Thursday, August 28, 2008

Context. It's all about Context

In Proverbs 26:4 we read:

Don't answer a fool according to his foolishness,
or you'll be like him yourself.

but in the very next verse we read:

Answer a fool according to his foolishness,
or he'll become wise in his own eyes.

So are we supposed to answer a fool according to his foolishness, or not?


Joel 3:10 says:
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.
But Micah 4:3 says:
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Which is it? Plowshares into swords, or swords into plowshares?


In Mark 9:40, Jesus says:
....whoever is not against us is for us.
But in Luke 11:23 He says:
...He who is not with me is against me....
Is Jesus inclusive or exclusive?


The point being, just because the black-and-white of the text says something explicitly doesn't mean that's what the text is explicitly saying. Context matters.

The Son of God Foretold

I can't help but associate Proverbs 30:4 with Yahshua:
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in His hands?
Who has bound up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name,
and what is the name of His Son—
if you know?

Leeches and Misers

It used to be that my town was devoid of panhandlers, but in recent years it seems that more and more street corners are sprouting people dressed shabbily and looking hungry, asking for handouts. Whereas I believe I need to be more ready to give of my means to the needy, I've never been convinced that these people are anything but shams, hoaxing hundreds of dollars a day out of the hands of hard-working, productive people. It was these panhandlers and their relationship to me whom I thought of when I read this passage last night from Proverbs 30:15a:
The leech has two daughters: Give, Give.
It was those same panhandlers, and my relationship to them however, whom I thought of when I read this passage a night or two before from Proverbs 28:27:
The one who gives to the poor
will not be in need,
but one who turns his eyes away
will receive many curses.

A Prayer

Occasionally I'll come across a prayer in the Bible that I think would be ideal for praying in a public assembly. Proverbs 30:7-9 is one such ideal prayer. Here it is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible:
7 Two things I ask of You;
don't deny them to me before I die:

8 Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me.
Give me neither poverty nor wealth;
feed me with the food I need.

9 Otherwise, I might have too much
and deny You, saying, "Who is YHWH?"
or I might have nothing and steal,
profaning the name of my God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From "Basic Instinct" to God

Here is the story of author Joe Eszterhas, author of dark thrillers such as "Basic Instinct", who upon seeing a "light" upon his own Damascus Road has turned from the darkness to the light.

He had a change of mind ("repent"), and now he is producing fruits consistent with that change of mind (Luke 3:8). Granted, he has not Biblically finished his conversion as far as the article reveals, and he seems to be trapped in a corruption of the true church rather than leaving that corruption behind, but there's no doubt that he has undergone a significant conversion and a turning toward God.

Is his change and incomplete journey "good enough" for God to accept him? Most in my church culture would answer "No", because he hasn't yet been immersed (presumably) and doesn't "know the truth".

Perhaps those people should be asked the same question: Is your change and incomplete journey "good enough" for God to accept you? Remember, if you get 99.9% of the details correct, but miss on that one tiny detail, you've broken the whole law.

I'm not trying to say that immersion is not essential, or that God doesn't care if you are part of some church that is not the church belonging to Christ; I am saying that we need to trust in God for our salvation, not in how well we understand and apply the Truth. The former is a righteousness that comes as a gift from God by our faith; the latter is a righteousness that comes from Self.

I recommend you go read the story; it's rather interesting. One of my favorite parts of the story is this:

...Joe carries the cross down the aisle. He asserts his nonconformity, however, by wearing jeans and Rolling Stones T-shirts when he does it. Despite the rebel attire, he says he carries the cross with more reverence than most.
I understand the idea that how you're dressed does not necessarily reflect who you are on the inside; I sometimes think my church culture doesn't get that.

Another favorite part is this:
And he complains about priests' homilies being boring and pointless.
Amen! We have elevated the 20-30 minutes of lecture to the position of being the core of our assembly time, such that the preacher drones on for 20 minutes even if his message could be delivered much more succinctly and memorably in 3. I suspect that's not what God prefers. But that's another topic for another day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You Neanderthal! Oh, Wait, I Meant to Insult You

More important than the study about flint knife efficiency was the change of attitude expressed by Metin Erin (U of Exeter), lead author of the paper:
Our research disputes a major pillar holding up the long-held assumption that Homo sapiens were more advanced than Neanderthals. It is time for archaeologists to start searching for other reasons why Neanderthals became extinct while our ancestors survived. Technologically speaking, there is no clear advantage of one tool over the other. When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of ‘stupid’ or ‘less advanced’ and more in terms of ‘different.’
Museum displays had long portrayed Neanderthals as stoop-shouldered, beetle-browed, grunting cavemen not as evolved as the upcoming modern humans.
Are you angry at the evolutionists who misled generations of impressionable students with their myth of the stupid Neanderthal caveman? Why not?

Saved by Creationism

Many Christians think that the creation-evolution issue is a non-issue, and that Genesis must fit with "science" rather than the other way around. Here, a former atheist tells what kind of difference it made in his life. Here's a short snippet:
I slid into severe depression with suicidal tendencies and sought help at the university’s therapy center. After two months, the sessions ended, but my depression did not—nor my thoughts and plans for suicide. By March of that year, I had my strategy laid out and my note written.

Repent! Change Your Mind!

Quite a few posts ago, I discussed the meaning of the word "repent", and noted that unlike what I had believed all my life, it does not mean "change one's life", but rather it means "change one's mind", which would then erupt into a change of one's life.

Interestingly enough, yesterday I was watching a History Channel special on John the Baptist, and something said in that program triggered the thought that the Gospel accounts of John's ministry supports this idea. Here it is from Matthew 3:2,8 (HCSB):
[John said], "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!" ... "Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance."
Luke 3:8 also reports John as saying:
Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
Notice that John does not use the word "repentance" as a synonym for "life-change", but rather that he expects a life-change consistent with a life-changing change of mind.

It seems to me that the evidence is stacking up that the command to repent in the process of salvation is not a command to change one's life, but to change one's mind, which in turn leads to a changed life. Such a change in one's mind is much more powerful than the simpler external change of one's lifestyle. This view also allows one to begin a new relationship with the Cleaner without first becoming clean on his own.

And as a side note, notice that John's examples in Luke 3 of "fruit consistent with repentance" is not to quit smoking or to quit drinking or to even quit visiting the local prostitutes, but rather are of a "take care of one another" nature, specifically in the economic realm.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Interesting Proverbs

Just a few proverbs that caught my eye as I've been reading through the book this week:

Commit your activities to YHWH
and your plans will be achieved. - 16:4
One who isolates himself pursues [selfish] desires;
he rebels against all sound judgment. - 18:1
A man who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from YHWH. - 8:22
A house and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a sensible wife is from YHWH. - 19:14
Kindness to the poor is a loan to YHWH,
and He will give a reward to the lender. - 19:17

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Human Logic vs the Clear Teaching of Scripture

I've likely blogged about this before, and have simply forgotten, but recently I had reason to write about it to a friend, and I thought I might post what I wrote to him here (with slight modifications).


In more recent years the Lord has put teachers in my path that have helped me learn to distinguish a difference between human-logic-derived doctrines and clearly-Biblical-doctrines; since then, I find certain of our doctrines to be, um, "questionable".

Logic vs Clear Teaching of Scripture

As you know, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the cosmos fell into corruption (and is even now eagerly awaiting its redemption as well as ours - Rom 8:18ff). When that happened, our very bodies and minds also became corrupt, and although we still have an amazing body and amazing mental capabilities, they're simply no longer "perfect". Accordingly, although our logic might seem unassailable, quite frankly, our logic is not to be totally trusted. The scriptures speak to this when they say "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Prov 16:25) and "Every man's way is right in his own eyes, But YHWH weighs the hearts" (Prov 21:2) and similar passages.

When we come to issues in the Bible, there are sometimes clear teachings ("Thou shall not murder"), and there are sometimes teachings that have to be pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle (a multiplicity of elders in every church, which are also known as pastors, overseers, and bishops).

The second type of issue must be determined by the application of human logic. Note that there's nothing wrong with using human logic to piece together the teachings of the scriptures. But there is a problem when we consider our pieced-together doctrine, based on fallible human logic, to be as binding as the clear teaching.

This was much of the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. Over the centuries prior to the first century, the Pharisees had applied their very good human logic to the unclear teachings of scripture, and arrived at logical doctrines. (They referred to these teachings as the "Oral Torah", or “Traditions of the Elders”, as in Matt 15:2, which later were written down and codified as the Talmud.) The problem is that those logical doctrines, as good as they were, often conflicted with clear teachings of scripture. For example, the Pharisaic logic led them to conclude that "giving to the church" was the most important thing to be done with your money; Jesus said that their logic nullified the clear teaching of scripture that taking care of your parents comes before making contributions to the church (Mark 7:9-13).

I'm afraid that we in the 21st century church also fall victim to this Pharisaic habit of using our logic to determine binding doctrines. Having come to the realization that we are prone to this habit, I've become skittish of doctrines that are based on logic rather than clearly-stated teachings. This is not to say that I no longer accept such doctrines; it is to say that I hold them much more loosely than I used to, and am much more lenient toward other viewpoints on such matters.

This became even more true when I realized that different people truly truly truly have different logical/perceptual capabilities, and one person's perceptions (and thus logical conclusions) might be 180 degrees different from another person's perceptions (and logical conclusions). For example, which way is the ballerina spinning? Clockwise, or counter-clockwise?

Give God the Glory!

What's wrong with saying "Praise God!" when something good happens?

What's wrong with saying "The Lord led me to make such-and-such decision"?

What's wrong with giving God the credit for the happenings in our lives?

It seems to me that the first-century church had this attitude of ascribing all sorts of "natural events" to the working of God. Is it not unBiblical when we divorce natural events from God's hands?

And the "conservative" brethren answer: "But neither can we claim to know when God has done such-and-such, or that God has spoken to us, when we 'know' He doesn't do that in the modern-day."

Okay, but how about a little balance then? Must we have such divorcement between natural events and the actions of God? Or can we maybe get a little closer back to the Biblical view of "seeing" God in everything happening around us?

Balance. We humans, including me, don't seem to be very good at that, do we?

Modern-Day Movings of God's Spirit

A friend of a friend blogs about her recent healing by God. I believe her story. I've witnessed similar things myself, even though I'm assured at church that such things don't happen in the modern day, or if they do, that they are psychosomatic "acts pf providence" rather than miracles.

Who cares what label you give them? What matters is, does God get the glory? My church's attitude leads to giving "nature" the glory (while giving lip-service to God); I think we should praise YHWH for healings.

This same church also assures me that God does not act directly in our lives any more by providing modern-day prophecy, etc. As I read the New Testament with a new set of eyes, allowing me to see layers of meaning to which I've previously been blind (and making me realize that I most likely am currently blind to even deeper layers, which hopefully the Lord will reveal to me in the future), I'm somewhat stunned, and quite saddened, to realize that my former way of reading the scriptures (as is common still with the members of my local church), results in a trimming away here, a snipping off there, of more and more of the New Testament, discarding those passages as applying in the first century but not in the modern day. For example, look at Ephesians 1:17-18 (NIV, 'cause it's easy to understand, but it says the same thing in the half-dozen versions I checked, including the venerable King James Version):
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints....
Paul constantly prayed that the Christians would "supernaturally" be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and that their spiritual eyes would be allowed to see.

The doctrine I grew up with, and to which I am still being exposed, insists that this type of revelation from God may have happened supernaturally during the lifetimes of the apostles and shortly thereafter, but now only occurs via normal, non-supernatural absorption of God's word into our minds.

Thus we've trimmed and snipped the word of God to fit our paradigms (which paradigms, I might add, have been arrived at by (fallen) human logic, not by clear teachings from the scriptures).

Am I saying that modern-day miracles occur?

No, not necessarily. What I'm saying is that we need to be open to the possibility that our dearly-held paradigms might be unscriptural. And, that when good things happen, no matter what label we give to those things, give glory to God for them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

By Way of Concession, Not of Command

My church culture often thinks of the New Testament as a rule-book about what can and can't be done in a religious manner, but I think it's important to point out that, at least in some cases, what we consider "rules" are not rules but rather concessions to varying cultural norms.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:4-6, the King James reads thus:

4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

6But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

Notice verse six: this was not a commandment, but rather an "allowance" for the Corinthians' habitual way of doing things. Look at the way the New American Standard Bible renders verse six:
But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
There are other examples of making concessions for cultural habits. In the book of Colossians, 2:16-3:2, Paul makes it clear that if some folks want to observe the Sabbath, fine; if others don't, fine. If some want to observe a religious festival, fine; if some don't, fine. These earthly observances, with their "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" rules, are meaningless one way or the other, and insisting on these types of rules sounds good and religious, but really doesn't have any effect on who you really are on the inside. What matters is having your mindset on Christ.

So maybe it's time for us to quit looking at the New Testament as a "rule book", and instead focus on it as a guide to focusing our thoughts on the things above. If your church culture has ingrained in you some practice as being "holy", such as fasting from marital relations or observing "Good Friday" or burning a menorah candle at Hannakuh, it's okay to let that practice have some sway in your life, but don't let it become a substitute for the real saving power, which is Christ Jesus.

Monday, August 18, 2008


When telling a person that they are this or that, since you're only talking to one person, shouldn't you use a singular verb? Like as in, "You is pretty."

I mean, you use a plural verb, telling a girl "You are pretty", and she's likely to think you think she is twins (or would that be ,"she are twins"?).

And don't even get me started on "am". I amn't going there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those Evil, Evil Change-Agents

In my church culture, it's not rare to hear someone railing against "change-agents", those "people who sneak into a church and then effect change from the inside, 'corrupting' the pure church into some new denomination-like shadow of the former true church".

When such change-agents do indeed corrupt the church into something other than the church which Christ established, I'm fully on-board with those who rail against such change-agents.

Yet, we need to be careful about slinging around labels like "change-agent", simply because if change is needed, we need change-agents to bring about that change.

The problem in my church culture is that most of us are 100% convinced that we have completely restored the first-century church of Christ, and therefore any change is a corruption.

But what if we haven't completely restored the first-century church? What if we've missed something in our theology? In such a case, we need, and should welcome, change-agents to step up and bring us in-line with Biblical teaching.

The danger is that we tend to immediately dismiss change-agents as corrupters without being like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily to see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).

Next time a "change-agent" shows up in your church, will you be mature enough to hear what he has to say, and to weigh it against scripture, or will you be satisfied to keep believing that you already have all the answers? Yahshua considers guilty those people who claim to have the answers when they really don't (John 9:41, in context). Are you claiming to "see"?

Please Stop Mis-Using 1 Cor 16:1-2 as a Proof Text


The text reads:
Now about the collection for the saints: you should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save to the extent that he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.
The next verse reads:
And when I arrive, I will send those whom you recommend by letter to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem.
The entire context (including the context of the story as given by Luke in Acts, such as in Acts 24:17) concerns a special collection taken up by churches all over the Middle-East, to send to the poor Christians back in Jerusalem. You can see this rather clearly in 2 Corinthians 8:10ff:
Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. But now finish the task .... It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality — at the present time your surplus is [available] for their need, so that their abundance may also become [available] for your need, that there may be equality.
The point is, what's spoken of in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 has nothing to do with the regular weekly contribution we do in church every Sunday which is spent on our church needs. To claim that our collections for local needs is "commanded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2", is to twist scripture. At most, this passage provides a proof-text for taking up a weekly collection for sending to poor churches, not for spending on the collecting church's needs.

I believe a weekly collection for our on-going church expenses is a Biblical concept, but this passage does not provide a proof-text for it, and should not be so used.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Human Dignity in Matters of Healthcare

Underlying any area of bioethics based on a Christian worldview is the concept of man as a special part of creation made in God’s image. This means that our views on healthcare should reflect the inherent dignity of the individual. Dr. Pellegrino discussed this essential element that part of common good is valuing man because he is man, and I would add that it is expressly because he is made in the image of God.

Many of the sessions at the conference, whether they were on doctor/patient relationships or public policy, centered on this point that man is made in the image of God and that individuals should be valued as unique and important. This presupposes a theistic worldview.

. . .
How does one’s worldview affect their various views on healthcare?

. . .
As Nancy Pearcey points out in Total Truth, every worldview answers three basic questions: Where did we come from? What happened to us (why is there evil)? And, how can things be made right? As Christian theists we would answer these questions with “Creation-Fall-Redemption.” Naturalists, on the other hand, would answer with the triad “Darwinism–Evil is an illusion–Survival of the fittest.” A naturalist’s creation story is that of Darwinism. Therefore, man is nothing more than a product of natural selection. He does not hold a unique position above other animals, and he was not specifically created with a purpose.

One’s view on origins is fundamental to how man is regarded, and it determines which ethical system is used to determine right and wrong views on healthcare. The tension is between the theistic view that man has inherent dignity and worth, despite his capabilities or lack thereof, and the naturalistic view that man’s worth is based on whether or not he is a burden on society as a whole.
Heather Zeiger
"Healthcare and the Common Good"

Friday, August 08, 2008

Concerning Ritual

A friend of mine, in some notes, apparently cites Jeff W. Childers ("The Crux of the Matter") citing Evelyn Underhill's "Worship":
Ritualism is no substitute for good ritual.
My friend further writes:
Tradition vs Traditionalism. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” Jaroslav Pelikan

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Don't Take God There

Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, starting on page 77, reminds us that Isaiah 6:3 says:
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
Bell then goes on to point out that
The Hebrew word for glory here is kavod, which means weight or significance. The whole earth is full of the weight and significance of who God is.
He continues:
A church is a community of people who are learning how to be certain kinds of people wherever they find themselves, so they can do whatever it is they do “in the name of the Lord Jesus”. The goal isn’t to bring everyone’s work into the church; the goal is for the church to be these unique kinds of people who are transforming the places they live and work and play because they understand the whole earth is filled with the [glory] of God. God isn’t in one building only.
Which allows him to conclude:
Missions then is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there....maybe it means teaching people to use their eyes to see things that have always been there; they just didn’t realize it. You see God where others don’t. And then you point him out.
The church is to take the message to the world, not to take God to the world. God's already there. The people just need help seeing Him.

Let's Ignore God's Word, 'kay?

I keep hearing the words of Yahshua to the Pharisees and scribes:
'They worship Me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commands of men.'

"Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men."

He also said to them, "You completely invalidate God's command in order to maintain your tradition!"
-- Mark 7:8-9
We, at least in my church culture, have tended to think of the Pharisees and the scribes as a group of people who have completely disregarded the scriptures in favor of their particular doctrines. We do this because in the 20th Century, one of the dominant emphases of the Church of Christ was to highlight how the different denominations had adopted denominational creeds and statements that carried more weight for their members than did the actual scriptures, whereas the Church of Christ was focused on using the Bible only as its source of religious authority. We have thus tended to think that the Pharisees and scribes were doing the same thing as our modern denominations.

But the Pharisees and scribes had great reverence for the scriptures. The problem is that the scriptures didn't always agree with one another. For example, one scripture might say, "Do no work on the Sabbath", while another might say "Circumcise your male child on the eighth day, even if that falls on a Sabbath". So the quandary arises: do you keep the law to avoid working on the Sabbath, or do you keep the law of doing the work of circumcision?

So the Jews, over the centuries, had developed an oral tradition to decide how to apply these conflicting scriptures. It was on the fine points of these arguments that Yahshua got in trouble with the Pharisees: "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4).

It was in the context of one of these disagreements that Yahshua made the claim that the Jewish religious leaders were invalidating God's command in order to maintain their tradition. The Pharisees and scribes were trying to be scriptural, but in so doing, they had elevated their logical conclusions to a level that actually superseded the intentions of scripture.

In conjunction with these thoughts, I keep thinking also of church leaders who have elevated their logical conclusions to the point where they insist that their members refrain from doing things that are "out of the ordinary", even if those things are Biblical. I'm thinking in particular of raising hands in worship (I found yet another example of this last night in Psalm 134:2). This practice is very Biblical, found in both the Tanakh ("Old Testament") and the New Testament, even commanded of men in 1 Tim 2:8. But our "traditions" have relegated that to a cultural practice that should be set aside in the 21st century:
Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.
That scares me.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Solomon's Molten Sea and the Value of Pi

In the list of alleged Biblical inaccuracies, it is often claimed that the Bible teaches the value of Pi to be three. These critics demonstrate their readiness to attack without having proper ammunition. Here's how one writer put it:
Geometry class escapes religious fundamentalist scrutiny, too, as a careful reading of Second Kings reveals. The circular altar in Solomon's temple, we're told, is nine cubits in diameter and 27 cubits around the rim. Except that makes Pi an even three-point-zero instead of 3.1416. Oops.
It doesn't take much to see that this critic is pretty ignorant on the matter (not stupid; just ignorant).

It's not in Second Kings. It's in 1 Kings 7:23ff, and 2 Chronicles 4:2ff.

It's not 9 and 27 cubits. It's 10 and 30.

It's not a circular altar. It's a circular "molten sea".

And perhaps the most significant issue; this sea had a "brim", like a cup, which was as wide as a hand (1 Kings 7:26). The measurement of the circumference was done by a line (v. 2). I suspect that most people running a string around a huge cup would place the string just under the brim. So, assuming a hand is 4 inches wide, and a cubit is 18 inches, we have 540 / 172 = 3.1395...; that's pretty close to Pi's value of 3.14..., well within the margin of error for hand-size, or string-stretch, etc.

Political Background Behind Jesus' Execution

If you have any interest in history, particularly the political background behind the execution of Yahshua, Bill Heroman has an excellent synopsis over at his blog under Jesus & Herod Antipas. Go read it. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite:
If anyone other than Tiberius Caesar had been Emperor in those days, the Lord Jesus Christ might not have been crucified! He might have been beheaded.
History happens very slowly. Most big things usually take years. In Italy, Tiberius retired. Sejanus plotted and died. Agrippa learned about a secret alliance. Macro & Caligula plotted against Caligula's brother and mom. Meanwhile, in Israel, a teenager danced for Antipas. The old Tetrarch beheaded the Baptizer. And Jesus got to spend the better part of two years in Judea, which had stayed closed to him for so long. But that’s far from all…

Because of all this, Jesus was not beheaded. Because of Sejanus and Macro, Antipas and Tiberius, Agrippa, Agrippina and Caligula, the Sanhedrin and Salome… the Lord Jesus Christ died on a Cross.

A Church that Fits

I just read an article on the American phenomenon of "cowboy churches", churches which are set in a rural environ, perhaps in a barn or under a tree, perhaps with the congregants on horseback ("sermon on the mount", anyone?), with folks dressed in traditional cowboy garb, and singing country/folk-style songs.

For traditionalists, such a break from the norm seems almost sacrilegious, but as I read the article, along with the hints/revelations the Lord has given me over the past couple of years about how "people are different from one another", it struck me that perhaps there's a time and a place for church assemblies that may be vastly different from that to which I'm accustomed.

And then I read a statement by one of the leaders of one of these types of churches which really resonated with me. The article relates:
"The cowboy church works because we are people who like to ride and also worship the Lord," he said. "So it fits who we are. But I'm sure people up in the city sure must think it's weird."
"So it fits who we are."

Perhaps it's time for the church to realize that "one size does not fit all".

(Note: I'm not arguing for violating the pattern of the New Testament church; I am saying that what we consider as the pattern may very well be narrower than the actual New Testament pattern.)

Friday, August 01, 2008


All my life I've grown up with the idea that the word "repentance" is defined as "a change of lifestyle from one of sin to one of Godliness". In recent years I seem to have subconsciously abandoned that definition for one that means "a change of mind, leading to a change in lifestyle".

Over the past few months I've had some discussions about when a person is qualified to become a Christian; I have taken the stance that one needs to make a decision to turn away from sin, but that doesn't mean the person must become sinless ("mature") prior to his conversion; the other person in the discussion has taken the stance that if a thief wanted to become a Christian, would it be adequate if that thief just cut down his thievery to 50% so he could be converted, planning to cut it down to only 10% over the next few weeks/months/years, until he finally stops stealing?

The other person makes a good point, but I still maintain that the point fails when considering human nature; his view insists that a person addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs must get "clean" before he can develop a relationship with Yahshua Christ. Even the apostle Paul complained about how he was constantly sinning, even though he didn't want to sin (Rom 7:7ff).

Yet in all these months of discussion, I'm not sure it ever entered my head to see how the word "repentance" should be defined.

Looking through several resources on the Internet, I find that there are several words that are translated "repentance", and they each have slightly different meanings. The word I'm most interested in here is the one used in Acts 2:38 -- "repent and be immersed" and in similar passages. According to one dictionary:
2. Repent--"to Change the Mind":

The word metanoeo, expresses the true New Testament idea of the spiritual change implied in a sinner's return to God. The term signifies "to have another mind," to change the opinion or purpose with regard to sin. It is equivalent to the Old Testament word "turn." Thus, it is employed by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles (Mt 3:2; Mk 1:15; Acts 2:38). (emphasis added)
Concerning the "Old Testament word 'turn'" as mentioned above, the same dictionary says:
2. To Repent--"to Turn" or "Return":

The term shubh, is most generally employed to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance. It is used extensively by the prophets, and makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God. It is employed extensively with reference to man's turning away from sin to righteousness (Dt 4:30; Neh 1:9; Ps 7:12; Jer 3:14). (emphasis added)
What I find interesting is that this repentance is a repentance of mindset, which leads to a change in lifestyle, but it is not the actual change in lifestyle.

Granted, I may be looking for evidence to bolster my own position (which is something human nature makes us prone to do), but it seems to me that the evidence here is that in the conversion process, repentance is not a matter of first "getting right" before becoming a Christian; rather, it's a matter of deciding to get right.

As such, I think a drug addict should go through the conversion to God, realizing he's still likely to return to the sin with which he's familiar, but dedicated to overcoming that sin.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it just doesn't seem that God expects us to become perfect before He'll adopt us.