Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“The Antichrist”

“In the last days, The Antichrist will rise to world power.”

The Bible makes no mention of a “capital-a”, one person, Antichrist but many “antichrists” who had gone out from the first century church (yes, I checked the Greek). The term comes from John’s epistles in which he warns of the “Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7) Certainly there are also many today who persist in unbelief and those who “deny that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22) and/or “who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7)—these have the same spirit of antichrist.

But these are the criteria, not as many believe today--having influence or being a persuasive speaker. This misinterpretation of the Scriptures has led to slanderous accusations of nearly any man who has been an international leader, whether political or religious, in last 100 years or so. If you’re a follower of Jesus going around fearfully pointing a finger at such men just because they have influence or a good speaking style—you need to stop it! You will have to answer one day for every careless word. (Matthew 12:36)

Instead, make sure that you aren’t one of the ones who “runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ…” and that you don’t welcome the one who “does not bring this teaching”. (2 John 9,10) The Church is all too willing to welcome false teachers these days. Don’t be distracted by non-Biblical paranoia—just make sure you’re obeying Jesus’ teachings and urge others to do the same.

Rebuilding The Temple

“The Jerusalem Temple must be rebuilt before Jesus comes back.”

The Bible doesn’t say this. There are some people who, in past 150 or so years have built a template of eschatology through which they interpret the Bible. They project Ezekiel’s vision of rebuilding the Temple thousands of years into the future (as in any year now) but in fact, “Ezekiel’s” Temple was already rebuilt after the Babylonian exile. (Ezekiel chapters 40-43; see also the books of Ezra and Nehemiah)

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is no longer a need for the Temple and its sacrificial system. (Hebrews 10:1; Ephesians 2:14) Instead, those who follow Jesus are “God's temple” and “God's Spirit lives in you”. (I Corinthians 3:16see also Acts 17:24,I Cor. 3:17, 6:19)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Peace as an Indicator of God’s Will

“You can tell if you are in God’s will by the ‘indicator of peace’—if you are in God’s will you will have peace, if you’re not, your peace will lift.”

If this were true, Jesus would have been out of God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane and in his suffering on the cross. His was not a picture of peace (the kind referred to in this saying) but of agony, even questioning, though he gained what might be called resolve.

Using the peace as indicator formula has enabled Christians to come up with some outrageous self-permissions such as “It’s okay if I have a room mate of the opposite sex because we aren’t doing anything,”(yet) or “I have peace about leaving my husband because God wants me to be happy.” Remember the adage from the 1960’s? “If it feels good, do it.” The human mind can manufacture all sorts of things to justify what it wants—or lie about it.

No, the best indicator of God’s will is what the Holy Spirit has already spoken in the Bible (especially the New Covenant). You may think that it doesn’t cover everything for contemporary living—dig a little deeper, make sure you’re asking the right questions (the most basic ones)—you might be surprised how much is there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

“Miracles are Rare.”

“Miracles don’t happen everyday or they would be called ‘everydays’ instead of miracles.”
The problem here starts with word usage and the definition of that word. “Miracle” comes through French from the Latin “miraculum", which literally means, a wonder or wonderful thing, but Daniel Webster (Webster’s 1828) went on to define, “in theology, an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature, a supernatural event.”

Therefore, when we think of “miracles” it’s easy to think that God wouldn’t “violate” his own laws except for very special occasions. (It’s curious that the same people who used to teach that miracles don’t happen anymore—dispensationalists, now admit that they do happen but only rarely and usually only to pastors. Nevertheless, that is some progress!)

However, when we look at the literal Greek translation, we find different words, “powerful deeds”. Strange isn’t it, to translate from Greek to Latin to French to English instead of directly from Greek to English?

Does the Lord God still do powerful deeds through and around his people today? Absolutely! Reports of healings, rescue from danger and even raising of the dead come in regularly from many parts of the globe. My husband and I have experienced and/or witnessed quite a few of these powerful deeds ourselves. Just open your eyes and believe the power of the Lord!

I tell you the truth; anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

Thursday, July 2, 2009

“No One Ever Learns Anything in the Good Times”

Keith Greene,the Christian singer and songwriter, in his journal, put it well, (something like) “If the only way I can learn is through bad times, then that’s the only kind of times I’ll ever have.” Similar to the teaching that God makes us sick/allows us to be sick to “teach us something”, this one indicates that the only way to really learn anything or become close to God is to have horrible or tragic events come into their lives. Therefore, if you follow this line of thinking through, studying the living Word of God (the Bible), listening to Bible teachings, spending time in prayer and observing Creation would all be a waste of time or at best, second-rate.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14,15 emphasis added

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9,10

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 emphasis added
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:19,20 emphasis added

The idea that the only way to really learn is through bad things sounds an awful lot like what the Serpent said to Eve…You know Eve, being surrounded here by God’s Creation, walking closely with God himself, hanging on his every word is fine, but if you want real knowledge, real wisdom, you need to know evil (the knowledge of good and evil). She should have said, “Forget it! I have God to teach me! Be gone!” I guarantee that her life did not get better or her relationship closer to God by the presence of evil (bad times) in her life! The only thing she learned from the knowledge of evil is that she didn’t want it afterall!

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:1-6 emphasis added

To the woman he (God) said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:16-19

Don’t go looking for wisdom and learning “in all the wrong places”, be like Mary and “sit at his feet”. (Luke 10:39)

Note: I’m aware that the New Testament has much to say about God’s use of suffering to discipline his children and to build our character. However, ALL of these verses are in the context of persecution for Jesus’ name’s sake--not general difficulties, tragedies or sicknesses.

“Even Though He Doesn’t Cause It, God Allows Sickness So He Can Teach Us Something.”

I know of no New Testament scripture (since we “followers of Jesus” are people of the New Covenant) that even hints at this. The only one that is remotely close is John 9:3, the account of Jesus saying of the man born blind, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Jesus immediately healed him. The work of God in this man’s life was his healing, not the blindness!

Jesus said that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy but he (Jesus) came to give abundant life—not a lesson from sickness! (John 10:10)

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. I John 3:8

No, God permits sickness and other things that are of the devil to come into our lives so that we can fight it! That’s what the “full armor of God” is for. (Ephesians 6:11-18) That’s what the “gifts of the Spirit” are for.
(1 Corinthians 12:7:11)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4,5

When sickness comes your way, don’t embrace it—fight it!

Note: Of course, no teacher wants to let a “teachable moment” get by without using it for teaching. God certainly makes use of every opportunity, but why not be open to his teaching while you’re in health?!

“God Works in Mysterious Ways”

This one is a version of a line from a hymn written in 1671 by J. Playford, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform”—not the Bible. It’s most often quoted to indicate that you never can tell what God is going to do because you can never understand him anyway—he’s just one big mystery.

However, the New Testament portrays God as the revealer of mysteries.

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him--to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:25 emphasis added

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1:9 emphasis added

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. Colossians 2:2-4 emphasis added

Even the hymn-writer understood that God is the revealer of mysteries since he closed out the song with, “God is His own interpreter and he will make it plain.” emphasis added

Marvel at God’s wonders, yes, but don’t distance yourself from God and his ways with an air of mystery; instead look to him for the answers!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

Martha of Bethany probably thought that cleanliness was next to Godliness when she insisted that housework was more important than listening to Jesus teach. But Jesus corrected that idea saying that her sister Mary had chosen what was better. (Luke 10:39)

However, this saying is not in the Bible but was coined in a sermon by John Wesley in 1778. "Let it be observed that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this nor any text of Scripture condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly, this is a duty, not a sin. 'Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.' " http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cleanliness+is+next+to+godliness

It found new vigor in 1895 when New York City formed a Department of Sanitation to clean up the deplorable filth of the city (no exaggeration!), with “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” as its slogan. “It recruited an army of street cleaners, the White Wings.” “There were parades of these guys. These guys would march down Fifth Avenue. It's almost like a military exercise.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3115_typhoid.html

However, the principle seems to stem from the Law of Moses (Old Testament), which required priests to wash their hands and feet before going into the Temple, and after. (Exodus 30:19-21) Much of life was governed by what was pronounced “clean” or “unclean”, having more to do with holiness than dirt. However, this was more of a ceremonial washing than any deep cleansing (though it helped protect them from the Plague in Medieval times).

Yet Jesus’ disciples didn’t even wash their hands before they ate (a ceremonial tradition of the elders). When the Pharisees complained, Jesus rebuked them saying that which is on the inside of a person is what makes him clean or unclean—not the outside. (Matthew 15:1-11; Matthew 23:23)

Outer cleanliness can be a good thing, if not carried too far (it’s a subjective notion anyway!) but it will never make you holy. Why not focus on Godliness instead of “the next thing to it” and sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary and learn from him?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“God helps those who help themselves.”

I begin with this famous adage because it is the most infamous and perhaps the most widely believed “Bible urban legend” here in America. I’m continually amazed at the people (even seminary graduates!) who insist that these words come straight from the Bible! The truth is Benjamin Franklin penned them for his 1736 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. Ben Franklin, for all his innovative brilliance and folksy wisdom (a mixed bag in his almanacs!) wasn’t even a Christian, but a deist. He, however, was reportedly fond of George Whitefield’s preaching though toward the end of his life, when asked if he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, he replied, “No.” When asked why, he responded that he had never looked into it.

Not only is this line not a quote from the Bible, but the concept is in large part, opposite what the New Testament teaches.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

If our salvation were based on our own ability to help ourselves, we’d be in serious trouble!
“ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

And our reliance on God’s help doesn’t stop at salvation but includes every breath we take and our daily provision. (Matthew 6:32-34) Besides, God is far more interested in our helping others than in our helping ourselves. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

“Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a sickness so that means God sends us sickness to keep us humble (and you're not supposed to pray to be healed).”

The Bible never says Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a sickness. What is does say is that it was a messenger of Satan.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The Bible interprets itself. The “thorn in the flesh” was a term related to one used in the Old Testament to describe the harassment the Israelites could expect from the peoples still left in the Promised Land if they didn’t drive them out.

"`But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. Numbers 33:55

For Paul, these harassments came in the form of persecutions and other difficulties he encountered in preaching the Good News.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 2 Cor 11:23-29

“God Must be Mad at You.”

“God must be mad at you since you had a stroke, cancer, etc.” or “What did you do to make God mad?”If you had truly done something so bad that God would “strike” you, you are not likely to be a follower of Jesus, and more like King Herod (Acts 12:23), Saul (Acts 9:3) or Elymas (Acts 13:8-11) or as Ananias and Saphira who had done something directly against the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:1) In any case, you would know if he had and you would know what you had done.

God simply doesn’t go around beating up his children. In addition, he has given us his word, our consciences and the Holy Spirit to let us know when we’ve done wrong—better yet, to avoid doing wrong in the first place.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.1 John 3:8

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. John 15:3

His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:2,3 (The man’s healing.)

“God Makes Christians Sick” part 1

“God makes Christians sick in order to teach them something.”
No good father, human or heavenly would knowingly make his child sick. Those human fathers who do make their children sick are strongly punished by the judicial system (I only know about America)—even hardened criminals are horrified at such behavior! Jesus, who knows our heavenly Father better than anyone said, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

Jesus acknowledged that even “evil” fathers give good gifts and our heavenly Father, who is so much greater, will give us a great deal more—not less!

“God Makes Christians Sick” part 2

“God makes Christians sick in order to teach them something.”Those who insist upon this never seem to know just what the “something” is. So how can they learn if they don’t know what they’re being taught? They often add, “I’m so dumb, stupid, that God has to hit me up-side-the-head in order for me to get it.” Why? We are to be taught by God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16), his anointing (1 John 2:27b) and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).

If a person continues in Jesus’ teachings (John 8:31,32), is obedient to everything he commanded (Matthew 28:20) and Jesus’ word remains in him or her (John 15:7), he or she will have all the teaching they need (though certainly God uses those he has called to teach as well as situations that come our way), especially if they follow James’ advice to ask for wisdom and believe they have received it. (James 1:5-8)

“God Makes Christians Sick” part 3

“God makes Christians sick in order to teach them something.”
This teaching/belief is often paired with one that says that God wants Christians to suffer. The confusion comes in when people so often read in the New Testament of the testing, character building and correction God brings about through our suffering. However, to equate this with sickness or everyday difficulties of life is to remove it from its context. The context of every New Testament reference to needed or “beneficial” suffering is that of suffering for Jesus’ name’s sake.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. Hebrews 10:32-34

Read some accounts of Christian martyrs through the ages, of Christians imprisoned in the former Soviet Union and even today in China, to see the difference. (You can contact me for places to read these stories.)

“Wives Must Obey Their Husbands”

Nowhere does the Bible, Old Testament or New, command wives to obey their husbands.

Sarah was commended for obeying Abraham but never commanded; it was her choice. (1 Peter 3:6) However God commanded Abraham to “listen to whatever Sarah tells you” i.e., do what she says, in regard to Hagar. (Genesis 21:12)

Instead, wives are told to submit to their husbands, which means to “voluntarily come under” with the idea of working together for a common cause. (Ephesians 5:22) Interestingly, all Christians are to “submit to one another”—that includes husbands submitting to wives. (Ephesians 5:21)

“Do All You Can, First”

“Do all you can do and when you’ve done all you can do, God will take over.”

`For in him we live and move and have our being.' Acts 17:28

Jesus did nothing, said nothing on his own; everything came from his Father. (John 12:49) It’s not a question of our trying with all our might—us, then God, but God working in us, through us and around us from the start. Why waste time and effort since time is so short? That is not at all to say that we are to sit around and do nothing, but we are to be obedient and bear fruit (deeds)!

“Too Heavenly Minded”

“He’s too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” This one is based on the false premise that to be spiritual is to be aloof, distracted and isolated. Jesus was none of those and you’ll never find anyone more heavenly minded or spiritual. He was always fully present and full of action, “making a difference” in the lives of people around him. Those who are “heavenly minded” do the most good on earth. The key is obedience to Jesus’ commands, not being less heavenly minded.

“Spirituality + Common Sense”

“You have to add common sense to your spirituality—you’ve got to be practical.”
If common sense is common why is it so uncommon? The slightest observation shows that (good) sense is often lacking in the general population, though the definition varies by the observer. That which is often assumed to be inborn, instead has to be taught. Think of it, we have to be taught such basic things as walking and talking, so how are we supposed to automatically know how to fix things or make good decisions (for example)?

Suppose that we substitute the word “pragmatism”, meaning “practical, testing the results of all concepts by their practical results” (Webster’s New World Dictionary), which seems to be the purpose of this saying. To insist that spirituality isn’t enough alone and must have pragmatism added to it is to compartmentalize God and his life and power; it’s to say, “God can handle only certain parts of my life but I have to appeal to human nature for the rest”.

As followers of Jesus, we are to obey everything that he commanded (Matthew 28:20) and walk in his steps (1 Peter 2:21) whether it is convenient or seems practical—or not. We’re not given any other choice.

“Never Pray for Patience!”

“Never pray for patience or bad things will happen in order to build your patience.”God definitely expects us to be patient, so much so that patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22

Life is full of patience-trying situations and people already! There are plenty of opportunities to exercise that which is supposed to be active in our lives including self-control and the leaving behind of our sinful nature. (Fruit in the Bible represents deeds.) We do absolutely need his strength and power to behave as he has commanded us. So pray but rather than praying for patience we would do better to pray for strength and focus to do what we already know to do--that is, be obedient. And no, I don’t think bad things will happen as a result of prayer—just a testing and a greater awareness of the need.

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9,10

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

“Christians must tithe to their local church!”

Christians were never instructed by Jesus or his disciples to tithe. This teaching came many centuries later with the proof text of Malachi 3:8-11

“You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house.” Malachi 3:8-11

The tithe has been reemphasized in the past three or four decades primarily by evangelical pastors and prosperity teachers, who preach adamantly on one hand that we’re saved by grace and that it’s impossible to fulfill the Law of Moses and on the other insist under much threat of curse on personal goods, finances and lives—one even equated it with salvation, that Christians must follow the Law by tithing.

Curiously, this “Christian” version of the tithe in no way resembles the Levitical tithe or the tithe Abraham gave to Melchizedek but is much more demanding. God commanded the Israelites to tithe food not money and to eat it themselves. (Deuteronomy 12:5-7) Only in the third year were they to give it to the Levites, who were to in turn divide it with the “aliens (immigrants), orphans and widows”. (Deuteronomy. 26:12-13)

Christians are never to be put under the Law! Paul had some scathing things to say about those who attempt to put them there and those who allow themselves to be put under the Law. (Read the book of Galatians).
Read more about "tithing" on my Freeing Truths blog:
http://freeingtruths.blogspot.com/search/label/Tithing%20part%201   http://freeingtruths.blogspot.com/search/label/tithing%20part%202

Monday, March 2, 2009

"To keep praying for something is a lack of faith."

It’s often said in our times, “Pray for something once and let it go. Trust that God heard you and that he will do what’s best for you. To keep on praying for the same thing is a lack of faith—you’ve got to just trust God.” It sounds reasonable. But it’s not what Jesus said.

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Luke 18:1 (emphasis added)

Jesus told us (as his disciples) to keep on praying for the same thing (within Biblical parameters of course) and to not give up until we get it. He wants us to be so engaged with him, so involved in asking him for things that when we get them, there is no doubt that our Father did it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

“Everyone in the church should be in an accountability group.”

Accountability groups in churches have gone from trendy safeguards for men, to implanted expectations for entire congregations. However, a study of the New Testament reveals no mention of accountability to anyone but God. (Romans 3:19) Yes, if we see our brother or sister in sin, after we remove the “plank” from our own eye, we are to gently correct and restore them. (Matthew 7:5; Galatians 6:1) But this is very different than the control factor, which seems to be built into “accountability groups” (some are alternately called small groups or home groups but not all of those are “accountability groups”). By all appearances this practice is simply a modern adaptation of the Shepherding movement of the 1970’s, which abused so many Christian lives.

Friday, February 20, 2009

“Truth is truth wherever you find it.”

Other versions of this adage are “All truth is God’s truth,” “Despoil the Egyptians” meaning make something good out of the bad; “Eat the meat and spit out the bones,” meaning that one should hold on to the good but leave the bad parts behind; or “God can speak to me through anything.” A guy in my Christian youth group claimed, “God can even speak to me through a Satanist bible.” I wish I’d thought quickly enough to respond, “Right, and he’d say, ‘Put that down!” (I guess it should be no surprise since he dated a witch and hung out with Rosicrucians.)

But the apostle John said, “no lie comes from the truth”. (1 John 2:21) So how could the truth come from a lie? Jesus, in his warning about false prophets, said, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17) He added that people don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes. (Matthew 7:16)

Too many Christians are looking for truth “in all the wrong places”, in thorn bushes instead of looking to Jesus who is “the way and the Truth and the life”. (John 14:5) Why waste time on the false when you can go straight to genuine? (This is not to say that we shouldn’t know what’s going on. I’ll cover this part in another listing.)

Part of the problem is their definition of “truth”, which comes out something like, “whatever works”. Lots of lies “work”—for a time; ask the Roman Emperors, Hitler, even former President Nixon. What they did “worked” for a time but that doesn’t mean they were operating in truth! Jesus spelled out the way to know the truth, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) How much better to be set free than to choke on bones!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

“You shouldn’t help that person because it might interfere with what God is trying to teach them.”

The Hindus of India said something similar to Mother Teresa when she began helping the poor and dying in Calcutta. Of course, they referred to karma (paying for one’s sins from another life—another version of “suffering the consequences”) yet what I hear from many Christians stems from the same root.

Jesus, on the other hand placed a high value on our helping others--to the point of assigning eternal punishment to those who don’t. (Matthew 25:31-46 I didn’t write it. You’ll have to take it up with him!) He placed no qualifications on that help, saying, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”(Matthew 5:42)

But doesn’t the Bible say that trials and suffering build character? Yes, but the context is always that of suffering persecution for being a follower of Jesus, not the day to day difficulties of life that God’s people are to band together to alleviate (Acts 2:44,45; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15) When Paul could avoid even the “beneficial” kind of suffering, he did. (Acts 9:25)

The “elder brother” in Jesus’ parable of the runaway son would have liked to have seen his little brother “learn a lesson” from God (represented in the parable by his father) after his bad behavior. (Luke 15:30). I suppose he thought it would be more appropriate to have him sleep in the barn and remain in his rags. Instead, to what must have been the elder son’s utter astonishment, his father didn’t punish his runaway son, but celebrated his return, welcoming him with open arms!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“Moderation in all things.”

As one preacher put it, “If you have moderation in all things, that would mean moderation in sin—that it’s okay to sin as long as you didn’t do too much of it and this cannot be! This saying has nothing to do with the Bible in content or principle!

Instead, Jesus urged the Laodiceans, and us, to be hot or cold (refreshing) and not lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15,16) Our prayers are to be fervent (James 5:16) and persistent (Luke 18:1) and we are to love one another deeply. (1 Peter 4:10)

Jesus was continually behaving in ways that were anything but moderate—healing ALL the sick (Matthew 8:16), and on the Sabbath (Mark 3:2). When he fed the multitudes, he didn’t just feed them a snack but enough to satisfy every one and have a large amount of food left over! (Mark 14:20)

In addition, Paul insisted that there shouldn’t be,“even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed,” (Ephesians 5:3)—no moderation there! He further urged that followers of Jesus are to “ have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,” (Ephesians 5:8) not even a little bit.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11)

(Fervor: great warmth of emotion. Zeal: intense enthusiasm. Webster’s New World Dictionary)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

“Sometimes you have to suffer the consequences.”

When I hear Christians insist that sometimes you have to “suffer the consequences” while appraising OTHER PEOPLE’S failings, I have to ask why? Why, when ” all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,”(Romans 3:23) when “because of his great love for us, God, is rich in mercy”? (Ephesians 2:4)

Besides, other than restitution for stealing, can a person truly pay for what they’ve done? Beware of feeling better because a person has paid (as in “I’m going to make him pay!”) for what he/she has done to you—God says that’s his department—not ours and we’re to forgive other Christians anyway (for those non-Christians who have done things against us, we need not let our feelings against them fester but turn the person and our feelings over to God who will either get vengeance or give mercy. It’s up to him).

I’m very glad Jesus already “suffered the consequences” for my sin (and yours) because those consequences would be eternal death! No way do I want to take that back on!!! But that’s what we do (in effect) when we insist that others must pay for their sins (literally: missing the mark) when Jesus has already done it. (see the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matthew 18:23-35)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” Matthew 7:12

Monday, February 16, 2009

“You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

This in an idea embraced by many Christians in the 1990’s and is still repeated and believed, mostly by those in the Inner Healing movement. They’ve built it on a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:19, “love your neighbor as yourself” (from Leviticus 19:18),insisting that a person must have good self-esteem in order to love anyone else. But Jesus didn’t say that. He was speaking from a “given" that people in general think very well of themselves, feeding themselves, putting themselves first (of course,there are some who don’t, but a closer look might surprise you). Paul confirms this general understanding in Ephesians 5:28,29.

However, history reveals the surprising roots of this idea of self-love preceding love for others, “According to Buddhism, self-love comes first. By helping ourselves we can help others effectively."*