Saturday, March 29 2014
A letter to my friends who value personal experience over Scripture:
Before I start, I want you to know that I realize that people sometimes interpret certain Scripture passages differently. Two people, both of whom are sincere followers of Jesus Christ and who interpret a passage in light of its context, (its human author and original recipients, other writings of the human author, the overall message of the Gospel, and the Bible as a whole, etc.) may still disagree sometimes on interpretation. No one has perfect knowledge or understanding except God. I’m not writing about that.
I’m writing this because I’ve noticed that some of you are involved with what I’ll call “new and unusual” faith groups. When others ask you about unscriptural beliefs and practices, I’ve heard you say (often in a condescending tone)
“It’s not your theology or doctrine that matters, it’s your heart. You need Jesus in your heart, not your head. True believers are known by their fruit not their doctrine.”
Um, . . . well, . . . of course! No one’s arguing against loving Jesus and having a deep personal relationship with Him! No one is saying that the true followers of Jesus are not known by their fruit! My friends, those are basic doctrines. People who value the Bible already agree with these statements because, well, they’re in the Bible!
What you’re missing here is that the reason loving believers are questioning what you are teaching, believing, and doing is precisely because we do have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! It is because of that relationship and because we love you that we are trying to tell you that many of your beliefs and actions directly contradict the Bible!
I’m certain that sincere followers of Jesus Christ agree that perfect doctrine isn’t a requirement for salvation. Most believers understand that we’re all growing in knowledge and holiness. The Bible actually teaches this. (It’s called sanctification.) So, we aren’t saying that our doctrine is perfect or that yours has to be. But we’re worried about where your doctrine is coming from.
When you’re asked about contradictions between your beliefs and the Bible, you sometimes claim that the Bible supports your idea of NOT using the Bible as your guide! (Does that really make sense to you?) You say that “revelations” and “prophecies” trump Scripture. I’ve heard you quote part of 2 Corinthians 3:6 to support this idea, saying, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life” or part of John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life.” You seem to have the idea that these passages mean that studying Scripture brings spiritual deadness, while having subjective personal experiences is the mark of real faith. Wow!
There are two big problems with this idea. The first is that neither of these passages say what you think they say. The second is that if they did, Scripture would be saying that Scripture is bad and needs to be replaced. Think about this for a minute.
The Bible is full of passages that emphasize the importance of searching and studying Scripture. Since Scripture is inspired by God, it won’t contradict itself. If it seems to, you’re misinterpreting something. You can learn what passages really mean if you let the overall message of the Bible guide your interpretation. But to do this, you have to read and study, and pray for the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you read. This may not sound exciting, but what you might want to ask yourself is
“If I don’t really know what the Bible says,
how can I be sure I’m worshipping the one true God?”
Christians with the gift of discernment are trying to tell you that, based on the Bible, some of the things you believe and do are wrong. We’re not doing this out of a critical spirit, but because we’ve been instructed by God, through the Bible, to lovingly correct our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The people teaching you claim to be Christians. You claim to be Christian. Why are you so reluctant to compare your beliefs, experiences, and practices with God's self-revelation? We have the blessed privilege to learn about God from God's own self-revelation! This is the standard by which all teachings and experiences must be measured, or we will be deceived.
But you argue, “The first Christians didn’t have the New Testament.” True. They had living eye-witnesses to the truths of the New Testament. These eye-witnesses were the same people who were responsible for giving us the. . . . . New Testament!
You say, “But there have been people who were imprisoned and they didn’t have Bibles.” Again, true. But, have you read their stories? When you do, you’ll find that most of those who suffered long imprisonment for Jesus Christ already had large portions of the Bible in their hearts and memories. Do you? Would you deliberately go on a week-long camping trip in the desert without water because you have heard of people who managed to survive without it?
You say, “There were groups of Christians who were isolated and they didn’t have Bibles.” As for isolated groups without the Bible, the truth is that many of them did drift away from the faith. In fact, most of the letters that are in the New Testament were written to correct Christian groups that started slipping into error after the original eye-witness evangelists moved on to preach in new areas.
When we read Scripture, we see that Jesus and the apostles warned people over and over about false teachers, false prophets, false apostles, false doctrines, and deceivers. They needed the warnings then, and we need them now.
But then you say, “Well, my pastor and church friends use the Bible and quote it all the time.” The people you are listening to are flawed and sinful just like all the rest of us. How do you know if they are telling you what the Bible REALLY says if you don’t study it yourself?
You say, “They teach things that I absolutely KNOW are true.” I’m sure they do. If they taught nothing but falsehood, no one would listen.
You say, “They are caring people who sincerely believe what they teach and practice.” That’s probably true also, but how do you know they are not deceived? Friends, you quote the two passages mentioned above incorrectly. Did you learn that from your pastor or church friends? Other Christians who care about you are telling you that the Bible says something different from what your pastor and church friends are saying. Shouldn’t you find out for yourself?
This is truly a matter of life and death!
If the father you are praying to is not God the Father of the Bible, or
the Jesus you are following is not the only begotten Son, the Word, who was in the beginning, was with God and was God, who became flesh and dwelt among us, was crucified for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven (bodily) and will come again physically (in his glorified body) to judge the world, or
the spirit that is filling you is not God's Holy Spirit
then you worship idols, your fruits are poison, and your signs and wonders are demonic.
Please let me say that again.
If your God is not the God of the Bible,
you worship idols, your fruits are poison, and your signs and wonders are demonic!
Do you really think that you’re wise enough or holy enough to find truth on your own, without the Bible? I hope you just said “no,” because that sort of thinking is the height of arrogance and self-pride!
Please don’t reject God's own self-revelation and think that you know better, based on puny human ideas and experiences, or even worse, based on what someone else has told you! God gave us the Bible because we need it.
The All Mighty God, Creator of the universe, Creator of time, space, and all existence has revealed truth to us! We REALLY should pay attention!
The reason that I have taken the time to write this, pray, rewrite, pray, rewrite, pray . . . is because I’ve been where you are now. I understand. And I thank and praise God for the people who encouraged me to read, study, and learn to love God’s self-revelation. Please, see for yourself!
The Bible is NOT a dead book written by dead humans, as some have said. When you study with an open heart, open mind, and open spirit you will see that Scripture is alive and God-breathed.
It is the living God’s living word for the people of God.
It is God’s word to you!
Your Friend in Christ!
P.S. You might be wondering why this letter isn’t filled with Bible quotations to support what I have said. Well, I thought about putting those in, but I decided that it would defeat my purpose. You can discover for yourself if what I have said is correct. Open a Bible about ¾ of the way through. Page forward until you find “Matthew.” Start there and read to the end. Then you decide.
Friday, December 06 2013
I am participating in a Live Streaming course offered by God’s Word to Women College. The course is called Paul, Women and the Church and is taught by Dr. Susan Hyatt and Dr. Eddie Hyatt. During the fourth lesson, Paul and the Mighty Women of Macedonia, Dr. Eddie Hyatt mentioned someone who called the Christian Gospel “The Gospel that gives dignity to women.” This is a wonderfully accurate description of the New Testament message regarding women. In New Testament times, as now, there were wives, mothers, business women, leaders, and women of ill repute. No matter how high or low their status was in society, they were considered, by most people at that time, of less importance than a man of similar social rank. But when they committed their lives to Jesus Christ, God’s own Holy Spirit began to live in them!
You may have heard this hundreds of times and perhaps it doesn’t amaze you, but it should! Think about it! The Spirit of the all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator and Sustainer of time and space, matter and spirit lives inside of every believer.
This is an honor beyond comprehension! Ranking believers by social status, age, gender, ethnicity, education, income, nationality, in fact every possible way that people rank themselves and others is meaningless --- no, ridiculous --- in light of the Gospel. Paul clearly told us this saying,
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
So, why do some people say that there are things that only men can do for Jesus? Oh, they will say that men and women are equal, but they will insist that they have “different roles.” But in reality, the “role” distinctions exclude women from fully serving in God’s church while not excluding or limiting men in any way. Men who feel called to serve the church are never told that they can’t because of their gender. How is that “equal”?
Well, it’s not. It is a manifestation of sin in the church. If this attitude is viewed in a different context, its true nature becomes very clear:
Fiction writer George Orwell wrote a book named “Animal Farm.” It was a critique of Soviet Communism, but it is also an interesting commentary on the lust for power and the way terms are twisted by those who want to be in control. In the book the animals of a particular farm decided to throw off the oppression of the farmer so that they could all be equal. Their slogan was “All animals are equal.” They succeeded, however over time, the pigs took control and began to act like the farmer had. When challenged for this, the pigs amended the slogan to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
If a person is faithfully following Jesus Christ, he or she will not try to rule over other believers.
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20: 25-28)
The mood of the Greek verb used here, esomai (to be) is indicative, showing that this is less of a command, than a statement of fact. In other words, when religious leaders are “lording it over” others, they are NOT acting as true disciples because this behavior “shall not be” among true disciples.
But no matter how others might behave toward you, whether they claim to follow Jesus or are in opposition to Him, know that nothing anyone can do can remove the Holy Spirit from you. Nothing can separate you from God’s love. God honors you and respects you because His Spirit is in you. You belong to Him and He is yours.
I encourage you to learn more about what the Bible actually says about women. Don’t depend on what you may have been told. Search Scripture and see for yourself. God’s Word to Women College can help you see the overall Gospel message regarding women in Christ. For far too long there have been those who twist a very few verses out of context and then use these twisted interpretations to contradict the overall message of “the Gospel that brings dignity to women.”
website: God’s Word to Women
International Christian Women’s History Project & Hall of Fame
Sunday, September 29 2013
Cults and false teachers frequently condemn “doctrine,” and far too many people fall for this. It is often used as an insult, as in “They follow doctrine, but we love Jesus.”
That idea is nonsense! What do these people think doctrine is?
“Doctrine” is simply “something that is taught, a principle or position, a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.” Every group that has any beliefs has doctrine. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. A “disciple” is “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” Being a follower of Jesus is all about doctrine. If your doctrine is false, your Jesus is false.
The question is: where does the doctrine you follow comes from? Does your doctrine come from God through the Bible, or from people? If your heart leads you to follow doctrines (teachings) contrary to God, you are being led away from God.
When the Holy Spirit is guiding His people, He will never teach anything contrary to what He has already taught through Scripture. So the Bible is the way we can test what others claim is coming from God. In fact, the only way to know if what we are being taught is from the Holy Spirit and a not trick of men or demons is to compare it with what is in the Bible. False signs and wonders can be touted as fruit. Feelings can fool us because we have a fallen nature. We can be deceived.
Sound doctrine (true teaching) is very important to God. He loves us. He doesn’t want us to be fooled. He gave us Scripture so that we can know the difference between the true and the false. (btw, false is usually cleverly mixed in with truth, otherwise it is obviously false.)
God warns us about those who oppose sound doctrine:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)
God tells us to be diligent and to exert ourselves to correctly understand His truth:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
The Greek word “spoudazo” that the NIV translates as “Do your best” means “hasten, exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence.” The KJV translates it “Study.”
God tells us to live in obedience to His truth:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)
God tells us that what we teach should agree with sound doctrine:
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)
God tells us to encourage others with His teaching:
He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine
and to refute opposition:
and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:9)
God tells us to command those teaching false doctrine to stop:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer (1 Timothy 1:3)
Underlying these passages is the assumption that we as followers of Jesus Christ are eager to learn what Jesus taught. We are not dependent on vague feelings and ideas, but we are diligent to learn the doctrine that Jesus taught to his disciples, who then taught it to others and wrote it down for us in the Bible. This is the “sound doctrine” that we are told to be diligent to understand, to persevere in, and to teach to others. We are told to refute those who oppose it, and to tell them to stop teaching falsely.
Since sound doctrine is so important to the God we so passionately love, shouldn't we desperately want to know the sound doctrine He teaches us through the Bible?
(This is a slightly modified version of a comment I posted to an article on the Spirit of Error website.)
Saturday, August 03 2013
Recently, a friend asked me what I thought about various views of the end times. After reviewing relevant scripture, commentaries, books, and articles, I’ve come to some definite conclusions. Before I discuss my conclusions, I want to make it clear that I respect the time and effort that so many people have put into their study and analysis of eschatological issues. There is value in the study of prophecy and eschatology, and each of the end times perspectives I mention below have scriptural support and provide valuable insight for believers. However, as a review of relevant web sites will show, disagreement regarding these issues sometimes leads to harshness toward those with different interpretations. That’s why I am addressing the controversy.
Regarding millennialism, I’m quite confident about the following;
If you believe that scripture teaches amillennialism, and it turns out that you are mistaken, your misunderstanding, in and of itself, will not affect your entry to the premillennial or postmillennial kingdom. If you believe that scripture teaches premillennialism or postmillennialism and it turns out that you are mistaken, your misunderstanding will not keep you out of the kingdom of the new heaven and new earth. Your eternal salvation does not rest on your interpretation of the scripture passages that deal with these things.
As to the timing of the resurrection(s) of the dead and the catching up (rapture?) of living believers to Jesus Christ:
Whether you call the catching up “the rapture” or something else will not affect whether or not you spend eternity with God. If you truly belong to Jesus Christ, and you expect midtribulation rapture or posttribulation rapture, but the rapture occurs before any sort of Great Tribulation, you will be raptured anyway. If you expect pretribulation rapture and you are mistaken, you will have to wait longer than you expected to see Jesus face to face, but you will if you belong to him. If you expect midtribulation rapture and you are mistaken, you will either be pleasantly surprised or have to wait a bit longer than you thought. Your eternal salvation does not rest on your interpretation of the scripture passages that deal with these things.
Some of you are now thinking of the “practical problems” that a wrong interpretation of these things might cause. For example, amillennialists and postmillennialists might spend too much time involved in political or social causes in order to make the world a better place. On the other hand, premillennialists might show too little concern for these things. A person expecting a pretribulation rapture might not prepare spiritually for the possibility of persecution. On the other hand, a person expecting a mid or posttribulation rapture may not be watchful and become lax in their devotion, expecting plenty of warning time in which to “clean up their act.”
But these “practical problems” all have the same solution. Live as Jesus Christ told you to live. Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind. Love others as yourself. Devote yourself to prayer, worship, and the study of scripture. Serve others in love and humble submission, considering others more important than you. Rejoice when you are considered worthy to share in Christ’s sufferings. If the Holy Spirit leads you do something (i.e., live quietly, or become politically active, prepare for a time of scarcity, or live day to day) DO IT! Don’t base how you live on your eschatology. Live for Jesus Christ!
Friday, April 12 2013
The “church, at least in “Western countries” is a horrid mess! It is hard to find God’s true word being preached. The mainline denominations are dying. They have compromised away most of the meaning and power of the Gospel through liberalism and ecumenism. In the Evangelical and Charismatic denominations, many shepherds not only neglect the sheep, they devour them. Jesus’ statement in Matt 20:25-28 is not only ignored, but it is openly and brazenly defied. So-called “pastors” declare themselves the leaders of the “church” (the organization that pays them) and insist on ruling over the people they are leading to destruction. The “pastors” rule everyone, the “elders” rule the “members,” the husbands rule the wives, and no one pays any attention to what Jesus said about being servants and slaves to one another. “Church” has become an entertainment business and the employees are the only ones reaping the profits.
Self-proclaimed “apostles” and “prophets” (mostly male) are proliferating. Men and women brag about being “anointed” (little christs!) Many actually say they have the “Christ spirit” and claim to be “little gods.” People claim to be mediators between God and others. They claim that THEY can “impart” spiritual gifts and blessings to others by laying hands on them (as if God needs them to give us gifts!) Well known “leaders” brag about idolatrous and occult activity such as lying on graves of famous ministers to receive their mantles.
During “Christian” gatherings that might once have involved praise, thanksgiving, and worship of God, these “leaders” prance and strut (or stumble) around on a stage, sometimes acting drunk or stoned and pantomiming activities that might make them that way. Some wave their hands at the “audience” to cause people to fall down, or lay hands on them to “impart” “gifts” that cause them to scream, jerk, make animal sounds, or run frantically around the meeting area.
When do people hear and proclaim the Gospel message? When do they study God’s word in Scripture? When do they join together in praise and thanksgiving? When do they serve each other in love?
Many of today’s self-proclaimed “Christians” take great offense when someone asks them to show where their beliefs and practices can be found in Scripture. In the past, denominations and congregations sometimes had doctrinal differences and differences in practice. But if you read about those times, the differences originated in different interpretations of actual Scripture. Today, the differences are based on what the self-proclaimed leaders claim that God is telling them. Folks, if it’s not in Scripture, it has NOTHING to do with Jesus and the true Gospel! Scripture is the guide for discerning real vs. idolatrous religious practice. Scripture tells us to be sober, not drunk; to take turns speaking, not sit in a daze or make noises together; and to behave in an orderly way, with self-control (“For God is not a God or disorder, but of peace.”)
If you doubt these things, then you really, really need to read the New Testament (for yourself!) and find out what God says. Apostasy and heresy are widespread. Stop listening to people who collect as much money as they can from you as often as they can. This, in and of itself, should make you wonder about them. While you read, keep an eye out for what God says about following false apostles and prophets and about those who teach a gospel other than the one in Scripture. As you read, pray that God will give you discernment to see the true spirit behind these false leaders. Come out from among them!
Thursday, April 11 2013
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:1-3)
Have you wondered how people who have been saved by grace choose to abandon their freedom in Christ and begin to follow rules and regulations that are based on nothing more than human commands and teachings? Well, one reason is that the self-serving people who teach these man-made doctrines use a clever strategy. They combine traditional biases with “biblical” words. They then point to passages that use these words in order to prove that their biases are true. Then they repeat the process with another term. Alternative interpretations of the passages, even when the alternatives are widely agreed on by most Bible scholars, are simple ignored. If you listen to them, they lead you to believe that their interpretation is the only one. Then they expound on the implications of what they have presented. Bit by bit, one false assumption leads to another, and another, until . . . you have been bewitched!
This approach to Scripture is very similar to the approach that was used to “prove” that slavery was “part of God’s design.” And over the last few years, certain groups have used this approach to promote a number of false doctrines. Some are saying that the Bible allows only men to have authority in the church and in society. They claim that the husband is the spiritual “covering” (a term that was popularized during the spiritually damaging and now discredited “Shepherding” movement) over his wife. The pastor is the “covering” over all the men. If a woman is single, the pastor is her “covering”. And if a woman’s husband disagrees with the pastor, then the pastor is the “covering” for the wife!! Therefore, they say, men hear from God and women hear from men. Some say that women should never work away from the home and that women should be subject to their husbands even if the husband is abusive. Others teach that only husbands should handle finances and make financial decisions (of course, they say a man has the right to discuss things with his wife if he wants to - as long as he makes the decision.) The proponents of these ideas claim that the rules they espouse are mandated by the Bible. They use of proofs texts to strain out gnats to support their man-made doctrines while ignoring the weightier truths of the Gospel.
The errors being taught are easily disputed! There are excellent books that use the whole teaching of the Gospel and clearly show that Jesus and the first century Christian leaders taught the equality of women and men. There are writings that carefully and honestly refute erroneous interpretations of the isolated biblical passages that are used to subjugate women. The authors delve into the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew terms. They present first century cultural and historical information to show how the passages should actually be interpreted. Some authors examine the Hebrew Scriptures and identify the shadows and foretelling of freedom for women that was bought by Jesus on the cross. Other authors trace the history of women in the church to illustrate how their freedom in Christ was taken from them while illustrating what the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish through them in spite of their oppression. Still others have offered information regarding Biblical examples and instructions regarding the relationships between men and women. However, despite the evidence these authors present, despite the clear reasoning, despite the scholarship, despite the excellent scriptural exegesis, despite the analysis in the original language, despite the historical research, God’s children are still being distracted from their kingdom missions by those who preach a gospel other than the one preached by the first apostles.
I’ve prayed about this, asking God over and over, “How can people who seem to be Christian believe and teach such unbiblical, unloving, and potentially damaging things?” How can people who have found freedom, because Jesus Christ has set them free, allow themselves to be burdened again by this yoke of slavery? The Holy Spirit has helped me to see that many Christians don’t really understand the revolutionary, radical, amazing, life-renewing, awe-inspiring power of the cross. Many don’t really grasp who Jesus Christ is, or how wide and long and high and deep His love is.
Throughout the centuries, there have been people who have worked to distract and misdirect God’s children with slavish requirements (“You must be circumcised!”) and rules (“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”) And since the beginning there have been those who wonder how, why, their sisters and brothers in Christ sometimes listen to these teachings. “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belong to it, do you submit to its rules?” (Colossians 3:20)
Most of the things the “biblical manhood/womanhood” teachers are promoting do NOT matter. These things are NOT taught by Jesus or the apostles. How many times do we need to remind ourselves “… by grace you have been saved through faith – but that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8) When will we truly understand that these things are NOT the point! “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6b)
If we fail to see the “big picture” it can be difficult to understand the specifics. We must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. We must read the Bible in the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit. When we do this, we begin to understand that God’s love for us is the reason for our creation. His love is the reason for His continued pursuit of humanity in the face of our rebellion. His love is the reason for the Incarnation, for the Cross, for the Resurrection, and for Pentecost. Before we look at different viewpoints and interpretations, it is important to understand God’s relationship with humanity – the love of the Father, our salvation through the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Christian story, and the Gospel message. Those who were at Pentecost (and later Paul and others) had already proclaimed the Gospel to the Christians who received their letters. The letters need to be understood in light of the message of salvation through grace by faith.
When we understand, accept, internalize, and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we begin to focus our attention on Jesus, the Word who was God. Who being in very nature God, made Himself nothing and became human and pitched his tent among us. He came to save us from our sin and to reconcile us to Himself and to each other through His death on the cross and through His resurrection.
It is important for Christians to remember that the instructions, rebukes, encouragements, and lessons that Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude, and the author of Hebrews wrote in their letters were written to Christians, to people who had already heard the Gospel and who had dedicated their lives to living as citizens of the Kingdom of God. These “epistle” writers expected their readers to interpret what they were writing in the context of the complete Gospel message.
I believe that the best way to protect ourselves against false doctrine is to truly understand and internalize the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wiles of the enemy will not work with someone who really understands who she or he is in Christ. In future entries I’ll attempt to explain at least a tiny bit of the reality-altering miracle that occurred when The Word who was God came to earth, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. I’ll try to describe the radically amazing opportunity that He, through His life, death and resurrection, offers to those who choose to be part of the reality shift He initiated (the Kingdom of God), a reality shift that brings eternal life. I will say again what has already been made so many times in Scripture, that requiring circumcision, making rules about what you can eat or touch, defining gender roles, and engaging in other “works based” attempts to please God are foolish nonsense in God’s Kingdom. They ARE NOT THE POINT! Even worse, they are distractions from the freedom we find in the “good works which God prepared for us that we may walk in them.”
Saturday, March 09 2013
A short video was shown as part of a recent Bible study oriented gathering I attended. In the video a woman, who heads up an international parachurch organization, stated that since God instituted the church, we should support our local churches. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but in the last few years, everything about “church,” or at least my perception of it, has been challenged. God has shown me things I would have preferred to never know. While watching the video, I felt a deep sense of dismay and sorrow. In fact, as soon the gathering broke into smaller groups, I went to the ladies room and cried.
I thought and prayed a lot about why the woman’s statement upset me so much. I finally realized that there are many contributing reasons for my dismay, but there are three overarching reasons. The first is that this statement was made to an “interfaith” group. I had been told that the group might contain mainstream and evangelical Protestants, charismatics of various flavors, Roman Catholics, Eastern and Russian Orthodox, possibly Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others who identify as “Christians,” as well as people who just want to learn about the Bible or learn English through Bible study. The second cause of my discomfort is that the statement assumes that God designed and set up the organizational, institutional, building centered 501(c)(3) corporations in the US that we commonly call “churches.” And the third reason is that far, far, too many of the religious institutions today (mainstream, evangelical, charismatic, etc.) in Europe and North America are seriously apostate, teaching and promoting heresies of all kinds. *
Although I want to believe that the speaker meant well, her call to all of us to “serve” whatever group we are associated with was (almost?) blasphemous. We are NOT to serve institutions or organizations! We are to serve God ALONE! It is an act of obedience to God when we serve with others who truly serve our Triune God as God leads us to serve. Anything else is IDOLATRY!
Part of my discomfort with the video was that the speaker allowed each viewer to define “church” for herself. In effect, the “church” that people were being encouraged to serve was whatever organization they were associated with. So, if a person were a member of an apostate religion, that is what the person was encouraged to serve.
But the Greek word “ecclesia” that is translated in many Bibles as “church” refers to the gatherings of believers. Ironically, in their statement of faith, the parachurch organization defines the church as “the body of Christ, a spiritual organism of born again believers.” This is correct. The bride of Christ is made up wholly of living stones (parts of the Body of Christ). But, people who are part of the organizational, institutional, building centered institutions may or may not be part of Christ’s Body. They may or may not be living stones. In some institutions, most of the members may be true “living stones.” However, in some groups, there may be few, if any, true followers of Jesus Christ. Clearly, the organization is distinct from the Body of Christ.
So, if the organization is not the same as the Body of Christ, then it is actually a “churchy” organization, a man-made substitute for the real temple of living stones. If we call a physical, man-made organization the “Church”, and then we serve that, we are guilty of idolatry. Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
The True Church is made up of the believers and true followers of Jesus Christ. I love the true Church. But today there are many deceptive (demonic) institutions that call themselves “church.” One online writer described how he felt about what he called
“the 501c-3 type of the American one-man-show church (trust, fund, corporation). I hate that church. It is a self-focused, greedy, carnal fraud. The true Gospel is not preached or taught in it and its enslaved “members” are kept in permanent Biblical illiteracy to prevent them from coming to mature faith (because they would leave if they did.) If you think I am being too harsh, just spend a bit of time looking at the American Protestant “church” landscape.”
I did spend time looking and I found: Latter Rain, Sonship, Dominionism, Manchild, Kansas City Prophets, IHOP, Ecstasis, John Crowder and Sons of Thunder, Charismania, Kundalini, Word of Faith, Signs and Wonders, the new monastics, the so called “Spiritual Formation” movement, New Apostolic Restoration, Marcus Borg, “gold dust,” “angel feathers,” and much more.
How many of you go each week to synagogues of Satan to listen to doctrines of demons spoken through the mouths of unscrupulous, evil men and imposters who go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived?
Instead of studying Scripture for yourselves, are you following deceitful spirits and the teaching of hypocritical liars?
If you are part of a religious organization that has strayed from the pure Gospel and the simplicity of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, please, please get away.
Do not serve the institution.
It is not
the Body of Christ.
2 Corinthians 6: 14-18
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
* If you are not aware of this, start to become educated by reading Herescope or a similar online site. Track down the blogs and videos of the groups, individuals and teachings they discuss. I’m not saying to take anyone’s word for it. Read what these people and groups say on their own sites! But don’t read too long. It can break your heart!
Saturday, March 09 2013
Recently, a local city-wide evangelical group sent out an email announcing an upcoming simulcast that promises to “unpack what biblical manhood looks like.” The organization promoting this event is one of several who claim that the decline in morals in our culture has been caused by a failure of men and women to follow so called “biblical” roles. I recently spoke with a small group of leaders and members of our local evangelical group and asked them to be prayerful, discerning and cautious with these ideas. I reminded my colleagues that role playing distracts men and women from fulfilling their God-ordained purposes for their lives. Furthermore, in some instances, this training has been the cause of marital conflict, confusion, and even divorce.
The following paragraphs reflect my part of the discussion.
If people are supposed to spend their lives playing roles, wouldn’t Jesus have described these roles? But we are not called to play roles in marriage; we are called to love one another. Clearly men and women have natural differences. God matches husbands and wives and gives them specific gifts and talents so that, together, they can more effectively follow Him. Just as every individual is uniquely created by God, every marriage relationship is unique. The way my husband and I relate to each other differs from the way any other couple will relate. This is how God designed it.
Much of the training in the “proper roles of men and women” is presented through local congregations. When a teaching like this comes into a congregation, couples in leadership are encouraged to be among the first to participate. Christian couples who have been relating to each other based on their God-given talents and individual strengths begin to try to follow the “roles” they are being taught. I have heard firsthand from ministers, elders, and other church leaders about problems that have arisen in marriages when couples begin to substitute legalistic “role” playing for their formerly Spirit-led relationship. Honest communication is suppressed as couples begin to act and react as they are taught. Couples have been told that men who don’t buy into it are “wimps” and that women who disagree are “rebellious Jezebels.”
True relationship and “role” playing don’t mix! Couples should live and love and relate to each other as Jesus Christ tells them to, through His Holy Spirit. They should be honest, open, and REAL with each other. Decisions such as who should handle the money, who works, who stays home, etc. should be handled with prayer and spiritual discernment by the COUPLE themselves, with both husband and wife putting the interests and welfare of the other ahead of their own, as Scripture instructs.
The “role” training material uses terms like “headship” and “submission” that seem to be “biblical” because Scripture passages are quoted out of context to support their ideas. However, their interpretation of these terms CANNOT be found in the Bible. The Bible does not tell us who should write the checks, who should mow the lawn, or who should load the dishwasher. For the most part, events recorded in the Bible reflect the culture in the time and place that they occurred. But there are enough positively portrayed cultural exceptions to make it clear that the roles were not ordained by God. Jacob and Esau cooked. Deborah led a nation. The good wife of Proverbs 31 invested in land, made goods to sell for profit, and took care of the family to make it possible for her husband to serve as a judge at the gate. Lydia of Philippi was a wealthy business woman who supported Paul and his companions while they ministered in her city. Both Aquila AND Priscilla taught Apollos. And there are many more examples that could be given. The roles being taught by these “Biblical manhood” groups are clearly cultural (their own cultural preferences) not Biblical.
Toward the end of the discussion, one of the pastors mentioned Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill megachurch. He said Driscoll had announced publicly that any man in his congregation who was not the sole breadwinner of his family would be subject to church discipline. The ministry of Jesus was supported in large part by the wealthy women who believed in Him, learned from Him and traveled as His disciples. I guess no “Biblical manhood” types were around to set Jesus straight. … Oh! … Maybe they were!
Sunday, January 22 2012
Both 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2: 12-15 are difficult passages, for reasons that have nothing to do with women speaking or teaching men. In the 1 Corinthians passage, Paul says “as the law says.” This is a strange comment, especially from Paul. What “law” is he referring to? In the 1Timothy passage, Paul says that women will “be saved” “through childbearing” (check the Greek term if your translation says otherwise.) What happened to “saved through faith”? These statements do not fit with the theology that Paul teaches anywhere else in his letters. I have researched these things and this is the second of a series of blogs discussing what I have found (see Women In Ministry 1
). This blog will deal with the interpretation of the 1 Corinthians passage, and only briefly mention the topic of women teaching men (the 1 Timothy passage).
Complementarians believe that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 forbids women to speak in “official” gatherings. If you believe, as I do, that Scripture does not contradict Scripture, this creates a problem, since in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul tells the Corinthian women that they should respect the local cultural views of modesty (by covering their hair) when they pray or prophesy in their gatherings. There are numerous reasonable interpretations of the chapter 14 passage that have been proposed by egalitarians that do not require Scripture to contradict Scripture. This blog presents the one that seems the most convincing to me. Other’s will be discussed later.
In Greco-Roman culture (a strongly male dominated culture – see The Social Status of First Century Women
) of the first century there were laws that regulated the rights and duties of wives, grown daughters, children and slaves. One of those civil laws required the wives, grown daughters, children, and slaves of a household to follow the religion and religious customs of the male head of the household (the reason why Timothy was not circumcised even though his mother was Jewish.) But Christians allowed women and slaves to be full participants in the faith all by themselves
(which was quite subversive). Because of this, many of the women who worshipped in Christian gatherings would not have had Christian husbands at home to ask questions of. However, there was a group of women who absolutely would have had husbands to ask. Those were the pagan
wives who were merely tagging along because their civil law
required them to subject themselves to their husband’s faith. In ignorant disrespect, they disrupted the meetings with questions that they should have held until they got home.
The Greek word gynaikes
that is translated here as “women” could also have been translated as “wives”, and probably should have been, since they are told to ask “their own husbands” (andras
, or men). It is interesting that the first word, which can mean women or wives is translated “women” and the next gender term that can mean men or husbands is translated “husbands”. Standard translation guidelines would dictate a parallel translation. So the meaning of this passage would then be that the pagan wives should remain silent and save their questions for when they got home, showing respect in their observance of their civil law.
These noisy women were not preaching, or praying, or speaking words of wisdom, they were asking questions. That should help guide the interpretation. Furthermore, Paul is addressing, at most, only married
women with Christian husbands, since the other women did not have husbands to ask. So, it was only the married women with Christian husbands who were being told to be silent. Why would Paul do that?
And, now, a brief thought regarding the complementarian view that women should not teach men (and conversely that men should not learn from women). There is a lot of Scripture that men who hold a complementarian view need to get rid of. Starting with Genesis, they must go through their Bibles and mark out all the words of women that they might learn from. Strike out everything said by Sarah. No song of Miriam, no Ruth or Naomi, no Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, or Elizabeth, no Magnificat, no announcement of the resurrection from Mary Magdelene, no discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, no . . . , well you get the point.