Sunday, January 26, 2020

Covenants Fulfilled: To Believe or Not to Believe

“The Osteen version of the prosperity gospel traces its roots back to the 19th-century spiritual movement known as New Thought or Higher Thought. As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, New Thought advocates believed in the “immanence of God, the divine nature of man, the immediate availability of God’s power to man, the spiritual character of the universe, and the fact that sin, human disorders, and human disease are basically matters of incorrect thinking. Moreover, according to New Thought, man can live in oneness with God in love, truth, peace, health, and plenty.””

In actuality, the truth is somewhere in the middle. When Jesus said His purpose was to fulfill the law, He wasn't making reference to His perfection in keeping all of the laws (although He did).

He was referring to the Covenants of God - things that God does not break. The "New Covenant" is not so much as much "new" as it is a fresh, new thing being done in the context of existing covenants.

In other words, the fulfillment Jesus spoke of is better understood in the view of a husband and wife daily fulfilling their marriage covenant. That covenant is not broken until one of them dies, or there is a divorce, but outside of those two events, the marriage covenant is continually fulfilled and refreshed anew every day.

The entirety of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection are a fulfillment of all the Covenants the Lord has made with us because God keeps His word, He doesn't change His mind, and He doesn't break His promises or covenants: which means, they're still in effect.

So when you read Deuteronomy 28, remember that the blessings described are a Covenant still in effect today, fulfilled by Jesus. Your job is to understand how to position yourself within those blessings.

This not the prosperity gospel nor is is a form of the prosperity gospel, but it is a truth that many Christians refuse to position themselves within, opting rather for a form of legalism that includes paying for their sins through sickness and strife, continual condemnation of self and others, and self-flagellation - to name a few.

Deuteronomy 28
“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God: 
- “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the [c]country.
- “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.
- “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
- “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
- “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

God Said Yes!!

I asked God to take away my addictions. God said Yes. Repent and turn away from your hurtful choices and lean upon Me, and trust that I will do it.

I asked God to heal my wife's migraines. God said Yes. Pray for her, bless her, and trust in my nature and the work of my Son, and I will remove them through you.

I asked God to grant me patience. God said Yes. Learn of Me and My ways, choose to grow in My nature, for I am Love and love is patient.

I asked God to give me happiness. God said Yes. Sadness and pain rob you of happiness; learn from me forgiveness, ask Me for healing, and take my yoke upon you and you will be freed from pain. You will find peace and happiness in Me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said Yes. I am the vine and you are the branch; you are already pruned because of the Word I have spoken into your heart. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life, and God said Yes. I am a good father who provides gifts so that you may enjoy life and share wealth and happiness with others; I have provided every good thing given and every perfect gift you have ever received.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Judging the Sins of Others

If you're like me, you've seen and experienced your share of Christians judging the sins of others.  It's a spiritual badge a lot of us Christians wear.

From prostitution to abortion, violence, and molestation, Christians are among the first heap coals of condemnation upon the sinners' head.  Some of them will even go as far as to say that if you're depressed, God is punishing you.

If Christian literally means follower of Christ, then it is utterly appropriate to ask the question, What Would Jesus Do? 

Perhaps we should look at the scriptures. If we find that God has a different opinion and response to sin that what Christians are best known for, then perhaps we've been misled by our churches who have taught us these things. Maybe then, we should make a change.

Inward vs. Outward

In 2 Cor 5:12 (and elsewhere), we are reminded that it is the inner qualities that matter, not the outward appearances: 
that you will be able to answer those who boast about a person’s appearance rather than his inner qualities (2 Cor 5:12, 1 Sam 16:7, Prov 24:12, Matt 23:25)
This assertion is followed with a view and understanding of Messiah, who at one time, was judged solely upon outward appearances:
So from now on, we do not look at anyone from a worldly viewpoint.  Even if we once regarded the Messiah from a worldly viewpoint, we do so no longer. (2 Cor 5:16)
And finally, Paul wraps up the entire discourse (thus far in 2 Corinthians, ch. 5), with this idea:
And it is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation,  which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (CJB)
The point then is this: if the work God performed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is so complete and wonderfully done - so much so that even God does not count their sins against them - then who are we to condemn or even lightly judge anyone for their sins?  

Judging and condemning others for their sins is not our ministry.

Our ministry from God is a message of reconciliation.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

What is your Meta-Narrative?

\ ˈme-tə - ner-ə-tiv' \ - Concerning or providing information about members of its own category.

All of us have a pre-disposed narrative or understanding about a given topic that we routinely bring to a discussion or investigation. In the practice of Science, this is regularly called the "observer-expectancy effect," or "observer bias."[1]
In research, experimenter bias occurs when experimenter expectancies regarding study results bias the research outcome.[2] Examples of experimenter bias include conscious or unconscious influences on subject behavior including creation of demand characteristics that influence subjects, and altered or selective recording of experimental results themselves.[3]

Being cultured in cessationism, I learned to bring the cessationist meta-narrative of my understanding of the world around me to my interpretation of the Biblical texts.

How Cessationism Works

The Cessationist observes the world and finds little or no evidence of the miraculous.  Eventually, they settle on their theory: the supernatural does not exist today as it did during the life of Jesus.

Then they develop other theories that only the Apostles performed miracles, or perhaps they permit that only the first century Christians performed miracles.  Then they need to explain why the miraculous was limited to Jesus and those select few.  So, they invent a thing called authentication: Jesus and the elite few performed the miraculous to authenticate the Messenger  (Jesus) and the message (the gospel, or the new covenant)

In other words, they specifically assert that Jesus performed miracles for the primary purpose of authenticating Himself and His ministry, and allowed others to do the same to authenticate the gospel message.

Problems to eliminate

Once you've established your meta-narrative, and applied it to your understanding of a given subject, you may have difficulties to eradicate.   

For the King James Only folks, this can be a difficult challenge, which results in a lot of explaining on their behalf.  Their first problem is Mark 16:14-18: 
"These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
They solve this by casting doubt on the scripture itself, asserting that it was likely added in a later century.[4]   The astute thinker will see that this causes a problem with their Biblical inerrancy clause, casting doubt upon their beloved KJV and its veracity.  So the argument shifts from the efficacy of the translation itself to the autographs from which the KJV is derived, those being spuriously referred to as the "Textus Receptus."[5] 

And the point is ...

We all bring preconceived ideas to our table.  However, those ideas may be incompatible with other ideas which then spawn the creation of new doctrines that are generally held in dissonance with higher, or more fundamental truths.

The Effects of a Meta-Narrative

Any good Baptist will assert "the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice."  They will also assert that their job is to "discover the truth of scripture, not decide the truth of scripture," and that "if the Word of God is our only authority for faith and practice, then the state cannot become a spiritual authority over the affairs of the church or the spiritual lives of individual Christians." (The Faithful Baptist Witness, pg 12, 2011 ed.)

In the light of such doctrine, we're forced to ask, "why does the Baptist Church service ("the affairs of the church") not look like the Biblical example" found in the New Testament?
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification ...  (1 Cor. 14:26-33)
If the Bible is their standard for Christian Practice, then why is this prescriptive practice not being followed?  The answer is simple: they've applied a Meta-Narrative.  In effect, they've discarded those things which do not fit their preconceived notions, their formulaic narratives of how church services are to be conducted.

Being Baptists, they cannot allow "a psalm ... a revelation ... a tongue ... an interpretation" to be given by just anyone since revelation is dead and they're all about controlling the message from the pulpit - and besides, the message lives with the pastor's interpretation of the Bible, not the congregation's.  Hence, since their doctrine of cessationism does allow for the "pastor and teacher" (but not many participants in the assembly), then there must be but one person who is performing the pastoring and the teaching in any given church service.

The New Revelation

What we then have is the doctrine of sola scriptura providing for the Authority of the Pastor/Teacher, Husband, and Government entities to provide revelation through oversight and guidance, but direct, personal revelation by no other means (The Faithful Baptist Witness, pg 15ff, 2011 ed.)  Thus, their doctrine allows for the obfuscation of scripture, and it's authority for your life today.  We learn then, that  Mark 16, and 1 Corinthians 14, are not to be taken as literally acceptable for Chrisitan practice today, but only as information pertaining to a by-gone era.  

Why?  Because of Meta-Narrative (aka, "because they said so.")

Summary

I've trodden down this path to highlight our propensity to observe the many facts of this world and to consequently, make the Bible conform to those facts.

That behavior is directly opposite of what Jesus did, and how He instructed us to behave (Mt. 17:20).  

When Jesus approached death or destruction, He reversed it.  When Jesus saw disease, He eliminated it.  In other words, when Jesus encountered the facts of this world, He communed with the Father and asked, "what are you doing in this situation" (Jn. 5:19, 12:49)?  Jesus then acted upon what His Father said, confronting the facts facing Him and commanding that they be conformed to the revelation of God the Father.

Our job is to function as Kings and Priests of the King of Kings; to affect change in the natural; to affect change in the Spiritual; to conform the unfortunate facts of this world to the life-giving nature of His word.

We are not to castrate His word by conforming it to the death, theft, and destruction of the enemy.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Heresy of God's Punishment

A Baptist whom I once knew, said: "you will have to pay for your sin."  

I have learned to avoid some things like the plague, such as certain preachers and the blog space "Pulpit and the Pen". 

In Isaiah 53 (the entire chapter), we find Jesus, the crucifixion, and all that He bought and paid for.  The chapter may be loosely summarized in verses 4-6:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
We could camp on Isaiah 53 for a very, very long time and still have material to uncover.  While that's all good, the point I want to make is this: Isaiah 53 is the solution to the problem.  Contextually, therefore, it precedes the description and the subsequent qualities of the repair.  

In other words, there's a problem, then a fix, then there's life after the fix.  Loosely speaking, we might infer that Isaiah 1-52 describes the status quo during the problem, Isaiah 53 the solution to the problem, and Isaiah 54-66 describes life after the fix.  

Consider then, Isaiah 54.  We find there brief descriptions of life before Christ, then we find the result of His work:

“For a brief moment I forsook you (before Isa. 53), But with great compassion I will gather you (after Isa. 53). “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment (before Isa. 53), But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you, (after Isa. 53)” Says the LORD your Redeemer.
“For this is like the days of Noah to Me (Isa. 53), When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you (after Isa. 53).  “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you (after Isa. 53). 
In other words, Isa. 53 is a line in the sand, it is a covenant equal in standing with the promise made after the flood (Gen. 9:8-17).

Angry Christians and their Punishing God

It is common for Christians to talk about being under the punishment of God, or that God is punishing this or that person, or this or that country.  Sometimes we hear it spoken of countries and peoples after floods, tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

One of the contradictions those same people never address is this: if Jesus paid (was punished) for all of the sins of the world, then why is additional punishment necessary?  It would mean that He didn't pay for all of our sins and that we are somehow responsible for sins that remain.  This is not an uncommon doctrine.  Sam Cathy, a Southern Baptist Preacher, once said: "... you don't confess sin, and get forgiveness of sin in order to stop its consequences.  You confess sin and get forgiveness for it to get back in fellowship with God.  But you will have to pay for your sin" (SHBC, around 28-30 minute mark).  What Sam Cathy and many others like him have done, is conflate our purpose (our works) with our sin.  

In summary, if Jesus did not pay for all of our sins - if we must pay for some of our sins (either in the here and now, or in the then and there), then the work of the cross was incomplete, it was not finished.

The Source of an Assailant

With these ideas as our general, doctrinal backdrop, I would suggest that we can be forgiven if we missed this bit in Isa. 54: "So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you..."  And we can also be forgiven if we miss the other salient bits too:

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. “Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones. “All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great.  “In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you 
If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you.  “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals And brings out a weapon for its work; And I have created the destroyer to ruin. “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.
So then, when we're under attack, or when we see people who profess to be Christians suggesting "He is a man who God is crushing beneath his thumb", we should ask ourselves: who is really doing the assailing, and why is the assault succeeding?

Romans 8:82-29 NASB
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Sunday, February 3, 2019

God's Mark & Requirement for Leadership


And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.”So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses placed the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness.Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almondsThen Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod.


First, this activity revealed God's selection for leadership. Secondly, it also tells us of the requirements for leadership. Contrary to popular belief, the requirement for leadership is not spiritual maturity.


The requirement for leadership in the ekklesia is LIFE.


Some areas of a leaders' life will be mature (ripe almonds), but other areas of their life will be various stages of maturity. There will even be areas of the leader's life that have just begun to take shape (sprouts) into Christ-likeness.  God's requirement for leadership is LIFE in all areas of life, not maturity in all areas of life.

Seek Blessings

Psalm 67 (among other scripture describing our status as Children of God, Kings, and Priests) shows us that we are all leaders within the ekklesia:
God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us (selah). That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.
In other words, we are to seek and receive the blessings of God, not for ourselves, but so that others may know Him and His salvation.  It is through those blessings that we gain His Life into all areas of our life, and thereby release His presence into the world.

The good news is this: it doesn't matter where you are in your walk with God.  You are currently enabled to bring His presence into the world.  Our job is to learn how to submit to His blessings so that the world will know what He is like.

Friday, January 11, 2019

More Paradigm Busting

Forward

I know that many people believe Jesus told harmless, little white-lies in order to make a point. That is to say, He knew the truth about a topic, but actually said something completely opposite or wrong in order to make people think or re-consider an idea. I'm not one of those people.

In 2017, I wrote about Breaking Your Jesus Paradigm.  Today I'm adding an additional thought which I originally left out: how the common doctrine of miracles feeds into and prepares for, the eventual acceptance of the anti-christ.

When your belief system enables you to assign significance or value to a person just because of a miracle, then you have been taught to follow a wrong sign.  Jesus Himself said,
“... An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;" (Matt. 12:39)
So, dare I ask: how many signs were given to that generation?  If your answer is greater than one, then you can be forgiven: you're probably just like me, having spent a good time in the average church.

The one sign given to that generation was the resurrection, and that sign was not performed by Jesus, but by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11).  In doing so, Jesus was glorified by God (John 17:1)

Contrary-wise, the anti-christ will perform signs for the purpose authenticating himself, thereby deceiving many:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.  And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life. (Rev. 13:13-14)
Performing a sign for the purpose of self-authentication is deception, it is self-glorification: which is plainly and simply, an act of bragging.

Contrast that with love -
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Summary


I would suggest that it is time we re-think the doctrine of self-authentication and self-glorification, and relegate it to the heresy that it actually is.