Cantonese Saturday Night? Just Stop!

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? Continue reading “Cantonese Saturday Night? Just Stop!”

Christians are Weirdos in Relationship to God

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, Continue reading “Christians are Weirdos in Relationship to God”

Dead Camels Fill the Heavens with Midges

A young woman named V recently argued that old dead heresy of Calvin in the context of whether the Holy Spirit still baptised and conferred gifts. The greater questions have been dealt with previously, but she raised the following questions:

1) I suppose what i dont understand, then, is why does the bible say once we are saved, we are sealed? What can break the seal?
2) How do you believe one becomes saved?
3) Why do you believe that once salvation was offered to the gentiles, paul only preached salvation by grace through faith?

What follows was my response with expanded exposition on the scriptures:

First things first. Continue reading “Dead Camels Fill the Heavens with Midges”

Wickly Burning?

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 Continue reading “Wickly Burning?”

DOA

Several years ago I witnessed the aftermath of a fatal car accident. A Friend picked me up from the airport and we were exiting the parking lot onto the multilane throughway that feeds the airfield. Traffic was stop and go along the the overpass and onto the onramp and we were both frustrated. Time was of the essence. Then we saw the cause.

A man in a minitruck, perhaps you remember the mid ’70’s Chevy Luv and the Datsun/Mitsubishi offerings, had taken a wrong turn and come up the onramp the wrong way and been run off the road. The truck had hit a piling and teetered precariously on the edge of the ramp. Our lane of traffic inched along the road, pressed as far to the right as possible as we passed the lifeless body of the man who hung halfway out the driver’s side window.

There is nothing quite like seeing a dead human body in the place where it died, only moments after the life has fled. There is something missing, and you can’t define it emotionally. A statue is expected to be lifeless as is a picture, but this lump of flesh that had life and motion, lying where it has fallen, still bearing all the form and potential that it once had, but robbed of the something that made it live– It’s an eerie experience.

Similarly, the Christian church, the body of Christ lies dead today. There is growth in numbers of members. There are even teachings that benefit some by encouraging  People praise God and perform, They use stage magic and lighting tricks, neurolinguistic programming in the form of mind-numbing repetition of verses. In some cases they are so bold as to use cold readings, shills who feed preachers info, etc. They create a warm fuzzy emotional feeling. But they fail utterly to invite and encourage the awesome presence of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

God is not an emotion.

Let me repeat that. When you feel a warm emotion in your heart, that emotion is not the Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of the Sons of God that participated in the creation of the Universe. The Spirit of God is not an emotion.

When Abraham was in the Spirit his face had such a glowry, people were blinded by it. When Peter was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and Annanias and Sephira lied to get credit for their monetary sacrifice in the offering plate, they dropped dead. When the church worshiped (not praised, worshiped) the living God in concert and prayed for a solution, steel manacles spontaneously shattered, an earthquake opened the doors of a maximum security prison and hardened prison guards begged the inmate, Peter, to save them.

When the Holy Spirit is present, the false doctrine of Eternal Security is forgotten because people have the supernatural power to live in obedience, the fruit of the Spirit are evident in their lives. There aren’t any psychological profiles to assess your aptitude, because God tells you what you need to do, and the ability is not a natural, testable talent, but a supernatural gift.

The Gifts and Callings of the Lord are without repentance. This has many layers of meaning. One is that the church is still gifted, so long as the spirit of rebellion doesn’t talk them into keeping the Holy Spirit in check. Where are your tongues with interpretation, your prophecy, your healing, your miracles. Tongues have not ceased, knowledge is still required, that which is perfect is still bidding time awaiting the command of God to initiate the second coming.

Spiritual Life is living in God’s presence, allowing him to work the way He decided and with His paradigm, and living in obedience.

Becomming Dis-Spirited.

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.

Why The Bible is P-CURSive

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

Lambs dip while hogs wallow. 2 Pet 2:14

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.

Fire Retardent

Recently I was confronted by a man who made an Apology, in the debate sense, for insuring that people in his congregation seek a shallower experience of God presence in his services. Clearly the man is in error to the point of rebellion, but it called to mind the fact that there is an increasing trend, in the wake of heretical extremism, to dampen down the strange fire and excess. This man’s error is to avoid strange and wild practices by insuring that the presence of God was given so little freedom to move on his people that no fire would occur.

For the uninitiated, Fire is a metaphor for the intense emotional and physiological responses that can occur when a believer encounters the incorporeal presence of the Holy Spirit, first hand. If you think back to that “warm fuzzy” you got the first time you had a crush on someone, and filter out the sexual response entirely, that is essentially what the prophet referred to as “having fire shut up” in his bones. This is normative for those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, as well as those who are receptive but fail to take the next step, and if there is a reliable initial evidence other than the fruit of the spirit I’d like to argue for this.

That said this man (I can’t in good conscience call him a pastor) is clearly not baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Ruakh Elohim, that filled the prophets of the Old Covenant and flowed out of the prophet of the New. No Godly man, filled with the Spirit and in right relationship with God, would ever seek to curb the activity of the Spirit. What this man said was, “here we have order and you can practice your gift at home alone.” Such an egregious challenge to the authority of God’s spirit is unconscionable. Yet, in the wake of counterfeit revivals such as Brownsville Texas, Orlando Florida, Toronto Canada and Broken Arrow Oklahoma–there is an increasing trend, even in the bastions of orthodox Christian faith, to suppress the will of God and the relationship with his people, to avoid the embarrassment of such sacrilege as Barking, Laughing on Command, and selling artifacts imbued with “prayer”.

I can empathize with this man’s stated motive, while not agreeing with the solution, one that clearly indicates his lack of faith and suggests that his motives may be far less sincere. But the insurance against such excesses is simple and effective. Every congregation must be led by a board of deacons and elders who are themselves so on fire as well as genuine, that they can discern in the Spirit when something is not Godly and genuine, and curtail it as it begins. Every church must be led by a Pastor or Rector who is Baptized in the Holy Ghost and clearly gifted not with teaching or administration, but with prophecy and discernment of spirits.

Churches were never meant to be so large that the members do not know one another intimately. Heresy and excess are born in the shadows produced by impersonal mega church congregations and small groups, where small misinterpretations of scripture by uncalled leaders grow unchecked into heretical dogmas. Ministry leaders have ceased to be Pastors with the intimacy of knowing each member and sharing each member’s struggles and knowing their rate of growth and learning, to being showmen and entertainers with crowds who follow them while starving for lack of real personal ministry. They’ve farmed this out to others and there is no connection between the pastor who will be held accountable and the members who suffer for lack of personal attention.

Another solution that has arisen is to have each prophet submit or deliver his prophecy to the pastor for evaluation, before delivering it cold and on queue, when the pastor has chosen to make room for it between the announcements and the last song. Imagine telling Jesus, “now tell us what are you going to say to those Sadducees? hmmm. Dogs is a bit strong, they may think you are calling them male prostitutes– How about deeply mistaken brothers. Doesn’t that sound like what God is really saying? Now about this word thieves–”

The key to insuring good order is to submit more fully and genuinely to God. God is not the author of confusion. He uses foolish things to stump the wise, but have a little faith! The Holy Spirit is a gentle spirit and gentleman. He’ll never create confusion, no matter how the congregation babbles while praying in tongues. The only insurance the church has against false prophets, on the order of A A Alan, Cyril of Alexandria, Joseph Smith and Elen G White, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. You have to ask yourself who really benefits from quenching the fire, and silencing the gifted members. Shouldn’t we all seek the baptism so that there will be more who are qualified to discern to the false and counterfeit fire, the false prophet, the deceiver?

From the voice of many counselors is wisdom. This is the defense against strange fire insuring that the whole congregation is baptized in the Spirit and sensing his presence, not relying on emotions and human reason to decide what feels right, insures that the strange and the anti-Christ will be evident. Seek the spirit and find a church where the pastor isn’t too important to have coffee with you, and is filled with the spirit with the evidence of prayer in tongues, gift of prophecy, and spiritual fruit such as humility.

Be a part of God’s solution!

Fred

{Insert Cute Title Here}

Trying new software for musings. Musings go back to a day before I had discovered the dreaded blog, and I never had the will to automate the process of updating. I edited each musing as a separate file and then cut and pasted the content of the formatted text into a web editor. This produced adequate results and I was satisfied. Recently I’ve been exposed to several blogs and have found the packaged blog software to be impressive, so I’m hanging up the ol html editor and moving up to a wysiwyg plugin on a SQL driven blog portal. I think I’m going to like it here. Lord willing and the rapture delays, I’ll be adding new musings this year. Lord bless you all.

Fred