Category Archives: religion

Pass the (Plate) Pipe

What a mockery. By now you have heard of the International Church of Cannabis which celebrated its grand opening on April 20th. At 4:20 pm the church held a private ceremony where invited members were allowed to light up and smoke — 420 is doper slang for marijuana.

Lighting up is one of the sacraments of the church. One man who traveled from England to participate said, “I don’t think marijuana is spiritual — I know it is. The plant returns us to our shamanistic roots, before spirituality was stolen by religion.”

The church adheres to no specific practice except for the use of marijuana.

Elevation Ministries operates the church — a renovated, 113-year-old house of worship located in Denver, Colorado. A state amendment to ban pot smoking in church was quickly shot down.

Here’s the thing. Marijuana is illegal by federal law. I expect we will see the Trump Administration cracking down on states that have decriminalized, or legalized marijuana consumption.

As a Christian I believe that Colorado, for example, is in violation of the law. People say to me, “Where is your compassion?”

See, this is what happens when people surrender to the deception. We’re not talking about compassion. We’re talking about people who want to get high.

Since 1985 the FDA has approved dronabinol for the treatment of nausea and lack of appetite in patients with cancer, or AIDS.

The active ingredient is THC — tetrahydrocannabinol is concentrated in the marijuana plant.

The pill form can be legally prescribed. It has proven efficacy — lasting up to five hours. It is cheaper ($15 – $30 per month) and can replace dangerous opioids for the management of chronic pain.

What is it missing? The Rocky Mountain high.

This is the reality. A 24-year-old skateboarder twists his ankle, gets a prescription for marijuana, and sits at home with a stash of munchies to enjoy his legal buzz. In the old days he would have had to buy a bag on the street, and risk getting caught by the police.

The liberals (and dopers) pushed the compassionate mantra until society relented. This was never about an elderly patient with a terminal illness, but about the legalization of marijuana.

Doctors could legally prescribe a pill for dying patients, but this wasn’t about taking a pill. It was about the experience of rolling the weed, passing the joint, and getting stoned.

The Colorado representative who sponsored the bill to ban pot smoking in church said that the cannabis church was an offense to religious people everywhere.

Frankly, I’m stupefied at the decline of our moral standards. It is an alarming downward trend, but to be expected when a nation rejects God.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Word of Faith

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Brethren, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. And sometimes the opposition wears the mantle of Christianity. Paul warns us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

I have been engaged in an intense debate with a blogger named Deanna who is a convert to the Word of Faith movement. View this post and scroll down to the comments section to see our exchange.

It’s interesting how this all began. Late one night I was awakened from a deep sleep, and the Spirit moved me to search for articles on faith and healing. Deanna’s WordPress blog popped up so I began to read. She was making the claim that we are wholly healed (body and spirit) by the sacrifice of Christ. (See our post: Word of False Teaching).

Well, I’m very familiar with the teachings of Word of Faith as I got entangled with that group 35 years ago. When I didn’t realize the promises of health and wealth I fell away. That in itself is a good lesson. You’ll hear preachers say that if you fall away you were never saved. Not so. Simply read the parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Prodigal Son in Luke 15. God could have cut me off, but He didn’t. I am awed and humbled by His abundant grace.

Messiah Gate no longer links to Christian television for it is the platform of Word of Faith teaching. Benny Hinn said that if you attack him — that is, his message of health and wealth — your children will suffer. Not in a lack of substance, but in judgement. Creflo Dollar, sounding very much like the serpent in the Garden, teaches that you are a little god. T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland (as a small sampling) teach the gospel of positive thinking. Their message sounds like a Tony Robbins motivational seminar.

Meyer will ramble on for 30 minutes about cookies and cigarettes — You have power over that cookie. You can be the weight God wants you to be. You can break your nicotine addiction. She can go on and on without citing Scripture, or mentioning Jesus Christ.

The Gospel according to Joel Osteen: You can get that job. You can overcome that difficult boss. You can be all that God wants you to be. If you believe it then receive it.

I believed it, but I didn’t receive it. Jesus did not promise these things, but He did say we would suffer even as He came as a suffering servant:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Trial and sorrow has been my experience. And you? Oh, but Word of Faith teaches you to create your own reality — Just name it and claim it — whatever that might be. Simply declare that you won’t be sick, or poor. Spoken words activate faith. Where is that taught in Scripture? And if it doesn’t work for you it is because you are lacking — there is a deficiency within your spirit. Your unbelief is creating a barrier to faith fulfillment. You are a little god, and as the Creator spoke the universe into existence you can speak a new reality into your life.

Deanna has forcefully utilized the three components of adherence — fear, manipulation and bullying. Been there … done that. It is the classic signature of a cult. She accuses me of being prideful, but it is her obsessive pride that compels her to not let up. I will not be bullied into believing a lie.

The testimony of pastor John Edwards is posted on the comment board of the linked post, and it would be profitable to share that with you all.

WHY I LEFT THE WORD OF FAITH AND RHEMA

My name is John Edwards, and I was a Faith Preacher for ten years and one month. My wife and I attended and graduated from the premiere word of faith seminary in the world. During school I had the opportunity of working for some of the most famous names in the word of faith movement.

As a word of faith Christian, I did all the things that the word of faith teaches. I confessed the Word. I talked in line with the Word. I called things that be not as though they were.

For many years I prayed, believed and confessed miracles, signs and wonders for our ministry. But not much happened along those lines. In fact, I buried a lot of people over those years, including my daughter that died of a brain tumor at the age of fourteen. I was constantly perplexed that the message of faith and healing that I was preaching did not seem to work in the lives of the congregation.

About a year and a half ago a good friend from Tulsa sent me a CD teaching on pride. I hated it. It really bothered me a lot and got me to thinking and praying which is sometimes a dangerous thing to do! It convicted me of pride. It opened my eyes to some of my motives. More than anything, it revealed to me that I had an enormous ego that could never, ever be content.

I realized that over the years, that I had transformed from being on fire for God to being on fire for me. Everything was about me. My vision, my church, my success, my reputation, my dream, my services, my anointing, my, my, my, me, me ,me.

The Word of Faith is a cult because it is led by people claiming special insight and revelation that is unorthodox. They also attempt to control their subjects with fear, manipulation and bullying.

Please do not be afraid to look at the evidence. I was too afraid to examine the evidence because I wanted things my way. The Word of Faith put me in charge of my own life, and I liked that. But when I got up the courage to begin to read and study, God opened my eyes with truth and freedom. [1]

Pastor Edwards noted that Word of Faith is a hybrid religion of New Age mind science and Charismatic theology. It bases its teaching on a key passage of Scripture:

Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them (Mark 11:23).

We can’t build a theology on one verse. We can’t interpret Scripture out of context. To whom was Jesus speaking? His remark was in response to a question posed by Peter. It was hyperbole, and understood as such by Jewish readers of the first century. As when Jesus said that you should pluck out your eye to keep from sinning, He did not mean that you should mutilate yourself. It was a Jewish idiom — a manner of speaking. To move mountains was a common way of expressing the overcoming of obstacles (like what the Apostles faced in preaching the Gospel).

Paul wrote … if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Though Deanna says she loves me there is no love in trying to convince me of a lie. Sometimes we are so emotionally invested in a deception that in our pride we cannot see that we are the ones deceived.

Notes:

1. WHY I LEFT THE WORD OF FAITH AND RHEMA by John Edwards, UC MINISTRIES BLOG, March 16, 2011.

PMI Center for Biblical Studies:

The origin of the positive confession teaching can be traced back to the life and teachings of E.W. Kenyon who was introduced to the philosophical ideas of positive confession at Emerson College of Oratory in Boston in 1880. [D.R. McConnell, A different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), p. 35-36]

The religious system promoted at Emerson College was New Thought metaphysics, which is a system of cultic belief that taught that true reality is spiritual, that the spiritual is the cause of all physical effects, and that the human mind through positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to create its own reality: either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty. [D.R. McConnell, A different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), pp. 35-36].

To believe that true reality is spiritual, and that the human mind has the potential to create its own reality is sorcery. In Hinduism this is called maya, and is based upon the ancient sorcerer’s belief that the entire universe is an illusion created by the mind. [Dave Hunt, The Seduction of Christianity (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402), p. 138.].

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Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

Purim 2016

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Purim 2016 begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23 and ends in the evening of Thursday, March 24. Originally posted March 03, 2013.

The Word of the LORD:

They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more”(Ps 83:4).

The Psalms were written over a span of 900 years from the time of Moses to the post-Exilic period. Psalm 83, written by Asaph, could have been penned today as a song of lamentation (for Israel is surrounded by enemies who have publicly vowed to wipe her off the face of the map). Throughout history Satan has lifted up an enemy to destroy the Jewish people, and so it is even to this day.

Think of Herod who ordered the death of all male children under the age of two who were in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2:16), or when Athaliah destroyed all the royal offspring from the house of Judah except for Joash who was secreted away thus preserving the messianic line (2 Ch 22:10).

We cannot fail to understand that we are engaged in an eternal fight between good and evil:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ep 6:12).

The face of evil spans the ages — King Herod, Adolph Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmidenijhad — but the ruler of darkness is with whom we wrestle. Brethren, put on the whole armor of G-d so that you may stand firm against the enemy (Ep 6:11).

Haman was one such enemy who sought to exterminate the Jewish people. Had he succeeded the messianic line would have been cut off if not for the invisible hand of G-d. We read about Haman in the Book of Esther. (Ruth is the only other book in the Tanakh, Old Testament, that is named after a woman.) Esther was the orphaned daughter of Abihail. She grew up in Persia, and was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. The Book of Esther covers the period of history after the return from Babylonian captivity when the Persians were the dominant world power. Many Jews, including Esther and Mordecai, stayed in Persia after the return from exile.

It came to pass that Esther found favor in the eyes of King Ahasuerus, and he crowned her queen of the royal palace. A plot to kill the king was uncovered by Mordecai which led to the hanging of the king’s officials, and the promotion of Haman as the king’s chief advisor.

Mordecai would not bow down to Haman for there was bad blood between them dating back to the time of King Saul. To understand the feud we must look even further into Israel’s past all the way to the exodus from Egypt.

In the Book of Exodus (Ex 17:8) we read that Amalek came out to war against Israel as they were leaving Egypt. Moses commanded Joshua to lead a select group of men to fight against the Amalekites, and with the staff of G-d in hand the children of Israel prevailed (Ex 17:13). The LORD told Moses that He would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (Ex 17:14so Moses built an altar to the LORD and said, “The LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:16).

In the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 25:17) the LORD reminded Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt and attacked their women and children. Who was this generational enemy? Who was Amalek?

Remember the bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau the sons of Isaac. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Ge 25:29-34). Then, in chapter 27 of Genesis, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing by impersonating his brother before their aged and dimly sighted father Isaac thus prompting Esau to vow that he would kill Jacob.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau, and so it was that the descendants of Esau would war against Jacob (Israel) from generation to generation.

Later, King Saul was commanded by G-d to destroy the Amalekites for how they ambushed Israel on their way out of Egypt (1 Sa 15:1-3), but Saul disobeyed by sparing the life of Agag their king. The prophet Samuel slew Agag according to the command of the LORD, but the Amalekites continued to be a thorn in Israel’s flesh, and an enemy of David.

Who, then, was Haman? He was a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag slain by the prophet Samuel when Saul disobeyed the command of G-d. Haman was an Agagite.

So 550 years had passed from the death of Agag to the Book of Esther, and the hatred that was born in the rivalry between Jacob and Esau continued in the persons of Mordecai (a descendant of King Saul), and Haman (a descendant of King Agag).

Haman was enraged that Mordecai would not bow to him nor pay homage so he plotted to destroy all of the Jews throughout the kingdom. Haman deceived King Ahasuerus into signing a decree to destroy all those who did not observe the king’s law so the order was sent to the governors of all the provinces to kill the Jews and confiscate their possessions (Esther 3:13).

Mordecai learned of these events and there was sorrowful mourning among the Jews (Esther 4:1). Queen Hadassah (Esther) was in great anguish because she had never told the king that she was a Jew (Esther 2:10). Mordecai sent word to the queen that she must intercede on behalf of her people, but Esther feared to approach the king without a summons for that would incur the death penalty. Her cousin replied that she would die anyway once it was discovered that she was a Jew:

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14)

We need to examine briefly what Mordecai told Esther. Are you a silent member of the body of Christ? Are you in a position or situation that defies understanding or reason? Do you speak out against spiritual darkness? Do you stand for G-d without fearing the consequence? Are you at a place in life that makes no sense but for the purpose and will of G-d?

So Esther fasted for three days:

“And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

On the third day Esther entered the royal court, and the Bible says that she obtained favor in the sight of the king (Esther 5:2) who granted her petition to have a banquet in honor (so he thought) of Haman who went away joyously to his home even as he prepared the gallows to hang Mordecai and the Jews.

In the evening the king requested that the book of records be read in his presence. Written in the records was the account of Mordecai uncovering the plot to kill the king, and it was discovered that nothing had been done to honor him for this act.

The king ordered that Haman clothe Mordecai in a robe and lead him through the city square upon the king’s horse. This infuriated and humiliated Haman who went home in mourning.

At the banquet the king asked Esther what was her petition:

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated (Esther 7:3-4).

The long story short is that Haman’s wicked plot was exposed, and he was hung by the king’s order upon the very gallows that were prepared for Mordecai and the Jews. On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar when Haman’s plan of extermination was to be executed the Jews by order of the king exacted judgement against their enemies.

Mordecai, who had risen to a position of influence within the king’s court, issued a letter that all Jews celebrate annually the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar (usually February or March) as the festival of Purim to remember how Haman the Agagite cast Pur (or lot) to destroy the Jewish people. Hadassah (Queen Esther) issued a command that her people should celebrate Purim with fasting and lamentation.

[Purim and Hanukkah are non-Mosaic festivals that are celebrated still today. Esther is one of the five scrolls of the Megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations) that are read by Rabbis on five special occasions each year.]

The Book of Esther is not quoted in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) nor does it mention G-d, but throughout its pages we can see the providence of G-d and His sovereign will played out in the lives of Hadassah and Mordecai. John MacArthur writes:

There are no miracles in Esther, but the preservation of Israel through providential control of every event and person reveals the omniscience and omnipotence of YHWH.

It is not insignificant to presuppose that G-d enlists people to execute His divine will. Satan will not prevail, and the LORD uses men and women of courage — often the least of us — to thwart the plans of the Evil One.

Recall that Mordecai told Esther if she remained quiet then deliverance would come elsewhere. How unlikely that a harem girl would become Queen of Persia and, by the invisible hand of G-d, save her people.

Will you be that man or woman of courage who will stand with the LORD? To G-d be the glory forever.

Suggested Reading:

Amalek and the Festival of Purim 

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Discipleship 101

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What does it mean to make a disciple? You can almost hear the exasperation in the tone of Paul’s admonition to the assembly at Corinth:

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able (1 Corinthians 3:2).

About 40% of pastors leave the pulpit after five years. The reasons are varied. Depression and discouragement take a heavy toll, and the congregation is partly to blame. Over the years I have referenced the surveys on religion and Christianity as compiled by Barna Group Research. For example, 59% of young adults (18-29) have a Christian background, but what does that mean in practice? Are they “born again” followers of Jesus Christ? Barna asked a similar group: Who are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: They were a married couple.

This is what pastors are facing as confirmed by research. The median profile of the average church-goer is someone who warms a pew, does not read their Bible and believes whatever the pastor says is true.

Barna’s assessment: Two-thirds of the nation’s adult population firmly embraces the idea that their most important purpose is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30). However, a deeper look at people’s full array of spiritual beliefs and behavior calls into question the sincerity of their commitment. [Source]

In practice, then, people’s social lives are more important than their spiritual lives. Simply examine how tethered (or in bondage) people are to their gadgets. I see them swaying down the street, eyes fixed on their phone, and thumbs going a mile a minute as they furiously send out their 200th text of the day — and it’s not even 11 a.m. Okay, so I exaggerate, but only slightly.

How many hours a day are you connected to your cell phone, television, music and social media? Do you give at least 10% (90 minutes) of your day to the One who gives you breath? For most people the answer is no. Let’s break it down. People spend more time on Facebook than with God’s book.

Now you may be thinking, “That doesn’t describe me.” Let me ask you, what percent of “Christians” do you think are true disciples of Christ? As was noted in the comment board of I am Elijah only 9% of Christians have a Biblical worldview. If there are 100 members in your congregation only 9 have a true Biblical perspective. That’s astounding.

How many in your “church” are still drinking milk? Someone might say, “Well, the Methodist church I attend is really on fire for the Lord.” Ask yourself: ‘What does my “church” believe?’ Presbyterians and Lutherans are split into conservative and liberal camps with regards to Bible truths. This is the fruit of Reformation. But getting back to the Methodists (since I spent my childhood in that congregation) the hot topic of the day — gay marriage — will cause a permanent break in the assembly.

As of this writing, the United Methodist Church upholds the Biblical definition of marriage as opposed to these churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). However, liberalism is making inroads and it is only a matter of time before the assembly breaks apart.

I recently engaged in a terse discussion with a UMC pastor who celebrated the redefinition of marriage. He posted this at his website:

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, clergy are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings or bless same-sex unions. Since I am not allowed to publicly pray for blessing, I wrote this lament many months ago. I offer it here, because I know some of my UMC clergy colleagues are going to be asked to officiate. Perhaps they will choose to officiate and risk retribution, or perhaps they will make referrals. Or perhaps they will find other creative ways to resist injustice.

My response:

Forgive me, but I am not clear. Is the injustice that your colleagues ‘are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings’, or is the injustice that they must perform a ceremony that violates their conscience? It seems, to me, the latter would be the greater offense.

His reply:

I agree it would be an offense to be forced to perform a ceremony. But since we have the power to decline officiating for any reason, or no reason, I don’t see the relevance.

I have declined to officiate weddings because couples couldn’t be bothered with premarital counseling, or had no affiliation with a faith community, or because I had a schedule conflict. Imaginary scenarios set in dystopian futures are interesting philosophical questions, but a lament deals with a real situation.

Dystopian? Clever. That suggests I foresee an apocalyptic degradation of society because gays are allowed to marry. Well, yes. Liberalism has perfected the art of immersing controversial issues in a pot of cold water then turning up the heat. Society awakens one day and exclaims, “What happened!?” Except in the proverbial scenario the frog never wakes up. It is only a matter of time before a minister is sued — like the wedding florist — for not participating in a gay ceremony. (The pastor would not allow me to post this because he closed the comment board.)

This man should not be a minister of Jesus Christ, but the governing board has no power to remove him; and his congregants love him as reflected in this reply:

I lament with you that you are not allowed to officiate at the weddings of all who would ask. I rejoice that all who choose to marry their loved ones may now do so. Your reflections are heartwarming and hope-filled. We are blessed beyond measure to have you as our pastor.

Has the great falling away begun (2 Thessalonians 2:3)?

It really is a war of attrition. For every 7,000 churches that close, only 4,000 open. Responding to an altar call and reciting a simple prayer does not a disciple make. To whatever you devote your time and resources becomes your god.

Be a true disciple of Christ. Open your Bible and discover His truth. It will make the pastor’s job easier — he might even stay — or you might discover that it’s time to find another “church”.

Matthew 16:24

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Does God Heal?

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A woman gave testimony that she was to undergo surgery to remove a cancer from her body. When doctors performed a pre-op scan there was no evidence of disease. The previously detected growth was not visible. The tumor was gone. The woman’s doctor could not explain it as anything but a miracle.

I have been sharing the story of Joey Martin Feek. Last year she gave birth to a precious little girl — born with DS. A follow-up examination revealed that Joey had cervical cancer. Her doctors performed a radical hysterectomy, but the cancer had spread to her colon. Additional surgery and a first round of grueling treatments have failed to halt the spread of the disease.

Tens of thousands of people have prayed for Joey. A prayer service was held in the barn at her farm in Tennessee.

I ask, is the instruction of James relevant today?

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed  (James 5:14-16).

Contrary to popular teaching, James may be speaking of spiritual healing — for by the confession of your sins you may be healed — and not physical. That the one who is (spiritually) sick will be restored and raised up suggests a recovery of holiness and righteousness. This interpretation, however, is not sufficient. The word “sick” (ἀσθενεῖ, asthenei) literally means physical weakness or bodily illness. And James is not restricting this gift of healing to the apostles, but calls upon the presbyters to lay their hands upon the infirmed.

Some Bible expositors suggest that the gift of healing has ceased — that the miracles of the first century were for the purpose of spreading the Gospel — that Jesus healed only as a testimony of His divine authority.

How often do faith healers cite the prophet Isaiah as a witness of their power to heal? The television pastor exhorts the sick to touch the screen as he quotes from the Bible:

… by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Seminary trained pastors actually believe that this passage speaks of physical healing, but Peter clarifies its literal meaning:

… and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

From what were we healed? Peter is quite clear — from our sins we have been healed, and our soul restored to righteousness. So, then, we have read the witness of Isaiah, James and Peter, but our assurance of physical healing is still inconclusive.

In 53:5, Peter correctly interprets that the prophet is speaking of our spiritual condition, but in the preceding verse Isaiah addresses our physical condition:

Surely our griefs (חלי chăliy) He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried (Isaiah 53:4).

It is unfortunate that the Greek rendering is griefs when the ancient Hebraic understanding of Isaiah was that the prophet was speaking of bodily diseases, and so taught by the Rabbin. In fact, some Greek manuscripts use the word ἀσθενείας (astheneias) from which we derive the word anesthesia which is to suggest physical infirmities. Ninety-three times this word appears in scripture and it always refers to sickness — not sin.

Matthew, like Peter, interprets Isaiah:

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)

In context, Jesus had just healed Peter’s mother-in-law. (Sidetrack … this means that Peter had a wife. If the Pope is successor to Peter then why does the Roman church forbid marriage?) That evening many who were demon-possessed and sick were brought to Jesus to be healed.

Albert Barnes:

The Greek in Matthew is an exact translation of the Hebrew, and the same translation should have been made in both places. In Isaiah 53:1-12, Isaiah fully states the doctrine of the atonement, or that the Messiah was to suffer for sin. In the verse quoted here, however, he states the very truth which Matthew declares. The word translated “griefs” in Isaiah, and “infirmities” in Matthew, means properly, in the Hebrew and Greek, “diseases of the body.” In neither does it refer to the disease of the mind, or to sin. To bear those griefs is clearly to bear them away, or to remove them. This was done by his miraculous power in healing the sick. [1]

Does Matthew suggest that the miracle of healing was fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ? And how do we sort out the seeming confusion between spiritual and physical disease? When Jesus saw a paralytic man lying in a bed He said to the man, Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2). Because only God can forgive sins, the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins — then He said to the paralytic, Get up, pick up your bed and go home. (Matthew 9:4-6)

From ancient days the Rabbin have affirmed an interconnection between sin and disease — that our physical infirmities are a direct consequence of our spiritual transgressions. James exhorts the brethren to confess their sins that they might receive healing in their bodies. Are we lacking in faith? Is there unconfessed sin in our lives? It causes me to tremble in fear that I am sorely afflicted because the LORD has not forgiven me.

But do not fear my brothers. Timothy had stomach problems … Trophimus was left sick at Miletus … and Paul prayed three times for healing, but was not. How, then, do we understand that a tumor disappears in one while in another the disease is ravaging?

Rory Feek wrote in his blog:

Sometimes there just aren’t enough surgeries — or doctors — or chemotherapies — or prayers. And you have to wipe the tears from your cheeks and say the words that you were hoping to never have to say …

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this …” That’s how the conversation began.

So we did what you do when the medicine isn’t working, and the doctors are at a loss … and when the ‘statistics” say you can do more chemo, but it will only buy you a little time …

We came home.

Not to die. But to live.

So, even though we know we’ve reached the end of what medicine can do — and while we prepare for what God has put in front of us … Joey and I will continue to pray for a miracle.

We ask for your prayers, too. For a miracle.

Brothers, I confess that it is hard to understand. Paul asked of the LORD only three times, and was not … I have prayed ten thousand times, and have not … but what I believe is this …

God still performs miracles.

Notes:

1. Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament. London, Blackie & Son, 1884. Reprint: Baker Books, 1998.

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Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

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Michael left this comment on Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple:

But because Revelation 21:1 says, “there was no longer any sea,” Ezekiel’s mention of two seas becomes a bit of a chin scratcher.

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More puzzling is that John, in the very next chapter, writes:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). 

If there are no seas what is the source of this river seen by Ezekiel and John? In both the Old and New Testaments, the LORD pours out (as a river) the Holy Spirit (Joel  2:28).

It is significant that the prophet and apostle were taken on high to see this vision of a tree-lined river as interpreted by Isaiah:

… till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

Jesus said:

The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

It seems that the most basic rule of hermeneutics is to not interpret figurative text literally. Water is clearly a symbol of God’s spirit. The river that flows from the temple is the Spirit of God. Into the sea it goes bringing life and restoration even unto the Dead Sea. Fish are plentiful and the fishermen will fill their nets. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

I wanted to discuss the two seas and river of life, but the original post was already too lengthy. So, today, I would like to follow-up with my notes. (It might be useful to read the original article.) This study has been a blessing to me and I pray that it edifies you, my readers.

The literal meaning of there was no longer any sea is the sea was no more denoting some greater truth. Ancient tradition is to interpret sea(s) prophetically. The Rabbin interpreted the sea as a symbol of tumult and separation (as it raged like a storm, dividing the nations). In the new earth there will be no turmoil and separation — from the LORD distinctly. 

Ellicott comments:

Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. 

The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.” [1]

The Treasury of Scripture (Bible Hub):

A fountain producing abundance of water was not in (Ezekiel’s) temple, and could not be there on the top of such a hill; and consequently these waters, as well as those spoken of by Joel and Zechariah, must be understood figuratively and typically. These waters doubtless were an emblem of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and their gradual rise beautifully represents its progress, from small beginnings to an immensely large increase; and the latter part of the representation may relate to the times when it shall fill the earth … [2]

Dean Davis, Author: 

This is a vision of the Restoration of All Things. Very importantly, it pictures not only the final result of God’s redemptive work — the everlasting wholeness of the Land — but also the historical process by which that result is to be achieved.

The NT richly illumines all the symbols involved. The waters are the life-giving Spirit of God, long promised by his OT prophets. They flow forth from the Temple of God, which typifies both the Person of Christ, and the Body of Christ, his Church.

When at last Christ returns to raise the dead and renew the creation, the River of Life will entirely transform the Promised Land, even to the extent of healing the Dead Sea itself. Only the swamps and marshes — situated upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so typifying hell — will be left in salt; that is, under the judgment of God. [3]

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor/Author:

Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophesy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age. (They) base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic.

Advocates of the other main interpretations all agree that the context demands a figurative interpretation. I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar. This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms).

The prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:10, where John is carried away “in the Spirit” to a high mountain from which he sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven. Obviously, the visions are related to each other as type — anti-type (earthly language, eschatological fulfillment). What Ezekiel promised, John sees as a reality, and yet the reality seen by John far exceeds anything in Ezekiel’s vision. 

It is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment. In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation — something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers. The new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden. On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God. [4]

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, 3 vols. (London: Cassell, 1884).

2. Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.

3. Dean Davis, author and Founder/Director, Come Let Us ReasonExcerpt:  The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time DebateRedemption Press, 2014.

4. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church and co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, writes extensively on the subject of historic Christianity from an Amillennial, reformed perspectice. In this short essay he credits G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)INTERVARSITY PRESS, 2004 and Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and Future, WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1994.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Offensive for Christ

Being-Salt-and-Light-PPT-image

What does it mean to be salt and light?

… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-13).

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We understand that salt is used as a preservative, or flavoring. The lesson is that we are to preserve the Word of God in our hearts, and share it with an unbelieving world. To season our speech with salt is to make the Gospel message more palatable. Bible commentators suggest that we can present an offensive message without being offensive, but how is that possible? When salt is poured into an open wound it stings:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Certainly, we don’t want to be offensive nor alienate our worldly friends and family. So we live our lives almost embarrassed, or ashamed of the Gospel. And who wants to be outcast as strange and foolish? Who among us will stand up and be offensive for Christ?

Red Letter Christians are probably offended at the suggestion. Jesus, they will say, was all about love and forgiveness. Oh, so Jesus Christ never offended anyone?

When His disciples had been upbraided by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating, Jesus confronted the lawyers for elevating their religious traditions above the commandments of God. He said to the assembled crowd that what defiles a man is not unclean hands but an unclean heart.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12)

If the Pharisees were offended how much more the merchants whose tables were overturned by an irate Christ. The Son of God offended the world system — religious and civil. Can we do no less?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:24).

This is not the Jesus worshipped by flower-power hippies who have hanging in their VW van a poster of Jesus smoking pot nor liberals who co-opt Christ to promote a social gospel that is lean on theology but heavy on environmentalism, abortion rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization and feminist radicalism.

I have long-wondered why our nation is so morally bankrupt. If 80% of the populace identify themselves as Christian then how has the nation become so degraded? How do we elect leaders that swear an oath upon the Bible, but don’t believe what it says?

Liberalism.

Government and education long ago were compromised, and now the covenant body of Christ is being sub-divided by false teachers who, like Thomas Jefferson, excise all but the red letters of Holy Scripture.

Red Letter Christians (RLC) are essentially anti-Marcion. Whereas Marcion, branded a heretic, rejected the canon of Scripture (with the exception of the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters) the RLC adopts a theology that cedes authority only to the words of Christ.

For some time I have researched “Christian” websites that are anti-Pauline in doctrine. At the core of these ministries is an agenda that promotes freedom of choice and gay marriage. Their theology is based on Matthew 22:36-40 (love is the greatest commandment); and Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats as suggestive of a works-based salvation — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick.) The faith-based teachings found in the Pauline epistles are only subordinate text. It is evident that Paul is rejected solely on the basis that his teachings are at odds with contemporary society. So we have the right to make the Bible conform to our inclinations?

John Gerstner (Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary) classified the liberal gospel as a gospel of self-esteem. Doing good works makes us feel good, and it softens the ugly truth that there is no good dwelling in us. Like the observant Muslim who thinks he has to do good works to please God, but on the Day of Judgement Christ will say, Depart from me; I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).

Tony Campolo, activist leader of RLC, wrote:

The primary focus of we Red Letter Christians is on what Jesus had to say about the poor. We realize that the only description that He gave of Judgment Day (Matthew 25) was through a parable in which people were evaluated as to whether or not they fed those who were hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned. Because Evangelicals have been steeped in the theology of the Pauline Epistles before they scrutinize the teachings of Jesus in the red letters of the Bible, they have read Jesus through the eyes of Paul.

While he doesn’t deny that evangelicals are very generous towards the poor it does make you wonder what is his real agenda. Campolo insists that RLC is a non-partisan effort to wrestle Christianity from conservative evangelicals who, he says, have hijacked the faith in alliance with Republican politicos who are anti-gay and anti-feminist.

His Christian agenda sounds like the reading of the Democrat platform at the party’s presidential convention. The Gospel is somewhere hidden in a mishmash of environmental activism and wage inequality. When asked his party affiliation, Campolo will typically answer, “That is not the issue.”

So he rails about conservative Christians, but refuses to identify himself as a liberal Christian. Like Hillary Clinton, he is more comfortable with the term progressive as if that can hide a leopard’s spots. Curious how liberals define (or, in the case of marriage, redefine) certain absolutes. Abortion, for example, is not infanticide but free choice.

What liberals have to do is re-interpret Scripture that both Jews and Christians have understood for thousands of years. Progressives (oh, they are so enlightened) will say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality; Leviticus 18:22 suggests that it is unclean for a man to lie in a woman’s bed, and not prohibitive of gay sex; and Paul’s indictment of homosexuality was only a judgement against prostitution.

In any case, they will say, it doesn’t matter what Paul wrote because he doesn’t speak with the authority of Christ.

There is a deception in the church that is blinding the eyes and clouding the minds of those who have not a discerning spirit. The disparagement of Paul within the church is troublesome. Is it Satanic? To diminish Paul’s credentials would be to undermine two-thirds of Christian canon.

We have to be able to answer this question: By what authority did Paul speak?

Peter wrote:

… and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Of course, there are some within the church who doubt the authorship of 2 Peter so this passage would be inadmissible. Very well, then, may I present the testimony of Luke — acceptable even to Marcion:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:10-16).

Paul was anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul, himself, testified to the assembly at Galatia:

Paulus an Apostle, not by the children of men, neither by a son of man, but by Yeshua The Messiah and God his Father, he who raised him from among the dead …(Galatians 1:1). — Aramaic Bible

With what, then,  are we left? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master …

… and …

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is light, though, within the RLC. An article, posted on their website, disagreed with Campolo’s interpretation of marriage. The silence of Scripture — that is, Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality — is not an affirmation of an act that is clearly condemned in both Jewish and Christian canon. The article honestly cited the Bible’s clarity on marriage, and that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the Biblical norm.

We’ve only peeled a few layers off this theological onion. Liberals within the church dispute essential Christian doctrine regarding the deity of Christ, resurrection, faith and salvation. They teach that confession and repentance are unnecessary in this age of grace. Feed the poor and you’ll be okay. Everything else is religion. Jesus, they will say, had no problem with sinners, but with religious people.

How should we respond? Meekness does not mean that we dim our light or lose our savor. In this ongoing spiritual battle we must courageously decide to be offensive for Christ — in the world and from the pew. Let your light be a blinding light, and your words like a two-edged sword.

Remember: Christian love is corrective — not permissive.

Reference:

The Liberal View of Justification, article by John Gerstner.

Red Letter Christianity: A New Name for Progressive Evangelicals, article by Tony Campolo.

When Red Is Blue: Why I am not a Red-Letter Christian, article by Stan Guthrie.

The Problem with Being a Red Letter Christian, article by Ian Paul.

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