כור את־יום השבת לקדשו׃ Or as it is said in the King James version, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” This phrase has shaped and lead to many of the deepest divisions and conflicts within the umbrella of Judaeo-Christian or as the Muslims say Bookish people. Even the Muslims themselves, as well as the Druze and Samaritans are affected. Remember the Sabbath. Keep it holy. These simple words weigh on people more than the injunctions against blasphemy or murder. But have any of the parties to this debate actually parsed the words well enough to form such divisive and rigid doctrines?

This is a command in two parts. The first seems plain enough. Remember the Sabbath, Shabbat, Shabbas to the Ashkenazi (Kenites?) among us, seems to be a reminder to honor and practice the Sabbath. That’s Saturday on the English calendar, right? Simple enough. But how do we practice it?

But wait. Most Christians tell us that the Sabbath is Sunday. Sunday? Saturday? Which is it?

Genesis tells us that God worked an elaborate week of creation and on the seventh day he rested. This is linked in scripture to the Sabbath in no uncertain terms. Thus Sabbath is the Seventh Day of the week. “Aha!” say the Adventists and others. Here is the answer Sabbath is Seventh and therefore Saturday. Jews and Adventists and even wildly heretical sects then seize on this and proclaim a day of study and worship. Church attendance and Hebrew Schul. Assemble yourselves and pray and fast and do the work of studying the Scriptures–

But wait! The Muslims interject at this point stating unequivocally that the Calendar, even the text of the Holy Book–the Bible, Injeel, Tanakh, Scripture, etc.–has been altered and the true day for study and prayer, fasting and abstinence is Friday. This just gets more controversial.

But let’s look at the greatest model of all. The one part of scripture these disparate groups tend to agree on. The first creation outline, the chiasm of Breshiit/Genesis. On the seventh day–we’ve established that is the Sabbath–God rested. Now the one unassailable ensample for the Mosaic monotheist is the Theos himself. God rested. God did not study, fast, pray or recite, sing, abstain or indulge, travel, or gather with his chosen companion, Adam. God rested. He halted his work and enjoyed the afterglow of relaxation.

This is where the divisions come from. The nature of the Sabbath has been forgotten. Supplanted by man made ideas of devotion, we have lost the memory of the Sabbath. We do not as a people, or as peoples if you insist, Remember the Sabbath. We fight with our kids and spouses, getting ourselves dressed to impress and marching or riding to an edifice of some sort the fellowship with peers and be seen to pray and worship and declaim our knowledge of scripture and our studious hearing–the effort and work we put into the Sabbath is appalling.

So, then let’s look again at the meaning of the word. Sabbath seems to derive from a little hebrew verb sabat, to halt. So proper observance is the stop, not work, not go, not study, just rest. Very un like the Jewish or Christian view. The Christians and Muslims even changed the Sabbath to Friday or Sunday so they could keep their work day named Sabbath, and no greater forgetting of the Sabbath could exist.

What of the second part of the commandment. Keep it Holy. Well what better proof one should be busy about Godly pursuits. Except Holy means set apart, kept separate, or set aside. That makes sense when one thinks of the Sabbath as a rest day. So Remember the Rest Day and keep it set aside. Now that makes sense. It even solves most of the divisive arguments. Yes Virginia, the Sabbath is Saturday–the seventh day–and you can have your prayer day on Sunday or on Friday as you see fit. But wait. What of the Rabbinical Jew. He’s still stuck with Friday night and Saturday till sunset.

I remember a local Synnogogue–Shul to some, Temple to the Reform–that had an interesting practice. Every Friday night most congregants lit the candles for Sabbath Seder. Every Saturday they were at there place of prayer and the boys–and girls–were at work learning Hebrew and the right way to tie a zitzit. But come 6pm they were all at the China Dynasty having shrimp and pork, the best California Chinese food in the county. It was spontaneous, not planned. But it underlined the issue. After all that work of doing the the Sabbath right they needed a break, a rest. The irony could slice beef.

So what’s a person to do? How can you obey the Law and the prophets and rest as Mosheh commanded? Simple. Mosheh did order a Day of Gathering–a day to come together and bring tithes and lesser sacrifice, to gather it all into the Levitical storehouses. To pray and be judged by Levite. To be taught by the teachers of the Torah. That day, was the First Day of the week. Sunday on the English Calendar. The Sabbath is for candles and rest. For staying home and enjoying your family. For relaxing and play. For enjoying the comforts of your spouse. For halting all work. When the sun sets next Friday. Remember the Sabbath and just–Stop!

Written on August 1st, 2017 , Musings Tags: , , , , , ,

I always find it ironic when one of the Ashkenazi repeat the mantra of doubt, “The Christian Bible isn’t my Bible.” There is a lot of of finagling on the part of Jewish teachers to arrive at that conclusion, which is then taken to heart by the uninformed congregant and repeated with the eye-watering fervor of a child wishing for a precious toy. I can certainly empathize with this position. Having argued with certain individuals who use fallacy and polemic to twist scripture so that it says whatever currently suits them, I know what it feels like to argue a known obvious truth with someone who simply changes the meaning to suit their conclusions. It’s like wrestling atop a pile of sand draining through a hopper. The domain of the topic can completely shift from one clause to the next, in a single statement by a deceitful polemicist.

This is the feeling they bring to the discussion, partly because the Mishnah is such a mishmash of opposing opinion all presented as divine prophetic revelation of the Almighty (bless his name). Partly such suspicion is bread by the mixed up mess of fad doctrines and movements that have left the western Church as churned up and unstable as a battlefield. One group will say that the deceased family and companions of Yeshua can hear and answer your prayers like half-gods. Another will tell you that you are a God in training and if you wish hard enough, sacrifice hard enough and block all niggling voices of reason, you can create the wealth, fame and power that your soul longs for. Yet another will tell you that once you have converted to Christ and been genuinely initiated into the process of molding and growth into his image, you can never be sad, depressed or grief stricken because the sacrifice of the cross means new life and to prove it your must always be “Happy, so very happy…”

Anyone, having been raised to revere the Torah and the Prophets would balk at such “off-scouring of pigs.” This hogwash distracts from the real work of negotiating your salvation in fear (yes Joel, fear means being afraid) and trembling. But the bigger issue is just how unlike the God of the Bible, the father of Christ, such teachings really are.

In the Torah, the Old Covenant if you prefer, the word of the day was restitution. When a man stole an object of chattel property, he had to return it and pay interest. If it was grazing or mineral rights, he gave from his own. If it was livestock likewise. If it was livestock or goods that had already been consumed then the finest equivalent available had to be returned in multiples. Throughout the lot, there were fines, monetary damages that had to be paid. And all of it put you in wrong relationship with God. This was the scariest part, because all the blessings of God, all the love he sheds on his people, is conditional on having that right relationship.

Then–in the times of the Torah and the Writings–as now, people would be indifferent or ashamed of the harm they had caused. They would seek to cover up their crimes, their sins, and ignore the pleas and suffering of their victims. They may even have blamed the victim for being whiny, for not showing the presence of God in their lives, by moving on and simply accepting the loss. For the cynic there is ample ammunition for the bazookas needed to blast such people. One can call on the whining of the Hipiru, the Israeli refugees, during the 40 years nomad. For the Christian there’s plenty of ammo in Paul’s letters about enduring to the end, “pressing on,” “taking victory,” etc. And never forget Peter and the asp! “Just shake it off!” Such beautiful stoicism, just waiting–so long as you are willing to lift passages out of context, trample wholesale on the meaning the author intended by them and allegorize them into the witchcraft of the modern psychologist. Simple, make everyone responsible for their own wounds and exonerate the guilty from any responsibility. After all, it’s for your own good and anything else would just be–vengeance!

That leads into “Vengeance is mine,” and castigating the victim for wanting justice. And don’t forget the cynic’s favorite cherry, “You don’t want justice! Look at what would happen to you if God took Justice on you!” There is context where all of these things have their place, but that place is not in dealing with the injury done to a victim of the sins we call deuteronomical or the ten commandments.

In fairness, Christ was a perfect man and died for crimes he didn’t commit, so we could be forgiven for the ones we have. The Ashkenazi polemicist will argue that the common word for “sacrifice” in the Torah is Korbanah, offering, and point out that even the Hebrew root points to offerings being things that draw together or repair. Thus a sacrifice is a precious thing offered to repair relationship with God. Ironically, this is intended to refute the Messianic sacrifice of Yeshua. But as a believer we recognize that this was the core concept of Christ’s prophetic ministry.

And as such, how can we demand more? How can a victim, of adultery or the murder of a child reject the perfect sacrifice. God took the initiative, gave his own child, so that like the lamb that took Isaac’s rightful place, we could live as he died. The entire purpose was to draw us closer and repair the breach in the relationship with our creator and King. Just as we pointed out at the beginning, the Offering, is a Blood Sacrifice, a meal where we eat the roasted meat to take the death of innocence in and we give the blood and fat to God through the fire, so that in sharing the meal we are drawn together in good relationship with God our father. How can we presume to reject that Zevach/Zebach, blood sacrifice, as sufficient to bring the offender into relationship with God and therefore with us?

Of course we can not. The repentant must make restitution, because without restitution there is no repentance. Without repentance, there is no remission of sins. As Yeshua said, “If you come-to the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your sacrifice waiting and go make reconciliation with your [victim]” so that God will accept rather than reject your sacrifice. Or, “If you don’t forgive, you will not be forgiven.” But that of course is limited to those who have never been “saved,” never been converted to Christ and partaken of his death.

As Paul said, when I told you not to judge I meant don’t judge the world who have the excuse of not knowing Yeshua. But, of course, I judge the church. Anyone who calls himself a brother and continues to live in error is excommunicate and don’t even eat with such a one. I am minded of the role eating takes in the Zebach of Christ, where we are instructed to consume the matzos and wine of Passover as a memorial allegory of his Offering.

In Hebrews, there is a lengthy passage the Stoic and the Gnostic will use to argue that once partaken, no further sacrifice is needed, therefore sin in the life of a believer is simply an inconvenience rather than separation. This ploy might almost work, were it not for the fact that the passage is framed before and after with almost identical passages that when taken together say simply, “If after anyone has partaken of the good Offering of salvation in Yeshua and returns to his former life of habitual sin, there is then no further sacrifice for him, for it would require that Yeshua be crucified a second time and cause public shame on the name of Yeshua.”

Does this mean that if a Christian ever commits sin or enters habitual sin he can not be forgiven? I submit to you that Jesus, who lived by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Hachodesh, said we would be indwelt with that same spirit and be gifted beyond the list of accomplishments that Christ performed.

No, the cross does not cover the new transgression of the Believer. You cannot crucify him again and be saved again. You must work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You must use the supernatural gifting of the Holy Spirit. You must contrive to make restitution in your own flesh, by the power of God, and incidentally be allegorically and incrementally crucified to the will to sin. You must leave communion, go submit to and make reconciliation with your victim and comfort him, then return to full communion–together.

The cynic will say, “But I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of anyone responding to Christ–” No. Nor would any authentic Believer in Yeshua the Messiah. But count the cost. Repentance costs restitution and without repentance there is no drawing together with God, no remission of sins. This is not a game, and eternity is in the balance. But really, isn’t good relationship with God and with your victim worth the discomfort, even pain or suffering reconciliation might cost? Isn’t Good relationship and the blessings of the Lord of Creation well worth any cost or struggle? Open the door, let him in and have a meal. Barbecue is blessing.

Written on March 15th, 2017 , Musings Tags: , , , , , , ,

Christian living is a complicated subject largely because it is a matter of interpolation. Jesus and to a degree the apostle Paul–a.k.a. Saul l’Tarsi–are role models, mentors to be imitated. We have their sermons and narratives to draw on to see how they lived and what doctrines and principals are to be applied. However, we are forced to then interpolate those principals and doctrines to our present day circumstances and then using sound interpretation apply the commands and instructions of scripture to our lives. It’s pretty complicated if you break it down and focus on every little step. If you are trying to accomplish it on your own it just doesn’t work. Likewise if you are completely uninvolved, believing that Grace is a big magic wand that frees you from responsibility to exert any effort in achieving the goal of be shaped in the form of Christ, you’ve failed before you begin.

To complicate things further, there are several distinct heresies, movements and patterns of thought, that have plagued the church from its infancy. These are so toxic that Paul had to summarize, label and condemn these poisonous movements at the beginning. At some point we’ll have to go through these individually. They are: Christian Stoicism, Christian Epicureanism, Christian Gnosticism, and Christian Psychology. In addition, he made it clear that the secular forms of these beliefs, while outside the church, are toxic to society, and likely to pervert the unwary Christian by distorting his view of Christ and of the Bible.

But for purposes of this message, I need to focus on the results of these heresies and how they have shaped a minister who has allowed himself the cognitive dissonance of espousing all four to some degree and trying to teach Christian principles at the same time.

Rather than attempt to recount the last sermon I heard from him–an effort that might seem like a paper tiger defense–I’ll simply present to converse Biblical truth that counters his heresy. His hearsay–slander–I’ll leave for God to correct in his own time and immanent manner. Baruch El Shaddai.

The first counterpoint is this:

  • If you don’t believe a relationship with God is conditional, you don’t have one.

God loved the World so much that he sacrificed his only birthed son so anyone who places his faith in that sacrifice will live forever. (John 3:16) There’s a condition for relationship with God under the new covenant. You have to place your hope in Yeshua Hanasari, the Son of God and the Day of Atonement in his blood as a figurative lamb of sacrifice.

You must charge the direction of you life and go back the way you came toward righteousness. You must receive a mikvah or ceremonial bath, to be dipped or baptized, in the authority of Jesus, just as the Traditional Jew is dipped in the name of the Father and the Ruach Hakodesh–spirit of holiness. (Acts 2:38) Those are conditions on relationship with God under either covenant.

You must obey the moral commandments of the law. Many will try to say that under the new covenant they are exempt from the law. They will even distort Paul and try to say that adhering to the moral law of the Torah is sin and even a means of losing out on salvation. This is a satanic doctrine. The word obey appears appx. 33 times in the New Testament. Obedience appears appx. 16 times. In that context, scripture tells us that there is trouble and anguish for him who does evil, Jew or Gentile, and peace and good reputation for him that does good works. (Rom. 2:8-10) Further, the Wrath of God is poured out on those who are disobedient and do not live a righteous life after having received salvation through the holy spirit. (Eph 5:1-10) This is a condition on relationship with God. If you love me, keep my commandments. (Joh 14:15-21)

  • The second point is, if you don’t believe a relationship with God will make you a weirdo, you haven’t got one.

You are a peculiar people and a royal priesthood. (1Pet 2:9) The Spirit living in a believer is not the Spirit that pervades and rules the world at large. (Joh 14:16,17) Human psychology is at odds with God, because the idiosyncrasies of the human animal are opposed to right and healthy thinking, established from Godly perspective. The fleshly creature, that must grope along in the world, does so blindly because it is incapable of even comprehending the Law of Grace or the Moral Law and the Spirit that has inspired them. (Rom 8:7) So a fundamental conflict will be at work in the mind of the authentic believer, between the will to do right, by the power of the spirit and the will to do wrong, by the natural appetites. This weirdness, which inevitably will be visible to those who get close, makes us family with other authentic believers who are naturally going through the same evolution and the crises this engenders. But the world, who are continually seeking equilibrium in themselves and to quell the trouble in their spirits in order to be at peace with the naturally corrupt animal nature, will be appalled and reject such angst as a sure sign of instability and even evil. They will hate this aspect of the authentic believer, and attempt to fix or persecute her. (1Cor 1:23-27;2:14;3:19;Jam 3:12-17;4:4)

  • Lastly, if you don’t believe that all interpersonal relationships are conditional you don’t have one.

I can cite scripture for you. Verses that tell us to shun and disfellowship people over all sorts of disobedience and strife. I can show where Jesus even said to disobey and shun parents and members of family of origin, if such is necessary to follow his teaching and example. I can show where Jesus made one tiny window for divorce and Paul established standards for temporary separation, with church oversight and prayerful agreement by both spouses. But this one is–to be flippant–a no-brainer. Everyone can readily see that if a person is not friendly, she won’t have friends. If a person is contentious or ugly in personality, if he drives people away with rudeness and cruelty–such a person will not have relationships, whatever the context. Scripture supports this, but it is so obvious it does require a deep study to identify, at least from the outside.

Grace is not a magic wand that sets aside personal responsibility for how we act, speak and think. The things we do to others will be the salvation or the damnation of us. If we are mocking, cruel and cynical to fellow believers who have been victimized by the sin of others, we lack compassion and are nothing more than meaningless noise. If you remember that you have a sin against someone, don’t take communion till you have made it right or exhausted all efforts to submit yourself to the judgment of the one you have offended. This is Godliness. This is the fruit of the spirit. Without it you will not see the kingdom, rather you will experience the wrath of God and “many are sick among you.”

 

 

Written on November 10th, 2016 , Musings Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A sermon today included the following points:

  1. Woe to him that is offended for God shall not heal his life nor grant him a miracle.
  2. If you are offended you must forgive. In fact, you cannot be blessed by God unless you forgive everyone everything.
  3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, failing to hold a person accountable or free from punishment.
  4. [The pastor] believes in doing to them what they do to you. But that means forgive everyone cause Jesus forgives everyone.
  5. Forgiveness doesn’t mean [the pastor and his church] won’t track you down and beat you if you are doing something violent, never-the-less you can’t hold grudges.

This lead me to revisit the passages cited which were MAT 18:7 (kjv) and COL 3:13-14 (kjv). The pastor read the passage in Matthew as saying If you are offended then you have woe in your life and “you can’t have the miracles of God,” or the “healing” and “new life” God wants for you. It was the Stoic heressey that you must simply shake it off and go on. To quote Monty Python, “it’s only a flesh wound . . . come closer so I can bite your knee.” In more current parlance, “Just shake it off.” Scripture deals clearly with the proper way to deal with offenses but this was not only heretical, it used the Satanic technique of misquoting scripture, out of context, to teach a opposition to scripture in it’s context and canonical interpretation.

The proximate error was in that interpretation of Matt. Jesus tells us in Matthew that the one who has humbled himself, in a childlike acceptance of the word is to be cherished and accepted, while the one who offends that childlike devotee is cursed by God. Children themselves are to be welcomed into the service and the whiner who complains that children are disruptive and ought to be removed is in danger of hellfire. This passage doesn’t deal with forgiveness, with holding offense, with records of wrongs or with the means of achieving an overcoming life.

I would leave this alone except the doctrine that we are to forgive everyone whether they repent or not, That we cannot have blessings if we hold anyone accountable, and the victim is in fact a sinner for taking offense, have polluted the church to the point of apostasy. This counterfeit spirituality is presented as the new maturity and Christians are bound to a life of sin and condemnation while being taught to imagine themselves free while being bound by the chains of sinful behavior and rebellion in the name of grace.

Forgiveness is a sticky subject for most people and the problem is compounded by the prevalence of professional and amateur psychobabble. For the Christian, whether Jew or Goy, this is further muddied by the weight empty traditionalism. So let me deal with those issues by summarizing what other parts of scripture do say.

Some simple rules for how genuine forgiveness works:
  • When you forgive you forget, not necessarily the events but the emotional impact and the sense of caution associated with the offense.
  • Forgiveness is only available to those who are reformed, though that reformation begins with the decision to change course. It is not unforgiveness to shun the unrepentant, it is an act of love intended to encourage remorse and repentance.
  • Forgiveness for the believer is not optional, you were forgiven, therefore you have no room to hold vengeance. Unforegiveness toward your fellow believers is an unpardonable sin.
  • The unbeliever is completely outside the economy of grace and therefore cannot be held accountable to the Law of Grace or the moral Levrite Law.
  • False accusation is damnable and can separate the believer from grace as surely as a willful act of rebellion.

Jesus taught us that we can identify authentic believers by the fact that they love each other. And Paul shows us in 1CO 13:4 (nrsv), that love doesn’t think evil–by implication the evil that gossip attributes to others. This leaves no room for holding grudges, but also none for rumors, or false accusations. Such baseless slander will prevent you from reaching God’s reward in the new kingdom as we see from EPH 4:29-32, COL 3:8, ROM 1:29-32, and 2CO 12:20-21 (kjv) where slander is variously called backbiting, blasphemy and evil speaking.

Written on May 1st, 2016 , Musings Tags: , , , , , ,

There is a traditional Jewish teaching involving a candle. If you take a candle from a cupboard and examine it, it gives no light, it has potential but no life. one could easily say that it is no more than a lump of wax with a string though it. But when you touch a flame to it light shines and the candle expresses it purpose for being. The question is when do wax and string become a candle? The answer: When fire is applied. When does a beast become a man? When the fire or light of Torah is applied.

In the first century, Jesus–Yehoshua HaNazari¹–taught the new covenant as an extension and completion of the Torah and the prophets. As they took that last Seder he connected himself to the paschal lamb, his blood was to painted on wood and his flesh consumed so the messenger of death–the second death– should pass over the believer. Then he ascended to heaven leaving the disciples and the 11 remaining missionaries with the task of spreading the gospel into the whole world.

This should have been to point where they went off to accomplished the great things that lead to the rise of the church. But it wasn’t. He gave them another assignment a prerequisite to qualify for the first. First, they were to tarry in Jerusalem until the feast of Pentecost. These Christian men, whose faith was rocked by Jesus death, who had seen him rise into the sky and vanish, were like the lump of wax taken down from the cupboard.

That’s not to say they lacked the Torah. They were well versed in the Torah and prophets. They had been with Yeshua as he debated the Sectarian Sephards and Chiefs among the Rabbis, Scribes and Kohenim. But with regard to the new covenant and the Law of Grace, the new Torah Rachem, written in the blood of Meshiach–they were unlit and unprepared.

But on the day of Pentecost, tongues of fire fell on them, severally. They received a supernatural presence of the Ruach haKodesh and the power to become sons of God. The power and presence to share the gospel with boldness and world transforming results.

The question: When does a lump of wax and string become a candle? The answer: When the fire is applied.

When does a believer become a minister? When haEsh haRuach Elohim² ignites him, and never before.

¹ יהוֹשעַ הנזרי

² האשא הרוח אלהים

Written on March 25th, 2015 , Musings Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve heard a lot of commentary to the effect that a person is “spiritual” not religious. On the surface this makes sense. It was a common fad in the Pentecostal as well as Evangelical circles in the 20th century to equate innovative faiths like the Catholic and Calvinist faiths with “religion” and western Orthodoxy with non-religious “relationship” and “Faith”.

I’ve been guilty this in the past as well. Religiosity is one of the few remaining pejoratives allowed to the politically correct and they brood it about like a goad. The problem is the way the term “Spiritual” has been pirated by the New Age movement and pagan faiths. What used to be a distinction between empty ritual and a relational faith in the person and character of a tangible, present, paternal Creator–has become a cop-out to avoid adherence to any given creed or doctrine. It is being used to cast the Received, Orthodox, Western Christian tradition as a boogeyman out to oppress the free thinker and the Godly.

You ask a person what “kind” of Christian are you and you get vague answers about being spiritual and “just believing the Bible.” Good, you believe the Bible–Torah, Neviim, Khetuvim, Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation of John. Good deal. But what does it MEAN to you? Why are you evading the question? What do you have to hide? What body of doctrinal forestructure, what tradition of faith are you so ashamed of that you can’t tell me what it is?

Another problem with this wishy-washy Spirituality, is the question of what “spirits” are involved? Do you mean the Ruach Hakodesh and the Seven Tributary Spirits of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, or do you mean you cousin Bob who died in 1984? Do you have familiar spirits? A strange black cat? A dozens cats? Sheilaism is rampant.

These Spiritualists see no distinction between Christianity, Mormonism and Islam. The formative principles of these faiths are diametrically opposed, yet “spiritual” individuals insist they believe in all of them. Oddly they often fail to conflate Judaism and Christianity. Isn’t it Ironic? These are the two Religions that are actually capable of commingling, given that essential Christianity is a revision and expansion of Judaism. But the very understanding of God and deity between Mormonism and other faiths is irreconcilable. “As Man is now, God once was?” Blasphemy, if you are a Christian or a Jew–or both.

I’m not advocating armed religious conflict. But Christian, “stand up and be counted.” Stop hiding behind silly semantics and demonstrate what makes you separate. Without distinction and yes, discrimination–what do you really have to offer. But above all, admit that you have religion. The Christian Religion.

Written on August 14th, 2014 , Musings Tags: , , ,

A friend from college just reiterated a statement of faith that is both a rejection of the sound teaching he received as a child and one of the five most damaging heresies to ever plague the Body of Christ. It saddened and depressed me deeply, especially when I considered how the Western Orthodoxy has been displaced so thoroughly that Pentecostal Restoration is critically ill, at best. The particular heresy in question is not particularly relevant. You need only tune in to what passes for religious or philosophical programming on television to find a flood of wealthy men who teach greed, lasciviousness, sorcery (psychology), magic, rebellion, idolatry, and superstition; all in the name of Jesus Nazarene and Messiah. (I like the sound of his name and title as it would have been spoken when he walked the earth, Yehasuah Hanzari Hameshiach.) Such spiritual corruption is preached in Jesus’ name and captures far too many young believers to their destruction.

One of the major causes of such confusion and ungodly teaching is the less obvious motive of sloth. Studying the scripture in its raw state, unfettered by preconceptions or worldly philosophies takes effort that is beyond the consumer minded western heart. This failing is as prevalent among teachers and preachers as it is pew sitters and lay ministers.

The most common form that this lazybones doctrine takes is the desire to summarize the meaning of scripture in simplistic saws and cute acronyms. Even poor scholarship, such as eisegesis and proof-texting, accounts for less of the confusion of false doctrines and dogmas. It may seem hypocritical on first blush, but I’ve worried at the frayed knot of the most pernicious of these trying not to refute them but to refute them in as simplistic a manner as the original. The purpose is not to repeat the same error but outreach to those who are unable or unwilling to digest a more formal apology.

The results of my efforts have been mixed. But spurred on by me friend’s tragic confession I finally worked out the acronym: PCURS. Like the flowery acronym that it is intended to refute and reprimand, PCURS touches on most areas of the gospel including anthropology, theology, soteriology and harmatiology. So at risk of being overly simplistic, consider that the Christian Gospel can be summarized as follows:

Personal Depravity
Every human being is born with a sinful nature, a congenital deffect of the mind, which leads every person to commit evil in the same moment they first gain the capacity to distinguish good from evil.

Conditional Love
God’s love for the individual is initiated by God, but contingent on repentance, ardent pursuit and obedience on the part of the object of God’s love.

Unlimited Atonement
God’s love for corporate humanity lead him to plan and execute the perfect sacrifice, providing him the means to make overture to fallen man, without compromising his law or rectitude. It is not God’s will for any to experience the damnation called the second death. Innocent blood is the price of redemption and, like he did for Abraham, God provided the perfect sacrifice in Jesus the Lamb.

Resistible Grace
The attonement is freely offered to all humanity without discrimination. The Spirit of Holiness attempts to convict the hearts men and women through the preaching of the Gospel.  Taking part in that sacrifice requires identification with Jesus in his death. The price of that identity is repentence, ritual confession through baptism, and a life spent in obedience to the moral law of both covenants & penitent restitution for prior bad acts.

Sanctification of the Persistent
No one can steal a child of God from his embrace, however he is not a jailer. If after receiving the grace of Salvation, you return to your prior life of intentional sin and rebellion, there is not more attoning sacrifice for you. Against the will of God, you may willfully seak your own destruction in the eternity of second death. However, if a believer willfully pursues a life of obedience and is persistent enough to finish the natural course of life in relationship and submission to God through Christ, you will be made holy. This holiness is at once a legal action and a progressive transformation. Beginning with a specific crisis moment, perfection of the mind is a matter of conforming to the model of Jesus character, while retaining individuality and growing as a unique and uniquely qualified individual.

Like the author of the cuter and unfortunately more captivating acronym referenced at the beginning of this musing, I have not bothered to cite the specific scripture. This is be design. However, the explication of each point is largely a collection of paraphrases. Please take the opportunity to verify these points with scripture.

Yours in Christ,

Fred

Written on November 16th, 2013 , Musings Tags: , , , , ,

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 2TI 4:1 (bbe)

Never before has this been more true nor more confused and destructive. Television streams a constant barrage of every false and demonic doctrine packaged and presented with all the finesse of only a video studio can achieve, marketing lies and deception along with charms and keepsakes and vacations at amusement parks. People can have any flavor of false prophet or even build a personalized religion by sampling these media giants like a hungry child at an open buffet. There plates are full but when they eventually must regurgitate the tasty but malnutritious bounty, they ultimately go hungry and cannot reproduce. Being unfruitful (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, humility, etc.) they will ultimately be pruned from the vine and cast into the fire.

Strong language, I know, but not undue. Recently I was channel surfing and landed for a moment on a prophet of Lucre and Mammon who was trying to excuse his ministry, which is generally comprised of assuring rich oil merchants that their money is proof of God’s favoritism and their sinful lives are merely an inconvenience. It is serendipitous that the man is named for the god he preaches.

On this particular day he was prophesying from Galatians, a much misinterpreted book because taken out of context several verses are so filled with hyperbole’ that the meaning is lost, until you read the following passage which corrects the course and intention of the passage. Mr. Money had the Scripture saying that since, Jesus death was to bring about relationship and, since human’s ultimately fail in obeying the law on their own, the law is valueless except as a contrast with the life of license to live without conscience, which he assures us is the meaning of grace. Now I know from other of his broadcasts that he does teach that God’s Standard of Holiness is a necessity in the Christian life. But in the moment, confused by the unintelligible babble of the so called amplified Bible, he over stated Paul’s indictment against legalism and Judaizing of the Church, with a license to be free of the Law as a School Teacher to show us what a Holy God disapproves in the life of his children. Like so many others he misunderstood Paul.

As peter said:

These are fountains without water, and mists before a driving storm; for whom the eternal night is kept in store. For with high-sounding false words, making use of the attraction of unclean desires of the flesh, they get into their power those newly made free from those who are living in error; Saying that they will be free, while they themselves are the servants of destruction; because whatever gets the better of a man makes a servant of him. For if, after they have got free from the unclean things of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again taken in the net and overcome, their last condition is worse than their first. For it would have been better for them to have had no knowledge of the way of righteousness, than to go back again from the holy law which was given to them, after having knowledge of it. They are an example of that true saying, The dog has gone back to the food it had put out, and the pig which had been washed to its rolling in the dirty earth. 2PE 2:17-22 (bbe)

Mr. Money’ take on Galatians would necessitate a discrepancy, that Peter’s Gospel and Faith are at odds with Paul’s in effect a different religion. God changed his mind. Instead, we live by faith and that means we know that our sins were forgiven on the cross, even the ones we’ll commit after salvation and therefore we are never accountable as long as we believe. Well God might be displeased; it might hurt our relationship–but he’s patient so it’s all good, all the time.

But let’s look at what Galatians really says. At the heart of Paul’s thesis he makes the following statement:

Being conscious that a man does not get righteousness by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, we had faith in Christ Jesus, so that we might get righteousness by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law will no flesh get righteousness. But if, while we were desiring to get righteousness through Christ, we ourselves were seen to be sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? In no way! For if I put up again those things which I gave to destruction, I am seen to be a wrongdoer. For I, through the law, have become dead to the law, so that I might be living to God. I have been put to death on the cross with Christ; still I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me; and that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me. GAL 2:16-20 (bbe)

“So that we might get righteousness by faith. . .” Some would have you believe this means that the righteousness gained by faith is not a works righteousness because if you ever do right, then you are being legalistic. But Paul asks, rhetorically, “Is Christ a servant of sin?” The answer is a resounding no. Christ was sinless, this is the very basis of his substitutionary death on the Cross. The whole point is our identification with Christ on the Cross is the death of our carnal nature and slavery to living in sin. “I have been put to death on the cross with Christ. . .and that life which I am now living in the flesh I am living by faith. . .” Our human life is crucified and the spirit empowers us to live a holy life, not by ignoring sin and legislating it away. How more legalistic can one be, than a pardon without a transformation. The guilty murderer pardoned of his crime and all future crime to commit murder again and again without remorse and without punishment? Is this what the God in Christ bore the suffering and humiliation of the cross for? Of a certainty it is not! Instead Christ died that, living through us, replacing our broken, human spirit with a new inspiration of God’s breath, we could be made new like Adam before the fall, free to live sinless by letting Christ live through us and kill each sinful habit and trait one by one, perfecting us in his grace. This is the grace unto salvation the Victory in Jesus. It is the power to trust and to obey, for it is obedience not offerings of money, land, goods, produce or even blood, that pleases God.

Imagine, for a moment, you are a parent. You love your child with the whole of your being. That child goes off to school in the morning and comes home that night with a shapeless limp of clay, malformed and sickly, glazed so poorly the bubbles have burst exposing cavities that go down to the ceramic beneath. Your child holds this miserable creation out to you and with a fearful smile and shameful eyes says, “here mommy”; “here daddy–.” There’s a pause then, “I made this for you!” And a tiny glimmer of hope lights in the back of childish eyes that are all to well aware of the inadequacy of the offering. Do you reject the pot; dash it against the wall and try to teach the child how to make better pottery?

In the same way, “Our heavenly father rejects neither our offerings, nor our works.” Instead he blesses them and sets them in a prominent place, so he can say, “My child made that for me!” With all the pride of a daddy showing that first pot, or Christmas tie, or photo of a gangly teen with pimples and greasy hair.

The cross is adoption, but grace is the growing. Eventually you will make fine pottery or master works of what ever craft you choose, because the Christ living in you will live through you growing ever more righteous. Take the burden of your sin to God, one thing at a time and shed it. Let him crucify it dead and never to be remembered by him or by you and thereby committed again. As Peter says don’t return to your wallow and be destroyed, worse off than before, because there is no remaining means of salvation for you.

Written on May 17th, 2013 , Musings Tags: , , , , , , ,

I know that I have visited this topic previously and it may seem that there is little more to be said, however the larger issue is the fact that a particular body of anti-Christian heresy continues to pervert and beleaguer the church and one of the most profound results is the instability of the Christian home and family. I refer of course to the teaching that God has changed with the times and sin is no longer sin. But, more specifically, I refer to the casual even positive way in which divorce is now viewed among those who consider themselves believers. Why this matters has been covered partly in previous musings where I point to the Jesus midrash where he clearly links the relationship between the church and himself with the relationship of man and wife. But in the larger scope it has to do with the, pardon the expression, fundamental understanding that grace, while freely given to any who would ask, has rules and a heavy cost for those who are able to retain it. Grace once given by God can be and often is, discarded to the damnation of former believers who are careless of God’s repeated admonitions in scripture. To wit: One who is often reproved, yet remains stubborn, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. Proverbs 29:1

This whole issue came up again recently centered around a young lady who, after living with her boyfriend outside of wedlock and leading him to Christ in that time, was found out and expelled from her congregation, weeks before her wedding. My initial opinion was that was rather late in the game to find her out and didn’t help the situation any, as she was in the process of rectifying her error. We must always be quick to forgive and restore the genuinely penitent. But her reaction to the whole thing was certainly less than contrite so I’ll leave it to her pastor to be the voice of wisdom in that situation. What I could not ignore, as a man of God and student of theology, was the outcry of support to her status updates on Facebook (R). One of the most egregious responses she got included the following remark:

Times are very different from biblical times and while living with someone before marriage may not be the best choice it is definitely not the sin it once was.

Imagine! “Times have changed, so the Bible is irrelevant and Jesus’ own words are no longer binding on the believer.” Can there be a more depraved and apostate voice? And this was only one of many rushing to encourage the young lady by comforting her in her sin, with the full belief that sin in the life of a Christian is nothing more than a livable mistake, and not one that will actually separate you from God.

Well, in answer to A.W., the young woman who expressed the startling doctrine above, I have to point out one simple truth. Jesus is the foundation of the Church and our hope of salvation. If he is fallible in any point then we are fools to follow him and there is not hope in him. If we are right to trust him and have saving faith we cannot and will not question his authority or infallibility. That means on any subject, including divorce and remarriage, which he spoke, he is the last word and there can be no changing it because times have changed. Jesus claimed to be God in flesh and one with the father. If his words are not timeless and law for all time, then he lied and we are not saved. If he was true and we are saved by grace through his ministry and blood sacrifice then we have no authority to do other than he commanded. There is no third option.

The church as a whole is in crisis today because those in the pew are taught they can accept the worlds values, disregard Jesus’ commands, and remain in right relationship with God or at worst backslide without danger of damnation. There is a church movement that has taught us that we can live like the world and God will simply look on sadly, and that the church cannot judge the behavior of those who claim to be Christian. The Corinthian church faced a similar issue. They felt they were being loving and gracious by allowing those who were living in sin to be comfortable in the congregation. Paul takes three chapters from 4-6 of 1Cor. to show them the error of this thinking. He reaches the high point by saying cast out the immoral brother (or sister). The point being let them straighten out their issues outside so they don’t corrupt the young in the church, or introduce tolerance of habitual error.

In Hebrews Paul speaks at length about mercy and compassion and God’s willingness to forgive sin. This is where the Calvinists and Protestants gather their ideas regarding once in grace always in grace and the perverted gospel that judging is itself a sin. What is generally overlooked is the fact that the whole essay on perseverance of the saved, is bookended by the statement, before and after, that habitual sin will damn even the believer. This is found in Hebrews 6:4-8 and in Hebrews 10:26,27 demonstrating that the author clearly sees nothing in salvation by faith that allows for carnality and rebellion. You can lose your salvation for rebellion. Paul’s warning to Corinth, found in chapters 4, 5 & 6 of I Corinthians, is that the loving thing to do is kick people out so they will realize there error and repent before it is too late, then they can be welcomed back with full fellowship and love.

The world has infected the church with a lot of demonic ideas that seem like love and compassion, but are really just sin and damnation. The place where Satan seems to have made the greatest inroads is in the area of Divorce and Remarriage.

Jesus’ commands and New Covenant law regarding marriage is simple, and laid out in MAT 5:31-32 (nrsv), MAL 2:16-16 (nrsv), MAR 10:2-12 (nrsv), & 1CO 7:10-17 (nrsv), among a host other passages. These passages resolve to eight simple rules regarding marriage that are binding under the New Covenant and if a person confesses Christ he or she is bound by them thereafter. <edit>Bear in mind that these are standards for those who have already accepted Christ.

1) If you are offended by your spouse you can no-longer (as was custom in the day) kill her and get another. 2) Moses allowed divorce to those who are hardhearted so they wouldn’t be forced to confront rule #1 3) Given that hard-hearted is one of the signs used by Jesus and the apostles to indicate an unrepentant person It is clear that divorce is in fact legal but sinful never-the-less. 4) If you marry it is for life, period. The only legitimate excuse for divorce the infidelity of your spouse AND you must have not done the same. 5) If a person commits adultery and is divorced by his or her spouse, the spouse is free to remarry. The adulterer must remain celibate for life. 6) If you just can’t live with one another and have to separate, and that leads to the sin of divorce, a separation for any cause other than adultery make you responsible for your spouse’s needs for sex, any mistakes made, and neither of you can remarry except by reconciling to the original spouse. 7) Any remarriage that violates these principles is not a marriage before God regardless of the church’s stance on the subject and the partners are engaged in habitual sin. 8) A believer may never initiate divorce from an unbeliever nor separate from a spouse except by mutual consent and for a finite period. However, if an unbeliever (one who has never confessed Christ or is forever lost) leaves a believer, then the marriage is annulled without prejudice toward any children of the marriage.

The church is in crisis and people are dying spiritually in the pews because of sin they have been tricked into accepting into their lives by a selfish and hard-hearted generation of believers and unsaved who have driven godless values into the congregation and allowed them to fester.

People please wake up before it is too late.

Written on January 17th, 2013 , Musings, News Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Dear Timothy,