something: the total effect of a play.
3. complete in extent or degree; absolute; unqualified; utter: a total failure.
4. involving all aspects, elements, participants, resources, etc.; unqualified; all-out: total war.
I will always have a problem with the non-biblical terminology of "total depravity" because its theological application does not really mean TOTAL.
Total means there as absolutely no room for anything further to be added - it is complete and utter in its extent. Man's depravity is no where near "total", there is room for worse. Not everyone turns out to be a Hitler, a Stalin or a Pol Pot.
The problem with unsaved man's condition is not so much "depravity". A far greater problem is that area of "goodness" within and displayed by most of us that allows room for self-righteousness.
Having some good traits (NOT being totally depraved) obscures the destructiveness of the bad and allows us to feel justified within ourselves. To many people it is their “goodness” that keeps them separated them from God because they see no need for a saviour.
Reference to the “total depravity” of man is a stumbling block to the unsaved. Despite recognising and admitting their faults, most can also see that they are not as depraved in behaviour or attitude as they could be: that their depravity is not total and therefore such a claim is a lie.
Man’s unsaved state is NOT due to total depravity, it is due to PARTIAL depravity – when God requires absolute perfection, it only takes the smallest blemish for us to fail His standard.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The world will run out of oil around 100 years before replacement energy sources are available if oil use and development of new fuels continue at the current pace, a US study warns.
Full article here:
What is partly HIDDEN in the article referenced above is the expected oil depletion date of 2054. Less than 44 years away.
And that year is stated to reflect a more “optimistic date” – which means oil is expected to run out well before then.
People are often most concerned about oil as a fuel and their immediate concerns are usually related to the COST of fuel.
But oil derivatives are essential components of modern food and material production. Our lives are dominated by products manufactured from oil. Many chemical based products rely on oil for components.
We should not live with the illusion that the end of oil production is a problem for the future, maybe beyond our lifetime. Reducing oil availability in the near future will cause greater problems than its eventual disappearance.
I guess we realise that the majority of oil comes from the Middle East – from countries that are strongly anti-Israel.
As the oil situation becomes increasingly dire, there will be more pressure placed on nations who have historically supported Israel. Oil supply will likely be affected depending on a country’s relationship with Israel.
Israel will increasingly be seen as a threat to world peace and security and will come under increasing pressure from the rest of the world to compromise on Arab demands. The nations of the world will be pressured into opposing Israel to maintain their supply of oil.
Ultimately the anti-Israel sentiment could lead to military threats from an oil hungry world. This is merely one scenario based on current world events and the status of world resources which has the potential to lead to the fulfilment of prophecy.
Is it coincidence that an anti-Israel, Arab world has most of the world’s oil resources? Is it coincidence that scripture lists these nations as a prominent part of an aggressive movement against Israel in the latter days? Is it likely that decreasing oil supply will give oil producing nations greater influence over the other nations of the world and their policies regarding Israel?
I have now been given a link to the source of the article on Dr Ryser’s own blog.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
An example would be someone standing on a ladder balanced on a chair that they have placed on a table – all in the attempt to reach a height beyond the capability of the ladder.
This thoughtless approach and attitude brings to mind the way some people approach their relationship with Jesus.
The ladder in the above example lacks stability. It is not placed on the required foundation, and it is a danger to anyone who climbs it.
There are foundations to the Christian life. They are specifically mentioned together in Hebrews 6 and separately elsewhere. They provide the basics of Christian faith, a secure anchor point. Yet how often do arguments arise about their necessity?
Some people seem intent on seeing how few of the foundational things they need? Is baptism really necessary? What about repentance? Surely it’s enough to merely believe?
These people make me think of the man on that ladder: seeing how little contact he can have with a solid foundation without falling. Some even try to test things further, rocking the ladder to one side until it is balancing on one leg only.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The True Israel of God
It discusses God’s relationship with Israel as revealed through scripture, compared to God’s relationship with Israel according to man.
Where we stand on this issue depends on who we believe and who we follow: God and His word or man and apostate theology.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Yesterday I posted these links on a Christian forum and was amazed at some of the negative comments and how much suspicion was expressed regarding the scrolls.
Some saw them as a Roman Catholic conspiracy. Others saw them as a collection of false gospels.
So many ill informed views.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Too often some of the world’s wildest conspiracy speculation is swallowed by Christians because it “fits” with their ideas about end time events.
Before we fall for (and even worse) promote unsubstantiated speculation here are some facts that need to be considered:
1) Extreme claims need to be substantiated with much more than rumour and/or baseless “facts”.
2) It is up to the maker of extreme claims to provide EVIDENCE and not merely pass on what they have heard/read..
3) Christians should AVOID promoting wild and baseless speculation. It does nothing for our credibility.
4) The previous three points are saying the same thing: Christians should be FAR MORE diligent than the world with regard to extreme claims because we follow Jesus who IS the truth. The "truth" we promote reflects the Jesus we follow.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
I know nothing about the group providing the recordings so this link is not any kind of endorsement of the site. But I am grateful to them for making Mr Pawson's ministry available.
So far I have listened to "How and Why to Read Your Bible part 1". This gives very good teaching on the need to approach the bible with context in mind. He makes the point that the bible is not a book. It is a LIBRARY of books - each of which needs to be considered according to its genre and according to the reason for it being written. For example, each of the four gospels was written with a specific readership in mind and the epistles were each written to address particular situations within the church.
I also listened to: "Tue 31 08 2010 Session 3", in which Mr Pawson gives a brief testimony and then starts to address the problems with the doctrines of both "Sovereign Grace" and "Free Grace". The latter is apparently addressed in the next session (which at time of posting I have not heard).
More David Pawson mp3 sermons
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I think an answer is indicated in both Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Corinthians 11.
In the latter reference Paul writes:
“… when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”(ESV)
While the term “divisions” or its synonyms seem to be most commonly used across various translations, the KJV uses the term “heresies” which has much stronger implications in the Christian mind.
But while the ideas of “divisions” and “heresies” are seen mostly in negative terms, Paul highlights a positive outcome resulting from their presence – that is to bring to recognition those who are genuine.
Other translations state this positive outcome in different terms. The NIV puts it this way:
“…there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval”.
It seems there is something about the existence of divisions/heresies/factions that brings to light those who are genuine, those who have God’s approval and distinguishes them from others who are clearly not genuine and lack God’s approval.
I see a link here with a warning God gives in Deuteronomy 13.
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Here it is clearly stated that false prophets are used as a test of a person’s love for God. There is a choice to be made whenever we come across a teacher, a prophet, a teaching, a sign or a miracle. Are they from God or are they leading us astray?
No matter how genuine they may seem, the ultimate test is whether we are being directed towards GOD or towards something else. The One True God or an imitation.
When there are divisions that call for a choice of path to be taken, how do we determine which (if any) direction leads to God?
Would it be wrong to suggest that God given us the needed direction in His word? That we should test everything and everyone according to His revelation given in scripture?
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119: 104-105)
Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
(2 Timothy 2:14-16 NIV)
I can see that “divisions” help determine those who have God’s approval and bring to light those who are genuine in two ways. Firstly those who put aside God’s word to follow man’s ideas (either their own or those of favoured teachers) are separated from those who give priority to God and His revelation.
The second relates to the way division is handled. Do we allow the differences to lead us into quarrelling and ungodly chatter?
It is in the second that I see myself needing the most help.
Friday, September 17, 2010
It is part 4 in a series he has been writing. Parts 1 to 3 can also be found on his blog.
With this article he intends to: "begin addressing the primary elements of Calvinism, commonly identified as the 5 points of Calvinism".
Why I am no longer a Calvinist
Thursday, September 09, 2010
A simple method of study I would recommend is to read scripture with prayer for understanding.
Avoid grabbing bits of scripture from here and there and trying to make sense of it. Scripture is not an unrelated collection of doctrinal facts that can be applied in isolation. It is an unfolding revelation of God’s relationship with His creation – mankind in particular.
Get a basic knowledge of how scripture fits together and how this revelation flows from Genesis to Revelation. My own understanding increased significantly when I finally understood how the different parts of scripture related to each other.
And a very important point is to not neglect the “Old Testament”. So often the impression is given that it isn’t as important as the “New” – but without the “Old” our understanding of God and His new covenant will be seriously lacking.
This obviously takes time and there’s no quick and easy way. It is often our impatience that leads us to turn to others for answers and makes us susceptible to accepting their word in place of scripture.
I don’t dismiss the importance of teaching from Spirit-led teachers but it’s not always easy to find teachers who ARE led by the Spirit. The majority of teachers we come across are merely passing on what they have learned from their church or seminary and they teach church doctrine instead of God’s word.
A Spirit led teacher does not merely pass on what he has learned from others. A Spirit led teacher is one who has received revelation himself through a personal encounter with the word and the Holy Spirit.
A Spirit led teacher will also GENUINELY encourage us to search the scriptures for ourselves. This is not only a safeguard for us – it also holds the teacher to account and provides a safeguard for him, reducing the chance of him leading us astray.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
If God ordained man’s sin and then punished man for what God Himself had ordained – THAT is a far bigger problem.
However, if God gave man the freedom of moral choice, making man responsible for his own sin – and if God then provided a way for man to be free of the penalty of his sin by taking that sin and its punishment upon Himself. That is not a problem – that is GRACE.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Below is a link to a long but very interesting article about the return of Israel to their land and how it relates to the second coming of Messiah.
The article is by Reggie Kelly, a close friend of Art Katz.
Art Katz’s understanding of Israel’s future received a lot of opposition, particularly from Messianic believers in Israel.
While many see only good things ahead for the Jews and Israel, Katz understood there are still some very disturbing things to come.
After reading and listening to a lot of ideas about Israel I have come across two major, contradictory viewpoints from those who DO recognise that Israel as a nation has a future in God’s purposes.
One sees the restoration of Israel and the increasing number of Jews turning to Messiah as the forerunner of worldwide revival.
The other view (as seen by Art Katz) is not so optimistic about the immediate future. He saw another exile from the land during the great tribulation/ time of Jacob’s trouble. This period would be relatively brief (3 ½ years) and would end with the return of Jesus, when HE would bring His people back to their land, from which they would never again be uprooted.
For some time I have understood there will be a period in history that will eclipse the horrors of the holocaust. Through the ministry of Art Katz, and also articles like the one below, I have been encouraged that I have not been on the wrong prophetic track.
There is a lot in this article to consider and many supporting references to thoroughly check.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
There is an urgent need for Christians to accept responsibility. We have the scriptures and we have the promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our teacher. God has provided everything we need to guide us and to keep us in the truth. We need to trust His Spirit to teach us His word instead of putting our primary (and often only) trust in man’s teachings.
When I’ve written about this before a common response has been to point out that teachers are included in the ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.*)
There clearly is a God given place for GENUINE teachers.
Genuine teachers not only lead us to understanding in areas where we are lacking, they also train us to search the scriptures for ourselves, thereby decreasing our reliance upon their ministry.
Any teacher who promotes ideas contrary to scripture is not a God given teacher.
Any teacher who makes him or herself above question is not a God given teacher.
Any teacher who makes sure students remain reliant upon him/her is not a God given teacher.
Too often laziness encourages us to rely on teachers more than we should, to the extent that we don’t keep THEM accountable for what they teach. By holding them accountable, not only are we guarding our selves – we are showing true love to the teacher, helping THEM stay on the right path with their doctrine and teaching.
*Ironically, many who readily cling to teachers are equally ready to dismiss any present day reality of the first two ministries in that list
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
In an earlier post, here, I linked to a sermon about Romans 9-11. That sermon helped me to understand why replacement theology gained such a strong foothold in the church.
For most of the church’s history Israel as a distinct and recognisable nation had been erased from the world map. So what understanding could be brought to the NT references to Israel, and in particular Paul’s strong statements that God had not and would not forsake Israel?
Israel was no more – so was Paul mistaken? Was scripture wrong?
It’s not surprising that a different approach to understanding scripture was seen as necessary. Ambiguous hints could be found that might suggest that the position of Israel had been taken over by the church. So references to Israel were seen as being symbolic instead of literal and the church was seen as the NEW or SPIRITUAL Israel.
That was perhaps the most logical position to take…
…until 1948, when Israel again appeared on the map.
Not everyone had accepted the idea of the church replacing Israel. Some remained faithful to a literal reading of scripture and expected Jews to return to the land of their ancestors. They trusted the word of biblical prophecy instead of geographical and political appearances.
Why is it that today, over 60 years after the return of Israel, the majority of the church still rejects the literal word of scripture regarding Israel? That literal word prophesied both the exile of Israel to all the nations, and also the return of Israel to the land of their ancestors.
They still reject it because they prefer the theology and reasoning of men above the clear word of scripture. Loved traditions are hard to abandon. This example also shows how much man prefers to base his beliefs on his own observations and his own reasoning rather than on the revelation of the word of God.
A similar thing can be seen with regard to Spiritual gifts, in particular those mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians. Wide sections of the church deny the relevance of those gifts. They say the gifts were made redundant by the compiling of the scriptures. They even quote Paul:
“But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
Their explanation is based on the assumption that “when perfection comes” refers to the coming of the scriptures – and therefore scripture has replaced Spiritual gifts within the church.
How can such a leap of logic take place and be so widely accepted?
The foundation of this assumption comes from a very tenuous inference projected into the phrase “when perfection comes”. It is a case of looking for something that can be MADE to support the already held conclusion that Spiritual gifts no longer exist.
Again it’s a matter of looking at the world around us and basing theology upon what is seen and interpreting scripture to support that view, instead of accepting scripture as written and seeking answers about why our experience doesn’t match scripture’s clearest meaning.
The process goes like this:
Example 1: The bible speaks about Israel and God’s continued faithfulness to Israel – but Israel no longer existed, so the church must have replaced Israel.
Example 2: Spiritual gifts are missing from the church, so they obvious no longer exist.
The final step in both of these examples is to find parts of scripture that can be interpreted in a way that supports the favoured conclusions.
The question arising out of all of this is: Do we REALLY rely on the revelation given in scripture and interpret our world and experience according to what God has revealed?
Or do we insist on interpreting the world and scripture according to our experience and what we can see?
Friday, July 30, 2010
The media today (and also many in the "church") have clearly taken a leaf out of the Soviet book:
…the hypocrisy of the rulers of the USSR, who permit themselves to mock at human intelligence when they put the blame on Israel. Every child in the street knows that the  crisis is due to Nasser [President of Egypt] and he himself admits it. Yet [the soviet representative] at the UN, and his masters in the Kremlin, denounce the “aggression” of Israel. Nasser mobilises military forces and sends them to Sinai. Nasser entrusts the frontier to Shukeiry’s gangs . Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran. And Moscow yells that Israel is to blame…
From Mission Survival ed. R Bondy, O Zmora & R Bashan.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Of course, as expected, he deletes the offending comment. Then he sends a personal email strongly conveying his displeasure.
Now what rudeness of mine sparked this response?
The gentile born “rabbi”, in justifying his choice to convert to Judaism (AFTER professing faith in Messiah) pointed to the legitimacy of conversion for those with a “healthy sense of identity and a persistent desire to belong to the people of Israel”.
I’m not sure when “healthy sense of identity” and persistent desire” were valid reasons to contravene clearly stated prohibitions written by the apostle Paul*. Can those reasons be used to excuse all of our disobedience? Is persistent desire a legitimate reason for giving in to any temptation?
What exactly caused the offense?
I made a blunt comparison.
I mentioned a person I know who was born male. However this person has a sense of identity with and a persistent desire to be female. As a result he has been living as a woman and intends to “convert” through a “sex-change” operation.
Does this person’s “sense of identity” (which he would consider healthy) and his “persistent desire” legitimize HIS conversion?
* From the apostle Paul:
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
1 Cor 7:18
Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised
Friday, July 23, 2010
As a gentile believer in a Jewish Messiah I need to consider my relationship with the Jewish people, especially those who have also recognised their Messiah. I need to consider the GENTILE side of the relationship and how I as a gentile believer can see the unity of “one new man” becoming a present day reality with true unity in Messiah between Jewish and gentile believer.
In the first years of the early church Paul went to great lengths for it to be seen that God accepted gentile believers AS gentiles and that we did not need to become Jews to be in relationship with Him.
However, when gentiles became the dominant authority within the church the same attitude was not taken with Jews who came to faith in Messiah. The church went to great lengths to disenfranchise Jewish believers, replacing the feasts of the Lord with alternative feast days adopted from pagan traditions; demanding they worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath; and requiring change to their diet.
All of this went a long way to destroying any hope of a genuine “one new man” for more than 1700 years.
During that period it was more like a one-sided man, with very little Jewish representation. Such a “relationship” is like a “marriage” where there is only one “partner”. A husband by himself or a wife by herself is not a true marriage in which TWO become one and yet maintain individual identity and gender.
Gentile believers need to appreciate the truth of a comment I recently saw on a Christian forum:
“Personally I don't believe that God wants Jews to convert to ‘Christianity’ at all; He merely wants them to recognise Yeshua as their Messiah and accept him as their King”
We tend to remain (wilfully) ignorant of the fact that gentiles have been grafted into a JEWISH olive tree and not vice versa. It is THEIR Messiah and THEIR new covenant into which we gentiles have been admitted. And yet gentiles over the ages have done our best to take ownership of that tree and to make the natural, cultivated branches become more like the wild branches.
Jewish people, need to be presented with the Jewish Messiah and HIS gospel and not a gentilised religion which has given the impression of a Jew hating Jesus.
Jews do not need to celebrate Easter instead of Passover. They do not need to abandon the Sabbath and replace it with “Sunday worship”. They don’t need to abandon their diet and start eating pork and shellfish. They don’t need to bow to any gentile religious tradition.
They need to meet their King and bow down to Him.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
In the sermon he points out that this generation is the first since Paul’s time that is in a position to understand the situation Paul was addressing in his letter to believers in Rome. We live in a generation that can easily view these chapters literally.
Unfortunately, most Christians today miss the point because of their adherence to historical traditions and theologies. Those traditions were established in a time when the logical approach was to allegorise Paul’s references to Israel because to the natural eye Israel had ceased to exist. Replacement Theology was the result of that allegorical approach.
Personally I thought he was heading off track about halfway through by talking about revival around the world, but that was only a brief interruption. Others may not find that section to be a problem.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
As an outsider I see little difference between what seems to be happening in the Messianic fellowships and what is going on in the “churches”. Considering how recently the current Messianic movement started, they didn’t waste time finding reasons for disagreement. Ironically, in its attempt to provide a Jewish context for expressing faith in their messiah, most of the controversy I’ve noticed in the Messianic blogs I’ve found has been about how Messianic Jews should relate to gentile believers. Some believe there is no room for gentiles in their congregations, that non-Jewish believers should restrict themselves to attending churches and leave Jewish believers to have congregations of their own. Others see there is room for both as long as the context of the fellowship remains authentically Jewish in its expression.
A contributing factor to the problem is the increasing number of gentiles seeking fellowship within a Jewish context. Some Messianic fellowships are reportedly predominantly gentile in membership. I have even read reports that seem to suggest a prominent (gentile born) Messianic teacher has undergone (or at least seriously considered undergoing) conversion to Judaism (with all that entails), to practice his faith as a recognised Messianic Jewish “rabbi”.
Another feature muddying the Messianic waters is a belief being promoted by some non-Jews that they are descendants of the allegedly lost tribes of Israel. This modern day manifestation previously associated with British Israelism and also adopted by Mormons and the late Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, has pushed its way into the Messianic movement. Of course, there is no genealogical evidence to indicate the validity of this belief. It is all attributed to “spiritual revelation”. Some Jewish believers see the intrusion of these Israelite wannabes as another example of replacement theology in action.*
The questioning of whether gentile and Jewish believers should fit together in fellowship has its foundations in carnality. There should be no separation. We are one in Him. However, due to the actions of the gentile church for at least 1700 years, a division has been created. The theological error and bigotry of a dominant, apostate, gentile church has helped to further harden Jews against the gospel of THEIR Messiah.
In the present day, when Jews are coming to faith in Messiah in increasing numbers, they are still kept at a distance by the majority of the church through the lie of replacement theology or through an apathetic ignorance regarding God’s purposes for the Jewish people. Centuries of hostility and forced assimilation are difficult to overlook, especially when present day theologies show no real evidence of repentance.
Jewish believers are therefore understandably suspicious in their relationships with gentile believers. I’m sure they want to avoid a repetition of history.
Where does the answer lie?
Scripture reveals that salvation came to the gentile to make Israel jealous.
How would that happen?
Clearly not through hostility and bigotry towards the Jewish people.
But then again, is it likely to happen through gentiles envying the Jew and trying to blend into a Jewish cultural expression?
For gentile believers to succeed in making Israel jealous, their relationship to both Israel and more importantly the God of Israel needs to stand up to God’s expectations instead of being driven by faulty theology and/or misguided sentiment.
* It was a belief that I had not personally come across before (though I was aware of it. However in the past month I have seen it increasing promoted in a variety of places.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Blogs give access to a more ground level reality. Books have to fulfil certain market-driven requirements which include not biting the hand that feeds them.
Bloggers are not subject to such restraints, and while that open ground also gives voice to all kinds of weird and not so wonderful ideas, occasionally it is possible to stumble across something worthwhile and enlightening.
The following article may be of interest to others. It is written by a gentile believer desiring and attempting a more Hebraic approach to his faith. I think his experience highlights the problems that unfortunately maintain the divisions between Jewish and Gentile believers.
One thing that isn’t addressed in the article is the question of whether ANY of the examined worship styles and fellowship groups is “legitimate” in God’s eyes. Do any of them fulfil the genuine fellowship characteristics of a healthy and united body of believers? Or is it all about favoured form and ritual?
While the article addresses the current situation, scripture describes something totally different. Unity in Messiah still seems a long way off – but perhaps the disunity is nothing that an experience of severe, shared persecution won’t fix.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Friday, July 02, 2010
But my reading continues as I try to understand more about the relationship between the church, Jewish (Messianic) believers, and non-Messianic Jews.
I have also sought comment from a Jewish friend and brother who was involved with Messianic Judaism in its early days and in his words he saw “the good, the bad and the ugly” sides of the movement and has not been involved with them for many years, though he maintains His relationship with Jesus.
One of his observations was to compare the Messianic Judaism movement with the emergent church, saying “much of the Messianic Jewish Movement has also bought into the philosophy of maybe if they like us, they'll like our Jesus, too.”
Do the Messianic groups lean too far towards Judaism in their attempt to make the gospel relevant to other Jews? Through a week of looking over Messianic blogs and web pages I could easily conclude that some do.
There is perhaps no less variation of style and belief between the Messianic fellowships than there is among traditional Christian churches. There are a range of expressions from the ritual and liturgy of the “High church”, through to the informality associated with charismatics and house churches.
There is also a broad range of doctrines held, from strict views of “torah keeping” in which gentiles are expected to adhere to “torah” – (Paul’s Galatian letter comes to mind when I come across these) to others who recognise clear differences between requirements for Jewish believers and gentile believers.
Thinking over what I have discovered, from the very brief exposure I’ve had, I see a danger of a maintained division. The gentile church throughout history has treated Jews and even Jewish believers atrociously. Because of that, it would be easy for Messianic fellowships to maintain a distance and go their own way with no interaction with their gentile brothers and sisters. I suspect many are taking that route.
Another danger would be for both Jewish and Gentile believers to try to bring about the fulfilment of prophecy through their own efforts. I have seen several statements about the salvation of the Jews leading to revival among the gentiles. I have read accounts of a supposed increase in conversions throughout the world since the beginning of the growth in the Messianic movement. One figure stated that approximately 1/5 of the world’s population now confessed Christ as saviour. I would strongly doubt the accuracy of that statistic. Only the broadest and loosest definition of “Christian” would encompass such a number of people today*.
While the increasing numbers of Jews finding salvation through recognition of their Messiah is a reason for celebration. We need to hold to what scripture says to determine the truth of the situation. Does scripture reveal that more Jews will come to Messiah as a result of Jewish believers holding more closely to their Jewish traditions and heritage? Is that what has been foretold by the prophets? Will Jews come into relationship with Jesus apart from gentile believers? While that seems to be a logical possibility and while that seems to be the expectation of many Messianic Jews, that is not what is revealed in scripture.
Paul clearly reveals that “salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous”. The journeys of gentile and Jewish believers are therefore not intended to be separate. What divisions there are between Messianic and gentile believers cannot and will not continue as long as both sets of branches (the natural and the wild) are maintained by the same root. Continued division can only result in the cutting off of the offending branches.
* This claim is an attempt to show the fulfilment of Paul’s statement regarding the Jews, that “if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring”. The assumption is that their “fullness” has now begun and that the “greater riches” means world revival
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
In his book Betrayed, Stan Telchin describes how horrified he and his wife (both Jewish) were when their daughter revealed she had found faith in Jesus. He writes “To mention the name of Jesus is awkward enough. To consider Him as the Messiah is to betray our people, to join the enemy and to desecrate the memory of all our ancestors over the last two thousand years”. He continues with the reason for this: “…the knights of the Crusades…descended on Jews with a cross in one hand and a sword in the other. They murdered and raped and pillaged, all in the name of Christianity.”
“Then there was the Inquisition in Spain in 1492, when refusing to convert to Christianity would cost a Jew his life…”
The realities of a 2000 year history of persecution are not easily brushed away. And it is not distant history when we recognise how recently 6,000,000 Jews were added to the number of those murdered in previous vendettas of “Christendom” against the Jews. However Telchin didn’t need to look to history, even recent history, to make the point recalling, at the age of 5 or 6, of being labelled a “Christ-killer”.
Yohanna Chernoff in Born a Jew…Die a Jew reveals another reason Jews have found it difficult to accept the gospel: the fear of losing or forfeiting their cultural identity. What other national group have been required to abandon or hide their cultural roots? Do Americans stop being Americans after coming to faith in Jesus?
Jewish believers faced rejection from two sides – from other Jews who see belief in Jesus as betrayal, “Are you going to become like those people who have been persecuting us for two thousand years?” And from gentile believers, who foster barely disguised anti-Semitism in their expectation that Jews give up their Jewish identity.
This has been expressed most clearly in replacement theology which insists that the Jews are a people rejected by God having been replaced in His affections by the church.
Yohanna Chernoff and her husband Marty were among the recent pioneers of a movement among Jewish believers in which they celebrate their Messiah as Jews. They started one of the earliest successful Messianic Congregations in America, with the mission of taking the gospel to Jewish families and bringing them into an expression of Messianic faith that joyfully embraces its Jewish roots. This mission not only brought opposition from more traditional church groups, it attracted massive protests from orthodox Jewish groups. This story is told in the book Born a Jew…Die a Jew.
Prior to the late 1960s/early 1970s, there were few Jews expressing faith in Jesus the Messiah. This was the time of the “Jesus Movement” through which many young people started to find the Christian message appealing. This influx of young people, often from the hippy community, also affected the new Messianic fellowships. The Chernoffs saw this as the fulfilment of a vision received by Marty which referred to a “ragged righteous remnant”. Their Beth Yeshua (House of Salvation) fellowship gave a spiritual home to many young people searching for truth and was the birth place of Lamb and Kol Simcha, two groups of singers/musicians who introduced popular, Jewish influenced music to the wider church.
While many still insist that God has rejected Israel and replaced them with the church –thought of as “new” or “spiritual” Israel - they cannot honestly deny that a wonderful move of God has begun within the Jewish people. The numbers of Messianic Jewish believers has grown significantly over the last 30-40 years. Even so, while acknowledging this fact, many still insist that there is no future for the people of Israel. And in this insistence there is not only a denial of what is happening around them, there is a wilful denial of what the apostle Paul reveals in his letter to the church in Rome. His words should take away ALL doubt. He categorically states that God has not rejected the Jews, and he is equally categorical when he states that ALL Israel will be saved in the same way that gentile believers have been saved. This will happen after an unspecified number of gentiles have come to faith.
Don Finto’s God’s Promise and the Future of Israel brings an overview of what God has been doing among the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It gives a perspective of the history of Israel and the church, and moves on to the future that both will share together, becoming members of the one family of God. He writes of the important part that Israel plays in God’s future purposes, a future in which the Messiah will return to earth to establish the Kingdom promised throughout countless prophecies in scripture.
Finto believes that the coming of this Kingdom is very near. The re-establishment of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent repossession of Jerusalem as its capital in 1967 are seen as major signs of the imminence of the Kingdom. Could these events be fulfilment of the return of Israel foretold by the old testament prophets: a return from ALL the nations (clearly a different event from the return from ONE nation after the exile to Babylon)? Those prophecies also promise that the people returning to the land of their ancestors will never again be uprooted – again the return from the Babylonian exile does not fulfil that condition considering they WERE uprooted again in 70AD.
Is it coincidence that Jerusalem came under Jewish control and an increase in the number of Jews recognising their Messiah started around the same time?
Three of the books are autobiographical while the other two offer personal observations of influences that have separated Christianity from its Jewish origins. This article is a companion piece, touching on the historical background of the relationship between Christianity and Israel. Following articles will look at the direction ahead.
This is a complex and potentially controversial issue I hope I’m able to address it with a degree of clarity and not merely add to the misunderstanding. Of course there is no way that the whole matter can be addressed in full and I can only touch the surface.
For the first decades of church history, the Christian faith was predominantly Jewish. It was not considered to be a new religion. Its followers recognised Jesus as “the Messiah”, the King of Israel, whose coming had been prophesied for hundreds of years.
Eventually, the message of the Messiah spread to a non-Jewish audience. The original followers of Jesus then had to decide whether it was necessary for the growing number of gentile followers to convert to Judaism, adopting its laws and traditions in order to be accepted by God.
At a conference in Jerusalem it was recognised that God had accepted gentile believers just as they were and conversion to Judaism was unnecessary (Acts 15)
Moving forward a couple of centuries and the nature of the church had changed significantly. The gentile influence had increased, far outweighing that of Jewish believers.
When the council of Nicea met in 325AD (during which some of the basic Christian beliefs were established as recorded in the Nicene Creed) they excluded all Jewish input. No leader from a Jewish background was invited to attend. It wasn’t long before all influence from Jewish believers was rejected.
The early Jewish leadership of the church saw that gentiles could become followers of Jesus without converting to Judaism, but when gentiles became the dominating influence the same liberty was not extended to Jews. They were expected to desert their Jewish culture and adopt gentile behaviour and lifestyle. It was forgotten that the Jesus at the heart of the church was Himself a Jew who had been proclaimed as King of the Jews.
For the most part of the last 2000 years, Jews have suffered at the hands of those professing to be Christians. “Christian” nations have treated them with scorn and violence, from the Spanish Inquisition, to the Russian Pogroms and of course the Holocaust, during which 1/3 of the world’s Jews was murdered by Hitler’s Nazis. These experiences throughout history contributed to the further hardening of the Jews against the Christian message.
During the church’s first years, prior to the coining of the term “Christian”, believers in Jesus called their faith and lifestyle “The Way” and considered themselves followers of The Way.
Steve Maltz has used this name in the title of his book How the Church Lost the Way. Throughout the book Maltz demonstrates how the Hebraic influence of the original followers of Jesus was replaced by the influences of Greek philosophy and how the acceptance of Jews within the church was ended.
I mentioned the council of Nicea earlier. Of this Maltz writes:
“…the first great Council of the Christian Church now takes a sinister turn and validates a policy that is going to result in nothing less than persecution, leading to genocide, of the Jewish people for centuries to come.”
This statement relates to an official letter circulated from the Council by the Emperor (and chairman of the Council) Constantine regarding the distancing of “Easter” celebrations from the original celebration of Passover, when Jesus was crucified according to the Jewish calendar.
“…it seemed to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches, having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds…Let us therefore have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews.”
Maltz continues, that this was “… the start of a long slide away from the Jewish roots of the faith” and notes that subsequent councils, “threatened excommunication for any Christian celebrating Passover with the Jews…” and “…extended this to all Jewish festivals as well as the Saturday Sabbath”.
In so clearly and categorically rejecting the Jewish origins of faith in the Jewish Messiah, the church did incalculable harm to itself and the integrity of its doctrines and practices. But also it did great harm to the Jew’s relationship with their long awaited King, helping to further harden them against Him and the message He preached.
(see Messianic Quintet
Thursday, June 03, 2010
If scripture is so vital to Christian life, how do (and did) those believers make it?
It is ironic that these arguments are usually raised by those who have easy access to multiple bibles who are not likely to find themselves in a position where they never have one.
If we don't have access to a bible and can't get access to a bible then we can not and will not be held accountable for what we don’t have. And I believe the Lord will provide in some way to make up for the lack.
But if we do have access:
“…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”. (Luke 12:48)
So why and how do those believers prosper in their faith without easy access to scripture?
They are often living in genuine poverty and/or experiencing genuine persecution and have to genuinely trust in the Lord for day to day survival. But bible ownership (especially multiple copy ownership) often comes with relative wealth and freedom from harsh persecution.
While these "benefits" are appreciated the freedom is usually accompanied by countless distractions. These distractions include a lot of "spiritual benefits" such as Christian books & music, TV, Church attendance, preaching etc., which can become substitutes for searching the scriptures for ourselves. Those resources are often given more influence and authority over our doctrine than scripture is - because they are so convenient and easy to take in.
And when we DO go to scripture, if we come across something we can't understand, we have so many resources to which we can refer for understanding. Unfortunately those resources can become substitutes for trusting the Holy Spirit to teach us.
We often prefer to turn to commentaries because we are impatient for answers and the Spirit doesn't always respond to our impatience as quickly as we would like. Unlike the commentary writers, the Holy Spirit knows the truth of EVERYTHING. He also knows our capacity and readiness to learn so He reveals what we need to understand when we are ready to understand it.
And how many people trust in study bibles to give them understanding? And how many of those people find themselves reading the study notes more than they read the actual biblical text? Those are just some thoughts on this issue. It is not due to the presence or absence of a Bible. It is due to the types of society in which Bible ownership is easy, hard or impossible. And most importantly, it is due to the value we REALLY give to scripture. Do we value it enough to actually take it seriously? Do we take it as seriously as those to whom access to the scriptures is a rare privilege?
Of course there are – but how are they recognised and how do we avoid becoming victim to them?
Our foundational defence is scripture, the word of God. One of the first warning signs given that everything is NOT ok, is often the way scripture is treated. Downplay the scriptures, or pick and choose which bits are really inspired, and we open the gate wide for everyone to determine what is right in their own eyes.
We open the gate wide to every deceiving spirit to come (claiming to be the Holy Spirit), whispering all manner of false revelation into our ears.
Unfortunately the denigration of scripture has become common practice among some professing Christians, and open forums and blogs tend to give them a platform to promote their ideas. Usually they dress their message in very spiritual sounding terms in which the Holy Spirit is presented as superseding His inspired word, making scripture almost unnecessary. Why do we need scripture when we have God Himself inside?
Others will make the claim that JESUS is the Living word of God and we should relate to Him and not words on a page (which by implication or even direct statement are dismissed as NOT being the word of God).
The questioning of the nature of scripture is not uncommon. This is especially true of those who have had their faith shaken at some stage, with the realisation that most things they were taught and took for granted were wrong. If everything else was wrong – what about our understanding of what scripture is? Is it really “the word of God”? Was it really inspired by the Holy Spirit? Weren’t the writers fallible men who could make mistakes?
I’ve seen all of these questions, and in the past I asked some of them myself.
But it is ironic that those who try to question the authority of scripture often do so by referring to PARTS of scripture to defend their viewpoint.
A popular quote used for this purpose is:
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
These verses are not diminishing the importance of scripture; they specifically state that the scriptures testify about Jesus! He was NOT criticising the Pharisees for studying the scriptures, He was criticising them for not seeing what was THERE in the scriptures. Like in so many cases today the actual content of scripture was replaced by other things – like tradition and theology.
So often we are too keen to read our doctrines INTO scripture that we blind ourselves to what scripture is actually saying. This practice seems to be ingrained into us, by example, through a lot of preaching within the church. A preacher will base a sermon on a “text”, he will then make several points based around his application of that “text” – and will usually throw in a sampling of other “texts” from around the bible to add extra support for his points.
Most listeners will take it all in without a second thought, with no questions about what has been said. Others will be a little more diligent and will note down the references and check them later for themselves, but in doing so will fail to check the context to see whether the “texts” were being applied correctly. The common attitude is to do nothing more than check whether the references are in scripture or not.
In effect we are not learning what scripture is REALLY saying, we learn what the preacher is telling us that it says. We are also adopting a wrong understanding of how scripture should be handled.
Scripture is NOT a collection of disconnected texts to apply according to personal preference. Scripture is a collection of books that must be addressed according to context to see what those books are saying. No prophecy of scripture is open to private interpretation.
We should be determining what the Spirit was and is saying through the words He inspired men to write?
At one time Jesus said: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
And that truth remains – people fall into error because they do not know the scriptures.
So often there has been an obsession with “the power of God” at the expense of the Scriptures, and people run here and there whenever rumours of displays of power are heard. If scripture had been given the same importance as “the power” those people may have become more familiar with what Jesus said:
“…if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.”
Heeding those warnings about the coming end-times should make everyone wary of running here and there in response to reports of “the anointed one” (the Christ) being in a particular place performing great signs and miracles.
But how can those warnings be heeded if the importance and authority of scripture is ignored or dismissed
Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law* day and night.
They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Giving excessive prominence to angels has become a common thing among the false signs and wonders movement. We saw how Todd Bentley’s obsession with angels had (has!) many deceived.
Now another manifestation of angel “worship” has come to my attention.
I heard about a new film called “Legion”. In this story God has “lost faith” in mankind and determined to destroy them. But the archangel Michael rebels against God and comes to mankind’s aid.
This totally blasphemous perversion places mankind’s salvation in the hands of an angel.
Now which angel would like to have himself portrayed as man’s saviour from an allegedly vindictive and hostile God? Which angel will one day lead a literal army of men in a final (vain) attempt to overcome God’s rule on earth?
Such concepts as that being promoted in this movie show how easily men can be made to accept the possibility of overcoming God with the help of another angel – not Michael as in the movie, but Lucifer, now known as Satan or the devil.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Jennifer Knapp was previously marketed as a Christian singer, but it seems her latest album will be marketed differently.
A little more recently country singer Chely Wright has also revealed her homosexuality in her autobiography released early in May. My review of her book can be found here:
Book review of Like Me by Chely Wright
I specifically wanted to write a response to Chely Wright's book because of her constant references to God and her relationship with Him.
Her confession has caused me to consider Christian attitudes to those who are homosexual.
It is easy to condemn homosexuals with scripture as a weapon – and become extremists like the “God hates fags” brigade who wouldn’t recognise God if He hit them over the head with their own bigotry.
Or it would also be easy to be accepting and forgiving, promoting a God of unconditional love who will forgive everything because sin doesn’t really matter that much to Him.
I can’t see that either of these approaches is acceptable.
But what do I make of Chely Wright’s situation in which she claimed to have asked God daily to be delivered of her homosexuality? In that case is it her fault for being how she is? Or is it God’s for not answering her prayer?
Or possibly, maybe, the prayer was unanswered because she was praying to the wrong God – a God of man’s creation. A God based on man’s tradition and cultural conditioning instead of the One true God who hates all sin but mercifully provided mankind a way of deliverance from sin and its penalty – a way that is conditional.
Have we allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated by the world around us, its standards and expectations?
Or have we really shaped our thinking and expectations according to the word of Jesus and scripture?
Monday, May 24, 2010
Cormac McCarthy's book The Road received a lot of praise from literary critics and has recently been made into a film.
Without Christ there is certainly no reason for hope in this world.
Review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Clearly the desire to believe could overcome almost any obstacle – even confessions of hoaxing were dismissed. Objective truth really didn’t matter. Reality was what someone wanted to believe.
This experience made me increasingly aware of how Christians can also fall into the same trap and their faith becomes more subjective, based on experience and desire instead of on a solid and sure foundation. Even when the reality created out of experience and desire contradicts the claimed foundation of their professed faith, experience and desire are given priority. Excuses are made by applying select portions of scripture in a way that is clearly not appropriate to their context. Verses are used in isolation to mean what is most useful to the one quoting them.
One area that I see regularly stretching the truth is teaching on the last days. A key warning sign regarding this teaching is when the bible has little part to play in the teaching. Yes a verse or two may be quoted – but usually the quotes are taken out of context to support a point already made by the preacher, rather than starting with scripture to see what IT could mean as a stand alone revelation. If it were possible to consider the quote WITHOUT the expectation already created by the speaker we would probably never come to the conclusion he has led us to draw.
So many of the preachers on this topic start with a current political situation and then support it with a few bible verses. Recently I heard a talk about Europe that promotes popular conclusions about the European community being set up as a revived Roman Empire from which antichrist will arise.It was very interesting and very convincing.
The speaker mentioned one of the symbols of this revived Empire – the image of a woman riding a beast, an image straight from the book of Revelation.Unfortunately, being an audio source I wasn’t able to see the visual evidence that the speaker was presenting to his audience and I had to check it later through an internet search.
The results of that search are part for the reason for writing this article.
I found plenty of examples of this “woman riding the beast” and yes, on seeing this evidence the speaker’s claims are quite convincing…UNTIL we turn to scripture itself. Scripture DOES describe a woman riding a beast – but do the European images match the scriptural description?
The European images refer to Europa riding a bull (an image from Greek mythology), a common enough animal with one head and two horns. The beast being ridden in Revelation has SEVEN heads and TEN horns. Surely this is quite a significant difference.
This particular speaker is not the only one to link the Europa image to the Revelation reference. In my search for photos I found that some of them were provided by sites devoted to “end time prophecy”. While Europe does make use of an image of a woman riding a beast, linking this with the description in Revelation is a clear case of misusing scripture. I would even go as far as saying it is an ABUSE of scripture.
A few years ago I bought a DVD from a visiting speaker at a local church. The DVD was about “The End Times”, and I was interested to see what the speaker had to say on the topic. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that there was little (actually I don’t recall ANYTHING) that addressed scripture. The speaker concentrated on some allegations he had read about Mikhail Gorbachev that supposedly had something to do with end time’s prophecy.
And I can’t claim innocence in this matter. In the late 1980s, exposure of the “New Age Movement” was becoming popular with many Christian communicators. Several books were released and I collected a few recordings of preachers speaking on the dangers of the New Age. I became extremely interested and when I had the opportunity to preach at my local church, I made this the subject of my sermon. It made a fascinating study and the congregation were very interested in what I had to say – but in reality, what relevance did it all have? At the most it gave a highly speculative view of the end times that had a very tenuous connection to what is revealed in bible prophecy. Even saying there was a tenuous connection is being far too complimentary – in reality there was NO real connection at all between scripture and the content of my talk. The same can be said of the majority of popular “End Time” teaching that I’ve come across.
There is a very well known quote attributed to Benjamin D’Israeli and popularised by Mark Twain:
“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics”
I would add another that Christians should be wary of: “Speculation” dressed up as Biblical truth.
Now in THAT case I have no doubt at all that my reference to Christians telling the truth was valid. Christians were (and ARE) being persecuted under various political and religious based regimes. However, I later learned that not all “Christian” claims are trustworthy and the truth is not guaranteed from all sources professing to be Christian.
In my younger years I was extremely naïve, perhaps even gullible. I gave people the benefit of the doubt and trusted that the majority of people (especially Christians) were basically truthful. I easily believed what I was being told.
When I read or heard of fantastic experiences I didn’t doubt that the stories were true.
From early childhood I had a fascination with UFOs and read as much as I could find on the subject – but NEVER did I think that any of the stories may have been made up. This attitude remained with me after becoming a Christian – and if possible I had more reason to trust what I was told by other Christians. The truth was important to Christians, lying was strictly forbidden so why would any Christian disobey God by lying?
Even today I probably don’t realise how vulnerable this outlook made me. Whenever I read or heard Christian testimony I believed it without question. Why would a Christian lie?
In the church I attended I heard about a congregation member rising a foot off the floor during worship. I heard about angelic singing in a friend’s home. I heard the story of a group of ministers saved from a certain head-on collision when their car was instantly transported past the on-coming vehicle.
Why shouldn’t I have believed these stories – they were told by people I knew, about people I knew, and those people were Christians and Christians don’t lie.
There were also books giving amazing testimonies of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of Christians. There were books of people literally set free from Satan’s power – being turned from practising witchcraft to having faith in Jesus, books that showed the reality of “both sides” of supernatural reality.
And I believed it all.
Why would Christians lie?
I’m not sure now when the cracks started to form; when I started to see that Christians are not always as truthful as they should be, and not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a genuine follower of Jesus.
I have written elsewhere about my “crisis of faith” that started in the late 1980s and lasted around 15 years. Maybe it was during this time that my eyes were opened. I had maintained my interest in UFOs and other strange phenomena and read widely on these subjects, and for the first time I started to come across some sceptical voices from those who had an interest in these subjects but also questioned the validity of many of the claims being made.
In my reading I was particularly interested in stories that had a “Christian” element and through this I became aware of investigation into stories I’d lapped up years before. Mike Warnke was a Christian with amazing testimonies. He was an excellent communicator using humour to reach people with the gospel. He did this through personal accounts of his involvement with the occult (published in his book “The Satan Seller”) and also through experiences in the Vietnam war.
His experiences in the occult did a lot to convince me of the reality of the powers of darkness. Some of his experiences could have been from a horror novel – but they were true. He was a Christian and Christians don’t lie.
BUT - I started to read claims that he HAD lied, that his stories were all false. And these claims were not from some antichristian group, they were being made by a Christian magazine. Now I had a dilemma. Who should I believe? Two separate Christian sources were contradicting each other over an issue of truth. They couldn’t BOTH be telling the truth – but surely Christians don’t lie.
I use that case as merely one example. Since then I’ve had reason to doubt many claims made by Christians and I have come to see that “Christians” are not always the most trustworthy sources of information. The situation is made worse by the same kind of gullibility that I displayed and people pass these stories on to others without giving due consideration for their reliability. We’ve all heard of urban myths – those stories with no basis in fact that become “true” through constant retelling. I’m sure that a lot of favourite Christian stories are the same.
How many have heard of the prayer meeting where armed soldiers barge in threatening to kill all Christians. And when the fearful have departed the soldiers put down their guns and ask to hear the gospel from those who REALLY put their trust in God. Is that story really true? Maybe – but it would be more credible if various facts (location and identity of the soldiers) remained consistent.
Re. Allegations against Mike Warnke.
Go to link re. "tribunal hearing"
Monday, May 10, 2010
Parts of Romans 9-11 have been adopted by various theological groups to support their chosen doctrines. But what is the context of ALL of these chapters and what is Paul REALLY addressing.
Friday, May 07, 2010
I wasn’t sure of how to respond to the question in a polite way. Is the writer ignorant of the rest of the world? When did a single “bad thing” in America result in the loss of tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousand of lives as has often happened elsewhere?
Compared with many areas of the world America has barely suffered in any way. Nothing worse is happening in America than anywhere else.if anything America is getting off lightly compared to most of the world.
One of the common mistakes made when people raise issues like this it that they confuse America with Israel and apply what God said to Israel to the USA. America is not God’s chosen nation and the blessings/cursings applicable to Israel were NOT directed towards America.To see God’s word to America, or any other nation, we need search the scriptures for God’s word to the nations.
When scripture mentions “the nations” then America is included as ONE of those nations.
If people are concerned about America’s sinfulness before God, I suggest that one of the worst sins of the American people is NATIONAL IDOLATRY.
Friday, April 16, 2010
This article brings a BIBLICAL view of these issues.
Predestined by God
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
“In one [gospel], Salvation starts and finishes with God and His Grace, in the other Salvation starts and finishes with man himself”
As is often the case, this Calvinist claim is a total distortion of the facts. Nothing could be further from the truth and it is merely the blind repetition of a clichéd lie.
If the Calvinist claim is a lie, what IS the real belief of the majority of bible believing non-Calvinists?
God and God alone made it possible for man to be saved. God and God alone provided the means for man to be saved. God and God alone can save man.
The salvation that God has made possible is obtained through means that God and God alone established according to conditions that God and God alone determined.
Those conditions are clearly set out in scripture and they require certain things of man.
The salvation God has ordained is not according to a unilateral decree made prior to creation, in which He determined which individuals would be saved.
Before creation God determined that salvation would be through His Son and His Son alone, and that whoever trusts in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.
THIS is what salvation starting and finishing with God's grace is about. It is about His super-abundant grace extended to all of mankind, offering redemption to all of mankind.
It is not a limited grace extended to an elite few.
What could be a more glorious demonstration of God’s grace than the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ, in which salvation has been opened up to all - not through any complicated and unattainable process of works, but through simple trust in Jesus.
Not through some unchangeable decree which excludes the majority of mankind, leaving them entirely devoid of hope, but through simple faith in Jesus.
What a joy it is to realise that that God isn't against any of us - but He wants everyone to come to knowledge of the truth and everyone to find salvation?
And salvation is obtained through?
- Simple trust in Jesus.
This issue is closely related to one of my earlier blog entries, “Parrot is not a God ordained ministry function” in which I addressed the Calvinist claim that non-Calvinists believe they contribute to their own salvation.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
As far as possible I take scripture at face value, accepting what is written without trying to redefine its clearest meaning, as long as its context does not suggest that it should be taken as being symbolic. (Regarding biblical symbolism – rarely is the reader left in ignorance about the meaning of a symbol. The interpretation is usually revealed in the text.)
Let me give you an example of accepting God’s word AS WRITTEN compared to God’s word “INTERPRETED”
Revelation 20: 1-10 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
How do we address this passage:
AS WRITTEN: After Jesus’ return Satan will be imprisoned and his deceptive power over the nations will be totally removed from the earth. Jesus will reign with his saints for 1000 years. After the 1000 years Satan will be released and will gather an army to oppose the rule of Jesus. Satan will be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire. There will be a thousand year gap between Jesus’ return (and the resurrection of the saints) and a second resurrection (that of the unsaved) which will precede the judgement.
AS INTERPRETED: This 1000 years is a symbolic period representing the church age, Satan was bound by Jesus at the cross and the saints are now ruling with Christ who is seated on His throne in heaven. Jesus’ return will be immediately followed by the judgement because there is no literal 1000 year earthly reign.
This is an extreme example – but it is one that is very WIDELY applied. Am I guilty of “interpreting scripture” because I choose to believe what is actually written instead of trying to explain why it doesn’t really mean what the passage actually says?
When scripture tells me that
“God our Savior, … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is
patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Why should this mean anything different to what it says?
And yet many add to, change or reinterpret the meaning of these verses because taken according to their literal meaning they totally discredit their favoured doctrines.
When scripture tells me that God desires all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and that God doesn’t want any to perish – then I don’t try to “interpret” or explain those statement away to make them fit other doctrines.
When I read statements that refer to election – those references to election do not negate the truths about who God desires to be saved. Instead of ignoring or redefining the statements about God’s desires, we should look further and see WHO is said to be elected and under what conditions. Again, when we find the answer to that it would be foolish to ignore that answer because it contradicts a doctrinal bias. Especially when that answer is totally consistent with other references through scripture
Is it “INTERPRETING” these verses when we accept that they mean that God wants ALL MEN to be saved, that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for ALL MEN, that God does not want ANYONE to perish but wants EVERYONE to come to repentance?
Is there anything in the context of these statements that would indicate that a literal meaning should not be applied?
Sometimes the intended meaning of a few verses isn’t always immediately apparent from the content of the verses themselves. If that is the case we must allow scripture to interpret scripture . In other words, what does scripture elsewhere say that will open our understanding?
For example, what are we to make of John 1?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
What would this mean to us if we were reading it for the first time? There is nothing in these first two verses to tell us what or who this “Word” is. We have to read further into the chapter to see:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "
From this we get a better idea of what the first two verses are about. The “Word”, from the context of the following verses can be seen to be Jesus. This truth becomes even more apparent when we continue into John’s writing.
This is also the case with Ephesians 1 – one of the favourite proof text passages regarding unconditional “election”. Not only is it the case that nowhere in this chapter does it indicate that “election” is unconditional, the chapter actually spells out the condition continually.
That election and every benefit available to “the elect” are THROUGH HIM (Christ) and IN HIM. And the passage also includes the revelation of how people come to be IN HIM.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.
So to be in Christ someone has to hear the gospel and believe. And then being in Christ we are included in the elect. This is also totally consistent with other parts of scripture that reveal that believing or having faith in Jesus is a primary condition of salvation. (A well known example being John 3:16 – “Whoever BELIEVES will not perish…”).
During many doctrinal discussions I find myself repeating “But what does SCRIPTURE say. What are the words on the page telling us – not how can I manipulate those words to make them fit my doctrine.
Too often we are prone to “interpreting” scripture instead of submitting ourselves to its clearest and plainest meaning because that clearest meaning can be more challenging than we like. Recognising the clearest meaning would require some kind of change, whether in doctrine or behaviour. It is much more comfortable to find a way of “interpreting” the text so that uncomfortable change is not necessary.