Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rolling out the Welcome Wagon

The LORD said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. I Kings 9:3

As Sophia would say, "Picture it:"

After church one Sunday, a friend says, "Why don't you come over to my house tomorrow night for dinner?"

So, the appropriate time comes on Monday evening, and you drive over to her house. The door is standing open because she is expecting you, and you're familiar enough with each other that you feel comfortable just walking on in.

As you're walking in, you see your friend standing there, and you say to her, "I invite you into this house! You are welcome here!"

Anything seem a little off about that?

Well, of course that seems strange. It's her house.

But that's what is taking place in churches all over America every Sunday morning. I saw it in a televised local church service last week. The worship leader stood up to lead the first song and said, "God we welcome you into this place!" I've heard others say things like, "Lord, we invite you into this house this morning!" We sing songs like "Holy Spirit, Thou art Welcome" and "Lord, we Invite You".

'Scuse me? Isn't the church God's house?

Of course, it isn't God's house in the same way the temple was God's house, in that there isn't a holy of holies where the actual presence of God resides. On the other hand, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's only a building, like the post office or a doughnut shop.

At some point, way back when, or maybe even recently, a body of Believers got together and asked God to give them a place where they could worship Him. God saw fit to answer that prayer. He provided the land, the permits, and every brick, nail, and piece of sheetrock. He allowed His name to be placed there when we decided to call it "Grace Fellowship", "St. Luke's", or "First Baptist". He protects that building and allows it to stand as a testimony to the community: God, and God's people, can be found here.

It's not your church. It's not my church. It's God's church. And it exists for His glory.

But somewhere along the way, we've forgotten that. Somewhere along the way, we gave God an eviction notice and became squatters on His property. How arrogant have we become that we strut into church as though we own the place, and dare to invite Him, to welcome Him into His own house as though He were a guest? How dare we?

Maybe it's partly because we no longer have a holy of holies that we don't see God's house as sacred. "Ah," you may say, "but that's Old Testament thinking. Now we know that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20)"


When it's my church, my comfort, my pew, my ministry that nobody else better touch, my style of music, my opinion about how long the sermon should be, my feelings that got hurt, my idea of how things should operate, what I got out of the service, are we really gathering in His name?

Welcome, Lord. Are You sure You want to come in?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Going to Pot

John 2:

3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

6Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

7Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." So they filled them up to the brim.

8And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him.

9When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,

10and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."

Much has been said, and many words written, about Jesus' first miracle-- the turning of the water into wine at the wedding of Cana. Why was this first miracle a miracle that put Jesus in the position of a caterer? Why not a healing? What did the disciples think? Was it really wine or just grape juice (It was wine, my Southern Baptist bretheren. As much as we might not want to, we all need to get on board with that.) And so on.

But I don't believe I've ever heard anybody look at this account from the perspective of the waterpots.

What was it about those waterpots that made Jesus decide to use them? People used the water in them for washing their hands and possibly their dishes. They were common. Utilitarian. Probably not very clean. Why didn't Jesus call for golden pitchers or silver goblets for the fine wine He was making?

The waterpots were close to Jesus.

The wedding Jesus was attending was in a small town, in an average home. It was likely that the hosts didn't even own goblets or pitchers made of silver or gold. If they did, they certainly didn't own enough large ones to hold all the wine Jesus was about to make. Gold and silver containers would have been far away in a palace or a wealthy home. The waterpots were close to Him, ready and available.

The waterpots had a great capacity for being filled.

We're talking 120-180 gallons here. Your bathtub holds about 60 gallons when completely filled, so this would have been the equivalent of two to three completely full bathtubs of wine. Pitchers and goblets wouldn't cut it.

The waterpots were willing to get dirty so others could get clean.

(Ok, so I realize I'm anthropomorphizing here and that anthropomorphizing probably isn't even a word, but just go with me for a minute.) Those waterpots stood there year after year providing clean water for dirty people. They didn't consider themselves too good to be used for handwashing. They didn't pick and choose how or when they were used. They just stood there and fulfilled their purpose thankslessly, without complaint that they were being used or getting dirty. They were willing to take on a humble task, and Jesus took them and did a great work through them.

The waterpots were usable.

When Jesus told the servants to fill the waterpots with water, no one said, "Oh no, that's the good china! You can't use those!" The waterpots themselves were accustomed to being used. That's what they were made for.

The waterpots also didn't put up a fuss when Jesus wanted to use them for a new purpose. They didn't say, "We're too old to change," or "We've been doing this for years. Who are You to tell us to do somethng new?" They were at their Master's bidding.

What about us? Sometimes we want God to do great things through us like He did with the waterpots, but we don't want to be like the waterpots. We want to be gold pitchers or silver goblets. We want to be special, not humble. Pretty, not getting dirty. Served, not serving. Our way, not His way.

Are you close to Jesus?

Do you have a great capacity for being filled with His Spirit?

Are you willing to get dirty so others can be cleansed by the Gospel?

Are you usable?

Maybe "going to pot" isn't such a bad thing after all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comment Response II

Brother Gee was kind enough to write back. (His first comment is in the post below this one.) His words are in italics. Mine are in plain print. His complete comment without my response can be found by clicking on the "comments" link here: "Follow On".

Thank you for taking the time to categorically respond to my recent comment. In the interest of maintaining a spirit of friendship and togetherness, i will refrain from responding, as to do so might result in this discourse degenerating to the level of argument.

This much i will put forth:

There are a couple of things that you misconstrued in my comment. For example, i never said that Jesus' life "did not matter". However, the fault is mine, for not being completely clear in my statements, as i was endeavoring to be brief.

I do sincerely apologize for misunderstanding what you meant. However, I didn’t say that you said Jesus’ life did not matter. My statement was that what you were basically saying was that Jesus’ life from conception to baptism had no salvific import. In other words, His life during that particular time period had no bearing or influence on our salvation. Again, if I misunderstood what you were saying, I apologize.

Secondly, after the death of Jesus the Christ, His inner teachings, the 'meat for the strong' were entrusted to His apostles and passed on to certain ones who came after. The early Church spent much time and spilled much blood endeavoring to eradicate these true teachings from the face of the earth. "Heresy" is the flag they waved as they swung the sword. What was left is the eviscerated shell teachings that billions follow as doctrine today - the 'milk for the babes'.

I’m not sure exactly which events you’re referring to with regard to “spilling blood” and “swinging the sword” when it came to the canonization of the New Testament. I can tell you, though, that if you’re referring to pseudoepigraphical writings such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Epistle of Barnabas, etc., being excluded from the canon of the New Testament, these books were never taken out of the New Testament because the were never considered Scripture in the first place. Christians at the time were aware of these writings and did not consider them to be the inspired, authoritative word of God because they either did not have apostolic authorship, or they did not claim to be the word of God, or they contained teachings which stood in direct contrast to divinely established teachings in other parts of the Bible, or some combination of these factors.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with a council canonizing the New Testament. (Every religion gets to decide for itself which writings will or will not be included in the book(s) it follows, and Christianity is no different.) In fact, there was everything right about it. It was necessary to keeping false teaching out of the church and to having a reliable document which contained only God’s word.

Matthew 7:7 states that one should seek until one finds. It does not state that one should follow blindly and without question.

Indeed it does. And what makes you think I or any other Christian you don’t know hasn’t done that? Just because I have come to the same conclusion that millions of others have come to about Jesus and the Bible doesn’t mean I reached that conclusion by following someone else’s teaching blindly and without question. I have spent decades searching the Scriptures and researching Christian teaching
for myself.

I have also come to the conclusion that 2 + 2 = 4. So have billions of other people. That doesn’t mean we’re all blindly following mathematics without question. We believe it because it is true.

Could it be that the reason so many people from so many different walks of life across thousands of years have all come to the same conclusion about Jesus is that that conclusion is true?

The Bible has been edited and re-edited countless times. I respectfully ask all to consider what exactly was it that was being edited out, and why?

The Bible has been edited, not redacted or changed. I have a book coming out in 2012. I know a little bit about editing. I know my editor will catch any misspelled words or punctuation errors and fix them. Although she may suggest I re-write something, I know she will not re-write it herself or take out chunks of text that will change the tone or intent of my book.

The Bible is textually 99.5% pure. Since the original manuscripts were written, nothing affecting the essential doctrines of the faith has been altered. Author Matt Slick from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry explains it this way:

“The fact is that the Bible has not been rewritten. Take the New Testament, for example. The disciples of Jesus wrote the New Testament in Greek and though we do not have the original documents, we do have around 6,000 copies of the Greek manuscripts that were made very close to the time of the originals. These various manuscripts, or copies, agree with each other to almost 100 percent accuracy. Statistically, the New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. That means that there is only 1/2 of 1% of of all the copies that do not agree with each other perfectly. But, if you take that 1/2 of 1% and examine it, you find that the majority of the "problems" are nothing more than spelling errors and very minor word alterations.”

Click here for the rest of his excellent article.

In addition, it would go against the very nature and character of God not to protect His word and preserve the truth about Himself in it so that we could know Him.

What kind of God would say: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart,” (Colossians 3:21) and then turn around and present to us a Bible we can’t trust, exasperating us in our quest to know the truth about Him?

Why would Jesus say, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free," (John 8:32) and then not make sure we had that truth in the Bible?

How can He expect us to “worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) if we don’t have the truth about Him?

There is no desire on my part to convert or convince anyone of anything. Each Soul's journey is their own. All choices made, or not made, are ultimately our personal responsibility. Please accept my apologies for appearing on your blog out-of-the-blue with concepts that are so obviously and diametrically opposed to what you have been taught to believe.

No need to apologize. I appreciate that you stopped by and expressed your thoughts and welcome you to do so again in the future if you’d like.

I do want to apologize if my “tone of voice” came across as derisive. I am obviously very passionate about this subject, and sometimes passion can have an unintended effect on the reader when it has to be crammed into the confines of the written word.

While it is not within my power to convert you or convince you of anything either, I would just ask you to consider, before dismissing the Bible and what it says about Jesus out of hand, whether or not it might be true. You seem to have studied the evidence for its not being true. Have you given the other side a fair shake? There are many good books on the subject, including:

Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
Finding the Real Jesus, The Case for Christ, and The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Josh was a lawyer who set out to prove the Bible and Christianity false, and in the process was overwhelmed by the evidence of its truth. Lee’s story is very similar, but he was a journalist rather than a lawyer.

Please also accept my thanks for your being gracious enough to respond to my comment. I wish you well upon your Journey.

And please accept my thanks for your kind words, your respectful tone, and for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I wish you well also.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Comment Response

I received the comment below from reader "Brother Gee" in response to my blog post entitled "Follow On". I felt I needed to respond to it in more depth than the comment box would probably allow room for, so I decided to address it in a separate blog post. Brother Gee's words are in italics. Mine are in plain print. If you would like to read Brother Gee's comment without my response, click on the hyperlink above and go to the comments section. For the record, I welcome any and all respectful comments, but any false doctrine contained in such comments will be addressed and refuted Scripturally.

Hello! Nice post. A short comment, if i may?
Jesus (the personality) incarnated in order to live a life that would set an indelible example for future generations.

Hello, and thank you for your kind words. Although I understand the distinction you’re making between “Jesus” and “the Christ” (below), Jesus was far more than just a personality. Jesus was 100% human and 100% God simultaneously. He was not incarnated in order to set an example. The example He set was a by-product of who He was. The reason Jesus took on flesh was so that He could pay the penalty for our sin, thus satisfying God’s wrath, which justly abides upon each of us.

The Life would be designed in such a way as to illustrate a Plan for Salvation that any human could follow to Liberation.

Jesus’ life did not “illustrate” a plan for salvation. Jesus’ perfect, sinless life, His atoning death, and his bodily resurrection were the plan for salvation. Not a plan, the only plan.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” John 14:6

Jesus did not say, “I am the illustration of a way,” He said, “I am the way.”

Acts 4:12, speaking of Jesus, says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

“No one comes…but through Me,” “salvation in no one else”. Not only is Jesus Himself the way, but Jesus is the only way.

I’m not sure precisely what you mean by “liberation”, but the only true liberation is found by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and turning from your life of sin (which is what I mean when I use the word “salvation”). There is no liberation in any other area of life (or the afterlife) if a person is not first liberated from the captivity to sin.

However, it is important for us to understand that Jesus was simply the earthly vehicle for The Christ,

If you mean that “Jesus” was His humanity and “the Christ” was His divine nature, the two were inextricably interwoven. Although it’s difficult for us to wrap our finite human minds around the concept, it is important for us to understand the truth: Jesus Christ was, most emphatically, totally human and totally God at the same time, all the time that He was on Earth, from His conception to His ascension. His humanity was vital to His being able to die for our sin. Had He been only God, he would not have been able to die, because God is eternal and can’t die.

In addition, had he not been human, we would not have had a high priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

an eternal cosmic force most often referred to as "The Second Aspect" of God (ie., "The Son").

“Eternal”, yes. “Cosmic force”, no. Jesus is not a cosmic force, He is a person. He is the second person in the triune Godhead, co-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He is a Being, not a force.

After the Baptism, Jesus (the earthly personality) no longer exists. It steps aside and allows The Christ to take over the earthly vehicle. From that point on, it is The Christ who teaches, heals, etc.

Nowhere does the Bible teach this. Nowhere. Not one place in Scripture. In fact Scripture clearly refutes this idea:

“for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

When announcing His birth, the angels didn’t tell the shepherds that Jesus would one day become the Christ, they said He is the Christ.

“And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” Luke 2:26

Even though Jesus was an eight day old infant, it was clear to Simeon that He was the Christ.

This important fact has not been clearly brought forward in the churches,

That’s because it’s not fact, it’s heresy.

and so men have been led to believe and follow the memory of a personality (Jesus) instead of understanding that the man lived his life up until the age of 30 in preparation to receive and accept a Cosmic Principle.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that as far as anything of salvific import goes, Jesus’ life didn’t matter until he was baptized and began His public ministry? If that’s the case, why didn’t God just cause Jesus to miraculously materialize on Earth at the age of 30? Why did God make a special point of causing Jesus to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, born as a human baby, and live through childhood, youth, and young adulthood? What was the point of all of that if it didn’t matter to salvation?

Because Jesus’ life, all of Jesus’ life—His personality, His deity, the fact that He was able to live an entire life without sin—are integral to our salvation. It was more than just preparation for His ministry (which included teaching, prayer, healing and other miracles, and culminated with His death, burial, and resurrection, and, later, His ascension-- not accepting and receiving a “cosmic principle”). God has a perfect and right reason for everything He does, and if He deemed it necessary to our salvation for Jesus to live a life from conception to age 30, then it was necessary and right.

This, in order to show all of future Mankind that we could do the same - achieve Transfiguration and Liberation from this plane of existence.

The only way humans can be liberated from this plane of physical existence is by dying. Then they go on to another plane of existence for eternity. Those who (before dying) have turned from their sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Those who have not spend eternity separated from Him in Hell.

No one can achieve liberation from his sinful spiritual state. We can’t do it in our own strength or by being a good enough person or doing enough good things. That’s why Jesus has to reach down and save us from it.

With this Key, The New Testament can be penetrated beyond a superficial level, and those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, will reach a new level of Understanding.

The only way anyone can penetrate, understand, and have eyes to see and ears to hear the New Testament (or the Old Testament) is through the power of the Holy Spirit. And the only way to be empowered by the Holy Spirit is to be filled with Him. And the only way to be filled with Him is to turn from our sin and place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. There is no other “key” to understanding the Scriptures:

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” I Corinthians 2:12-14

I want to close by saying that our great country, at least for now, grants us the right to believe whatever we want about God. God, however does not grant us the right to believe whatever we want about Him and still be assured of salvation. If your faith is in any Jesus that is not the Jesus of the Bible, you have placed your faith in an idol that you have fashioned with your mind. And, as I Corinthians 6:9 and Ephesians 5:5 tell us, idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 1:8-9 says: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Brother Gee, I beg you, turn from this false doctrine you believe, turn from your sin, and place your faith in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Salvation is found only in His name through believing precisely what the Bible says about Him.