Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We ARE the Government

Someone wrote:
I am 50 and I can remember in my child hood my parents talking about the government and saying they all were not trust worthy even back then. So it has been that way many years.
And thus it should be.

You, and me, and the guy across the street, and the girl at the check-out counter at Wal-Mart, are the ones who are supposed to be in control. It's called "Freedom". This idea that "the government" is in control is a dangerous and false idea, and it's this idea that has caused us to lose our freedoms over your lifetime.

When I was a kid, and someone asked, "Hey, can I do such-and-such" , the stock answer was, "It's a free country".

Nowadays, the stock answer is, "Do you have a government-issued permit to do that?"

Want to put a storage building on your property? Get a permit. Want to cut down a tree? Get a permit. Want to put in a pool? Get a permit. Want to carry a pistol for self-protection? Get a permit. Want to drive to the store? Get a permit. Want to sell your excess garden vegetables? Get a permit.


Granted, there needs to be some level of governmental cooperation between citizens (I want to know that someone is responsible for assuring that the meal I buy in the restaurant is safe), but the pendulum has swung too far.

One of the best things you can do to help spread freedom in this country is to learn about jury nullification, get on a few juries, and do the right thing. As a juror, you have more power (in an individual case) than all the members of the U.S. Supreme Court and both houses of Congress and the President combined; if a guy ran a red light, but did so safely and for a good reason (to get his son with a half-cut-off foot to the hospital, etc), no matter what the law says, you as a jurist can declare the guy not guilty, and nullify that law in this instance. Laws are for the good of humans, not for the sake of keeping the rules. If a guy is arrested for carrying a Bible into a school, or a pistol into a sporting event (with no malice/harm intended or executed), you as a jurist can declare the guy not guilty if you so believe he should not go to jail for what you believe should be a basic human right - to carry inanimate objects on your person.

But we've gotten lax, and have let "the government" tell us what we can do, when we can do it, where we can do it. Folks, you ARE the government! Quit trusting those "in power", and start exercising the power.

The rule for good living in a world with such a "weak government" as this idea suggests is this: Love your neighbor as yourself; pray for your enemies; turn the other cheek; love the unlovable; treat others as you want to be treated.

With this basic "law" in the hearts of people, there is very little need for official government. This is the ideal government as I understand the Jewish Bible. Judges 17:6 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." And later, when the Israelites clamored for a king, this is what YHWH (God) told them (1 Samuel 8:11ff):
These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but YHWH will not answer you in that day.
In other words, there are two possibilities presented here: 1) We can enforce right-and-wrong from our own hearts, by knowing in our own hearts what is the right thing (the Golden Rule way) and doing it, and not be oppressed by a tax-and-spend-and-make-war-and-confiscate-property government, or 2) we can let "the government" enforce right-and-wrong, and gradually lose our freedoms.

Our government, which has a nature of wanting to grow stronger and stronger at the expense of the governed, has duped us into choosing the latter, and now no one is even allowed to teach the former; "that's mixing church and state".


I love my country; I don't trust my government. I suggest you don't either.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rethinking Binding and Loosing as it Pertains to the Synagogue

In an earlier post, I mentioned the first-century Jewish synagogue as a man-made institution of worship, developed without scriptural authority during the Babylonian Captivity, when the Jews no longer had access to their Temple. Since then, a reader has opened my eyes to what should have been obvious: the synagogue was not a place of worship, as was the Temple, but was rather more akin to a school than a church.

As such, it's not quite as "unscriptural" as I first deemed it.

Deuteronomy 6 makes it clear that parents are to teach their children in the ways of God. Whereas the primary responsibility for teaching the children was given to the parents, the synagogue developed as a more community-oriented method of teaching the children. So a case could be made that the scriptures say "teach your children" and not "build schools to teach your children", but Yahshua himself appears to have been comfortable with the notion of a community synagogue, taking advantage often of teaching in them everywhere he went.

So, to reiterate: my former understanding that the synagogue was a "replacement" for Temple worship was an incorrect understanding; rather, the synagogue was primarily a place of religious learning, not of worship. Accordingly, this does not really serve as an example of an unscriptural, man-made worship format which was later accepted by God, as I had earlier deemed it.

The synagogue appears to have become more of a place of worship after the destruction of Jerusalem (and the second Temple) in A.D. 70, but during Yahshua's ministry, it was a school of religion, not a church. This can be seen by a simple perusal of the hits returned by a search for the word "synagogue" at, using the Holman Christian Standard Bible version. Below are some examples from that search; note that it's primarily a place of teaching, discussion, disputing, and reasoning (although prayer, healing, and perhaps worship also take place in it):
  1. Matthew 4:23
    [ Teaching, Preaching, and Healing ] Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
    Matthew 4:22-24 (in Context) Matthew 4 (Whole Chapter)
  2. Matthew 13:54
    [ Rejection at Nazareth ] He went to His hometown and began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "How did this wisdom and these miracles come to Him?
    Matthew 13:53-55 (in Context) Matthew 13 (Whole Chapter)
  3. Mark 1:21
    [ Driving Out an Unclean Spirit ] Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach.
    Mark 1:20-22 (in Context) Mark 1 (Whole Chapter)
  4. Mark 6:2
    When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. "Where did this man get these things?" they said. "What is this wisdom given to Him, and how are these miracles performed by His hands?
    Mark 6:1-3 (in Context) Mark 6 (Whole Chapter)
  5. Luke 4:15
    He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone.
    Luke 4:14-16 (in Context) Luke 4 (Whole Chapter)
  6. Luke 4:16
    [ Rejection at Nazareth ] He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.
    Luke 4:15-17 (in Context) Luke 4 (Whole Chapter)
  7. Luke 6:6
    [ The Man with the Paralyzed Hand ] On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. A man was there whose right hand was paralyzed.
    Luke 6:5-7 (in Context) Luke 6 (Whole Chapter)
  8. Luke 13:10
    [ Healing a Daughter of Abraham ] As He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath,
    Luke 13:9-11 (in Context) Luke 13 (Whole Chapter)
  9. John 6:59
    He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
    John 6:58-60 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  10. John 18:20
    "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus answered him. "I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple complex, where all the Jews congregate, and I haven't spoken anything in secret.
    John 18:19-21 (in Context) John 18 (Whole Chapter)
  11. Acts 13:5
    Arriving in Salamis, they proclaimed God's message in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their assistant.
    Acts 13:4-6 (in Context) Acts 13 (Whole Chapter)
  12. Acts 13:15
    After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent [word] to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak."
    Acts 13:14-16 (in Context) Acts 13 (Whole Chapter)
  13. Acts 17:17
    So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
    Acts 17:16-18 (in Context) Acts 17 (Whole Chapter)
  14. Acts 18:4
    He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks.
    Acts 18:3-5 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  15. Acts 18:19
    When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews.
    Acts 18:18-20 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  16. Acts 18:26
    He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately.
    Acts 18:25-27 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  17. Acts 19:8
    [ In the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus ] Then he entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God.
    Acts 19:7-9 (in Context) Acts 19 (Whole Chapter)
  18. Acts 24:12
    And they didn't find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues, or anywhere in the city.
    Acts 24:11-13 (in Context) Acts 24 (Whole Chapter)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Use "Yahshua"?

Manly Luscombe wrote:
Kent West,
I read your recent post and was just curious why you refer to Jesus as Yashua. (I assume that Jesus is who you refer to when you say Yahshua.) I am not a scholar in Hebrew but I believe that Yahshua is Hebrew. Why do you refer to a NT person by their Hebrew name?
If you believe we should use the Hebrew names for Jews - Why not do the same with Peter, Matthew, Luke, and others you mention in your email?
Just curious - not fussing - just wondering the reason for this usage.
Thanks, Manly

1) I'm not consistent about it.

2) I don't believe it makes any great difference.

3) But, to answer your question:

Primarily for six reasons:

A) To spur people to think. You never think about what the room looks like from a different angle until you stand on your desk and take a look-see. Therefore, you never see the nuances that have been right there before your eyes the whole time.

B) To remind myself and others that this Gentile, anti-Jew mentality most of us in the United States church have grown up with is a wrong mindset to have. ("The Jews were God's people, but not any more." "The Jews killed Jesus." "God doesn't care about Jerusalem or the Jewish race any more." etc.) The fact is, we, the Gentiles, have not replaced the Jewish nation, but have been grafted into it, into the covenant of Abraham, which has not been replaced by the New Covenant, but still stands as the foundation of the New Covenant (Gal 3, esp v. 29).

C) Jesus was not a New Testament person for about 99% of his earthly life. He was born a Hebrew, under the Old Testament, in a very Jewish town, in a very Jewish culture, and lived a very Jewish life. But we've subconsciously whitewashed that out of his life, and have made him, in our own minds, to be a good-looking middle-American white guy wearing a robe and sandals, forgetting that he wore tassels on his garment (Mark 6:56), the way good Jews did, and probably recited the Shema every morning (Mark 12:29-30), the way good Jews did, and cited the Ten Commandments as being the way to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17ff), which good Jews knew.

D) That was his name. It was the name his mama used to call him to supper. If you moved to a country that mis-learned your name as "Mertinly", you'd eventually shrug your shoulders and quit trying to correct everyone who mispronounced your name, and learn to live with it. But you'd likely feel better when someone actually got it right and called you "Manly". I figure Jesus/Yahshua can handle our mangling of his name, but still, it's a small bit of at least lip-service I can offer. I'm quite inconsistent with this when it comes to other New Testament names, as you've pointed out - Peter, Luke, etc - mostly that's due to lack of consistency on my part, but it also has to do with the fact that many of them lived in either the Greek world, or in a mixed Hebrew-Grecian world. Take Peter for example; at his Jewish home, he was known as Cephas; but in the Greek world in which he spent much time, he was known as Peter (or more accurately, Petros). I would probably be more amenable to calling Yahshua "Yaesu" (or "Yaesus", depending on grammatical considerations), because that's at least Biblical (New Testament), but "Jesus" is that extra consonantal sound-step farther yet.

E) Because we don't know the Hebrew names, we don't see the nuances. Yahshua is Joshua is Hosea (more or less). The first Yahshua (Joshua) was reported in Jewish lore (not Biblical record) to have married Rahab the Harlot; the second Yahshua (Hosea) also married a harlot; the third Yahshua (Jesus), also is marrying a harlot, but one who has been washed clean due to his efforts, not our own. There's a lot of symbolism, etc, that we simply miss, by not knowing the words behind the text.

F) It means something (as most Biblical names do). As you're probably aware, Bible translators have, for centuries, corrupted God's written word intentionally, changing the God-inspired name of YHWH (Yod - Hey - Wah - Hey; the "Tetragrammaton"; the "Four Letters"), which God said would be the name by which he would be remembered throughout the generations (Exodus 3:15) into the man-made alteration of "the LORD" (turn to almost any page in the Old Testament in a main-line version and you'll see this phrase). The name was likely pronounced "Yahweh". The short form of "Yah" is familiar to us in the phrase "Hallelujah", which means "Praise Yah". (The "j" for the "y" sound is a relic of Elizabethan English, and has since morphed into the "j" sound in most modern words.) The name "Jehovah" is a man-made mixing of the vowels from the Hebrew word for "Lord" and these four consonants (in Elizabethan English where "j" = "y" and "v" = "w") - JeHoVaH. Because we don't know this, we don't realize that "Yahshua" means "Yah saves", just as the angel predicted his name to mean (Matt 1:21). Because we don't know this, we don't realize why the Jewish political machinery was so upset about the sign which Pilate hung over Yahshua's head as he hung on the cross. Written in three languages, the sign included the Hebrew form of "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", written as "Yahshua Hanatzoi, Wehemelech Hayuhadim". There it was in plain sight to those who noticed the first letters of the description, announced by the governing authority - YHWH. Pilate had just declared Jesus to be YHWH God, King of the Jews (John 19:19ff). I can just imagine Pilate smirking as he answered the trouble-makers' request for a different sign with, "What I have written, I have written". Because we don't know his name, we miss the pun he uses when he announces that Salvation ('Shua) has come to the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9). (Zacchaeus' Hebrew name, Zakkai, also has meaning, which also colors the story, if you understand some of the background.)

Don't take any of this to mean that I hold the usage of "Yahshua" to be superior to the usage of "Jesus"; what's superior is to know the Man-God behind the name, and there are many who have a better relationship to him than do I, who have never even heard this Hebrew form of the name. But I offer these as my reasons for often using this form.

Binding and Loosing

Scott Wiley wrote:
was this during a temple worship? An equivalent of the synogogue?
This question asked by Scott draws my attention. If you think about it, you'll find there is no scriptural authority for the Synagogue (having developed probably during the Babylonian Captivity when observant Jews had no access to the Temple), but by the time the New Testament opens, the Son of God seems to accept it as a God-inspired worship format, even though he was unable to produce a Book/Chapter/Verse for its existence.

This ties in with the terms "binding" and "loosing", which we, not being part of the Rabbinical culture in which Yahshua lived and taught, don't quite "get".

In Yahshua's day, there were two main schools of Rabbinical thought, as founded by two great rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, who had been born just a generation or two before Yahshua. Much of the testing of Yahshua made by the religious authorities was not so much a challenge against Jesus as a simple inquiry into which school of thought his teachings fell (for example, see this entry on divorce, where we find that Jesus sides with Shammai rather than with Hillel).

Not just any Rabbi could "make the rules" as Shammai, and Hillel, and Yahshua himself, did. Only those who had "authority" could do so. So when Yahshua comes along and "teaches as one having authority" (Luke 4:32), he's challenged by the religious leaders who ask him where he got this authority. They understood that not just anyone could claim to be a Rabbi with authority, but that he must be given that authority by two other such authority-bearing Rabbis. Yahshua essentially said, "I got mine from John the Immerser, and God Himself when I was immersed. Do you accept their authority?" (although he does it in a Rabbinical questioning method which most of us Westerners don't quite comprehend - Luke 20:1-8))

Normal Rabbis could teach from the Torah and the Prophets and the Writings, but only those things which had been handed down from more authoritative Rabbis through the years. But authority-bearing Rabbis could interpret the scriptures afresh: we see Yahshua doing this in the Sermon on the Mount - "You have heard it said ..., but I say ...".

When a Rabbi enforces a particular teaching on a student, he is essentially binding that teaching, and when a Rabbis releases a student from a teaching, he is essentially loosing that teaching. The collection of bindings and loosings that a Rabbi teaches is called his "yoke". After fussing about the harsh religiosity of his culture, Yahshua said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30).

Yahshua gave to the church this authority to bind and loose, the first time apparently to Peter:

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. (Matt 16:18-19)

... but the second time more generally to his followers:

If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. ... I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them. (Matt. 18:15a; 18-20).
We see this authority being exercised in the church about 14 years after its inauguration, when the previously Jew-only church starts being opened to non-Jews. Many staunch Pharisees and other "conservative" Jewish believers insisted that these new Gentile converts be converted to Judaism in order to participate fully in the Jewish church. But a council was called at Jerusalem, and it was decided, via the Holy Spirit, that they would heed Peter's voice, which stated:

Why, then, are you now testing God by putting on the disciples' necks a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)

And from that time on, a new term arose, "Christian", which seemed to better fit this new school of thought that followed Rabbi Yahshua but which included decidedly unJewish Gentiles as full disciples.

Now, having laid all that background, I'm drawn back to Scott's question, or more accurately, to the underlying issue of authority for what we do as the church. Can we "invent" a synagogue if we can't make it to Temple? Can we bind a law on the believers that "Christians don't drink"? Can we loose a law on women that says they can't speak in 21st century Western mixed assemblies? Do we have that authority to "tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people's shoulders", and to "lift a finger to move them"?

I honestly don't know. I've believed all my life that church doctrine was established in the first century, and anyone who teaches a different doctrine is accursed (as per Gal. 1:6-9). But looking at all this background, I'm left wondering if the church does have the right to modify the specifics of how that doctrine is implemented.

I think it would be a stretch to say the church can loose something that is fundamental to first century doctrine (such as the physical, bodily resurrection of Yahshua); but perhaps it can ease up on other issues, such as women remaining silent in a mixed assembly.

I really hate to even bring this up, because of its incredible potential for abuse, and because it's so far outside the boundaries of orthodoxy for most of us, but it's a question that nags at me.

Did Yahshua give us, the church, the authority to mold our own form/practices, or are we limited to restoring the first century church in all its particulars (except for those we deem not applicable - *cough*) as those of us raised in the Restoration Movement have been trained to believe?

I don't know, but I find it an interesting and uncomfortable question.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Earliest (Jewish) Church

I've written elsewhere about the first century church really being two churches: in the early years, the church was exclusively Jewish, strictly observing the Law of Moses, and only later accepting Gentiles, who did not observe the Law of Moses, as Christian brothers. For a few decades, it appears that these two groups existed side-by-side, having a very different look-and-feel, such that were we to find these two groups on opposite street corners today on Main Street, USA, we'd refer to at least one of them as a "denomination".

I was just made aware of another piece of evidence that demonstrates that the earliest church was Jewish to the core.

We generally consider the apostle Paul to be the author of 1 Corinthians, and whereas that is partly true, we tend to forget that this book was co-authored by another Christian brother, Sosthenes.
Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, and our brother Sosthenes: To God's church at Corinth.... (1 Cor 1:1-2a)
What makes this significant to the discussion is that Sosthenes was not only a Christian, he was the ruler of a synagogue, beaten by the anti-Christian mob at Corinth:
Then they all seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the judge's bench. (Acts 18:17)
It's also interesting to note that the apparently previous ruler of the Corinthian synagogue, Crispus, also became a Christian:
Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed the Lord, along with his whole household; and many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. (Acts 18:8)
Our modern day Gentile-ized church often condemns any hint of Jewish worship as being anti-Christian; this view is unBiblical. Being a leader of an exclusively Jewish synagogue, participating in exclusively Jewish worship, was not at all incompatible with being a Christian. It was just such a leader of Jewish worship who gave us part of our New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Anointing With Oil

James 5:14ff
Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
It seems to me that our cultural baggage has caused us to see something in this text that is not in it, and to miss something that is.

We tend to see the anointing with oil as integral to the healing. I don't believe that is in the text.

What we miss is that the anointing with oil is a consecrating of the individual to God.

The first time the Bible mentions an anointing with oil is when Jacob sleeps and dreams at Beth-El ("House of God"), and anoints the rock with oil, consecrating the place as God's House. Note that the rock was not sick, and the anointing with oil did not make the rock well. The place was God's.

Later, the utensils in the Temple are anointed with oil. Note that the utensils were not sick and made well by this anointing, but that they were consecrated as being special, chosen, belonging to God. They were God's utensils.

Still later, young shepherd David was anointed with oil by Samuel. David was not sick, and this anointing did not make him well. What it did was consecrate David as being chosen, special, belonging to God. David was God's friend.

The terms "messiah" and "christ" mean "anointed one". Jesus the Messiah was not made well by his anointing; he was made the chosen one by his anointing. His anointing made him consecrated to God. The Messiah was God's presence on Earth.

When someone in the church is sick, he should call for the elders, who will consecrate him to God by the anointing with oil, and who will pray for him, that he might get well. The sick person belongs to God.

Anointing with oil has nothing to do with miraculous gifts, and everything to do with consecrating the anointed one for God's possession.

Accordingly, it might still serve a purpose in the post-miraculous age of Christianity.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Church's Finances

Every week, the plate is passed around the congregation.

Every week, the funds so collected are doled out according to the budget plan, paying salaries, electric bills, mortgages, TV show expenses, and if anything is left over, maybe an orphan's home or a few dollars into a local person's overdue medical bills.

That's the modern way of handling the church's money.

What was it like in the first century church?

The very first time a collection of money is mentioned in the church is Acts 2:44-45, which says:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Notice what is done with the money: it is shared with anyone having need. (I believe the context limits that "anyone" to "anyone within the group", but I could be wrong.)

And what of the very next example? It's in Acts 4:23ff:
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need.
Notice again what the Scriptures teach: money given to the church is to be distributed to those who have a need.

What about other examples?

The next example is in Acts 6, where we find that the distribution to the needy has become such a pressing matter that a special group of ministers ("deacons") are appointed to handle the day-to-day details, freeing the apostles (who had previously been responsible for the task) to do their job of preaching. The apostles were doing the preaching; the deacons were distributing the incoming funds to the needy, not to paying the church's bills.

1 Timothy 5 lays out some guidelines for this distributive effort, and in the process makes it clear that paying the bills of your own family takes precedence over other expenditures, but if you can't, then the church should kick in. Someone who doesn't provide for his own family is worse than an infidel according to this passage. And those who receive funds from the church should be known for good works.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 reiterates this last point:
If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat.
Titus 3:14 indicates that a main thrust of our efforts is to meet the cases of urgent need. As The Message puts it:
Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don't end up with nothing to show for their lives.
The very purpose of having a job is not to give to the church to build a nicer building, but to give something to the needy, according to Ephesians 4:28:
... [H]e must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
And again, Paul reminds the church in Romans 12:13:
Share with God's people who are in need.
Even that well-known passage from 1 Corinthians 16, read so often from the pulpit to persuade Christians to give to the work of the church, is ALL about giving to the needy, and not at all about paying church bills. This is clear from verse 1:
Now about the collection for God's people ....
Any other use of this passage for justification of doing anything except collecting for God's people, no matter how good those tasks may be, is a twisting of the scripture.

Now, let me make it clear that the church does have a responsibility to pay its bills, including the salaries of its staff. But I believe we've turned the pyramid upside down; the base of the pyramid, the bulk of church finances, should be going toward helping Christians meet their financial needs, with the tip, the small portion, going toward church bills. We've inverted that pyramid, and have done so at the risk of hearing these words from Jesus (Matt 25):
Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."

They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Birds Not Evolved From Dinos

Archaeopteryx isn’t the only evolutionary icon losing its claim as the ancestor of birds. In recent months we’ve seen paleontologists increasingly arguing that the entire clade of dinosaurs should no longer be considered ancestral to birds. As the WSJ article states:
There are lingering doubts that birds today are descendants of dinosaurs. Researchers at Oregon State University recently argued that the distinctive anatomy that gives birds the lung capacity needed for flight means it is unlikely that birds descended from dinosaurs like archaeopteryx and its kin. Their findings were published in June in the Journal of Morphology.
As paleontologist John Ruben of Oregon State was quoted saying when his article was published:
But old theories die hard, Ruben said, especially when it comes to some of the most distinctive and romanticized animal species in world history.

"Frankly, there's a lot of museum politics involved in this, a lot of careers committed to a particular point of view even if new scientific evidence raises questions," Ruben said. In some museum displays, he said, the birds-descended-from-dinosaurs evolutionary theory has been portrayed as a largely accepted fact, with an asterisk pointing out in small type that "some scientists disagree."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Live Through Suffering?

JOHN_A_DESIGNER writes at Telic Thoughts:

The idea of heaven is actually a later development in Jewish and Christian theology. Read the book of Job. The closest that Job gets to the idea of an after life is the question: “If a man dies, will he live again?” So then, what is the book of Job really about? It is about a man confronted with severe suffering who is struggling to find the meaning in the midst of his suffering. It is a struggle between two choices: “curse God and die” or “though He slay me I will trust him.” Faith is not about the after life. Faith is about this world. What faith will I need in heaven where there is no suffering or challenges?

On the other hand, heaven is always presented in the Bible as a reward. How can it be a reward if it is not preceded by challenges?

Interesting thoughts....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Should Christians Sneak Candy Into Movie Theaters?

The following was written by Sam Stinson on the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Groups list.

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
(Leviticus, 19:11, NASB)

Long before I became a Christian, I remember my family taking me to movies when I was a young child. We hardly ever bought popcorn, soft drinks, or candy at the movie theater--in fact I can't remember a single time when we did. When I became a teenager I remedied this by going to dollars stores and purchasing cheap boxes of candy and hiding them in the pockets of my pants, my coat, or on one of my friends. I justified this behavior to myself by saying, "I have a right to eat whatever I want and to buy it from whomever I choose." I also remember thinking, "The cost of food in movie theaters is six times what it is in other stores! Why should I not try to save money?"

Years later, after becoming a Christian, I realized that this behavior was not in keeping for a Christian. Here are thoughts along this line for your consideration.

1. Sneaking candy into movie theaters is a violation of a posted theater policy. I've never encountered a movie theater which permitted its patrons to bring in food or drinks from home. Most of us would never knowingly bring a video camera into a theater and tape the movie we're watching in order to distribute it illegally on the Internet. But sneaking candy into the movies is equally dishonest. Why is that? Because knowingly acting in violation of any business's policy and pretending that I'm not is intentionally dealing falsely with others, a clear violation of scripture as noted above.

2. Sneaking candy into movie theaters destroys the theater's ability to make a profit. Have you ever heard someone say, "The concessions is where theaters make their money!" In many cases this is true. If I am truly eating something I am not authorized to bring, based on my acceptance of the agreement to not bring outside food into a theater, I have deprived the theater of its profit. If this is indeed stealing, Christians should cease from this practice. (Eph. 4:28)

3. Sneaking candy into movie theaters creates a bad example for others. Christians and non-Christians, especially children, can be influenced by the behavior of others. If others see us doing this practice, they will likely imitate it. If it is something that causes us to sin, it may cause them to sin when they do as we do.

4. It is often the "little things" that make Christians look like hypocrites to the world. A Christian might say, "I've never murdered, or committed adultery, or cheated on my taxes." Very well indeed. But one who stumbles in one point of honesty has violated the truth. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." (Luk. 16:10)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Biblical Profanity

Over the past few years, I've begun to come to the conclusion that the translators who bring the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English have skewed their results sometimes according to their own sensibilities rather than accurately portraying what the text says.

One such case is in Philipians 3:8, wherein Paul is claiming that in contrast to the value of knowing Christ Jesus, all other things are "rubbish".

This word "rubbish" (skuvbalon) seems to be a sanitized version of what the actual word means. Here's a summary from Daniel B. Wallace:
That skuvbalon took on the nuance of a vulgar expression with emotive connotations (thus, roughly equivalent to the English “crap, s**t”) is probable in light of the following considerations: (1) its paucity of usage in Greek literature (“Only with hesitation does literature seem to have adopted it from popular speech” says Lang in TDNT 7:445); (2) it is used frequently in emotionally charged contexts (as are its verbal cognates) in which the author wishes to invoke revulsion in his audience; (3) there is evidence that there were other, more common and more acceptable terms referring to the same thing (in particular, the agricultural term koprov and the medical term perivsswma); (4) diachronically, the shock value of the term seems to have worn off through the centuries; and (5) a natural transfer of the literal to a metaphorical usage, in which disgust, revulsion, or worthlessness are still in view, argues for this meaning as well. Nevertheless, that its shock value was not fully what “s**t” would be is suggested in the fact that in the Hellenistic period (c. 330 BCE-330 CE) the word was also used on occasion for “gleanings” or “table scraps.”

(From - Go read the entire article for a fuller treatment)
In other words, it appears that the word which God inspired is somewhere between "crap" and "sh*t".

Offends our sensibilities, doesn't it? But if it's true (and it seems to be), it is what it is.

The Church's Educational Responsibility

A year or so I came across this passage:
He ... must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
-- Ephesians 4:28
More recently I came across this one:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
-- 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
It seems to me that a fundamental goal of Christian maturity is to have the necessary resources to:

1) not be a burden on other people,


2) to help relieve the burdens other people have.

I think it may be time for the church to start providing its members with the resources to do these two things. That means encouraging young people to finish school and get a college education, and to avoid derailments of those plans (like getting pregnant or dropping out), and to finance education of those who missed their first opportunity while young, and perhaps to even provide career counseling.

Many of my church peers would scoff at such a notion, believing that the business of the church is to "spread the Gospel", and not to get wrapped up in "social issues". But if I'm reading those passages above correctly, I think it may be time to at least start thinking in these directions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

One nation! Under God! Indivisible?!

There's a lot of discussion about the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. I have no qualm with that phrase. I would, however, be disturbed for it to be removed, for no matter how often the claim is made that "God is dead", I'm convinced He is alive and well and in control, and the nation that acknowledges Him will be blessed above the one that does not.

But I can't recite the Pledge as it is commonly known. I have a problem with the phrase "indivisible".

The very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, which is the basis for the very existence of the United States of America, emphasizes this right to separate. It says:
When ... it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them ... and to assume ... the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, [it's only respectful to say why].
And then the next paragraph states that when government gets too big for its britches,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government....
The War of Northern Aggression (aka The War Between the States, aka The Civil War) was fought over this very principle (the issue of slavery was just the trigger). The South had had enough, and had dissolved the political bands with their Northern brethren, but the North illegally forced, at gunpoint, the South to remain.

In this war, the South was doing the exact same thing the original 13 Colonies had done almost a hundred years earlier, and the North was doing the exact same thing the English had done. The only difference was that in the latter war, the captors won and Freedom, Independence, was lost.

History is written by the victors, and so are cultural bindings such as the Pledge of Allegiance; thus we have the phrase. But I'm standing on the founding principles of the United States of America. Thus I recite:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
We're still one nation; that's how I prefer it. But the nation is legally not "indivisible".

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Be One

All Paul is saying is to meet each others' needs. He's not saying no one can ever say "no", or even that your husband has control of your body. He's saying that your body is his, and his is yours, and that you are "one". The Hebrew word behind this concept is "echad"; it's the same word used in the Shema, which observant Jews recite every day: "Hear, Oh Israel! YHWH is God; YHWH is one!" (although they substitute "Lord", Adonai, for the actual God-given textual rendering of YHWH). The first time this word is used, it is used to join the evening and the morning into a complete whole, Day Echad. The next time it is used, it is used to join a man and a woman into an Echad flesh. Yahshua declared himself and YHWH to be Echad.

The ideal is that a husband and wife are Echad, One, and that what pleases one should please the other. If you don't have that with your husband, sex ain't gonna fix it, and the lack of sex ain't gonna hurt it.
Notes in a private message concerning 1 Corinthians 7.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Confess Your Sins One to Another

James 5:16 says:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
Two things:

1) It does not say, "Confess your sins to the whole church", although I believe that when the sin is public, the confession should be public. Rather it says confess your sins "to one another"; perhaps the implication is that we should have one-on-one relationships in which we feel comfortable opening up to each other totally; you can't do that with a large group; you can do that with one, maybe two or three, intimate friends. I think there may be an important psychologically-healthy injunction here.

2) It does not say, "Confess that you have sinned" to one another. Rather, it says, "Confess your sins". It seems to me that we are short-circuiting the Biblical healing process when we go before the church and say, "I've sinned, please pray for me", when what we should say is, "I've sinned by X, please pray for me".

For example, let's say I cussed out the check-out girl at the store as I bought condoms in preparation for a night with a prostitute. The next Sunday morning I go forward and confess, "I've sinned, please pray for me". Should the church assume I'm repenting of abusing the check-out girl, or for fornicating, or both, or neither? For the forgiveness of which sin(s) should the church pray?

Maybe I'm wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Context Behind 1 Corinthians 16:1-2

Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the time of Claudius. So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. This they did, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 11:28-30
When James, Cephas, and John, recognized as pillars, acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, [agreeing] that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. [They asked] only that we would remember the poor, which I made every effort to do.
Gal 2:9-10
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. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you recommend by letter to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem. If it is also suitable for me to go, they will travel with me.
1 Cor 16:1-4
... the churches of Macedonia ... on their own ... begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints....

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 as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have. For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 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. As it has been written:

The person who gathered much did not have too much,

and the person who gathered little did not have too little.

Thanks be to God who put the same diligence for you into the heart of Titus. For he accepted our urging and, being very diligent, went out to you by his own choice. With him we have sent the brother who is praised throughout the churches for his gospel ministry. And not only that, but he was also appointed by the churches to accompany us with this gift that is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself and to show our eagerness [to help]. We are taking this precaution so no one can find fault with us concerning this large sum administered by us.
2 Cor 8
Now, however, I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
Rom 15:25-26

Sunday, August 23, 2009

God Has Gifted E With Wisdom

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Changing Text of the Bible

It's been a staple of the hermeneutics with which I grew up that the Bible does not change over time. However, in recent weeks, I've come to question that doctrine.

Think about the prophecy of the Virgin Birth. In Isaiah 7, the enemies of Israel have plotted against her, but God prophesies that by the time Isaiah gets married and has a kid and the kid is a few years old, the enemies will have been destroyed. Here's the text of verses 14-16:
Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.
For hundreds of years, readers of the Bible understood this to be a prophecy which was fulfilled in Isaiah's son.

But then, Yahshua (Jesus) was born of the virgin, Mary (Luke 2:26ff):
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
and suddenly this prophecy took on a new meaning, as explained by Matthew in Matt 1:20-25:
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son ....
As far as humans were concerned, the meaning of the text changed: for hundreds of years it only referred to Isaiah's wife and son; now, it also refers to Mary and Yahshua.

This idea of "dual fulfillment" of prophecy is well-accepted by many Bible scholars, but what seems amazing to me about it is that it sometimes means that the text has changed its meaning, when viewed from a human standpoint. It might be argued that God had always intended both meanings, but from a human viewpoint, the text changed meaning after the second fulfillment gave it the new meaning.

This is not the only example we have of the Scriptures not having a fixed meaning. In Zechariah 11, Zechariah is paid low wages of 30 pieces of silver, and God tells him to "throw it to the potter". I doubt very seriously that anyone reading that passage took any other meaning from that passage until Judas threw away his payment of 30 silver pieces for betraying Yahshua (Matt 27:3-10).

These are inspired examples of the meaning of a text not being fixed. But the process still goes on within the church, perhaps by the Holy Spirit's leading. For example, Isaiah 62:2 prophesies that the nation of Israel will inherit a new name. The immediate fulfillment, and probably the only meaning taken from this passage for hundreds of years, is that God was using a poetic means to tell the nation that it would no longer be called "Deserted" or "Desolate", but rather "I delight in Her" and "Married" (62:4). But thousands of years later, the church often points to this promise of a "new name", and sees Acts 11:26 as the fulfillment of that promise, in which "the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch". To these Christians, the meaning of Isaiah 62:2 has changed from the black-and-white meaning given in 62:4, to that given in Acts 11:26.

The conclusion is that the meaning of the Scripture to humans has not remained fixed: it has changed, and in at least some cases (two of the above three examples), by inspiration.

What does this mean? I don't know. I just find it interesting.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Divisive Issues

A writer on an email list recently wrote the following, which makes me go "Hmm-mm."


Practices found within the Church of Christ/Sign Out Front sects leading to sectarianism, division and strife.

Instrumental music
Women publicly involved in the assembly.
Rhythmic clapping during songs.
Lifting holy hands
Applause to show approval
Wine in lieu of welch's grape juice
Kitchens in the "church" building
Acceptance of the divorced.
Praise teams
Full time pulpit preachers
Unqualified elders
Unqualified deacons
Unqualified teachers
Sunday School
Number of cups
What age women cease to teach children.
Singing during the Lord's Supper.
The Holy Spirit/the written word/the Spirit being active
Yard sales at the building
Paid staff
Paid song leader
Meeting in homes w/o elder present.
Meeting in "church buildings VS Home assembies
Job description for pulpit preacher
Use of the church's building
Weddings in building with instruments
How to care for orphans
"Sound" teachings
Sound systems ;)
Shaped notes VS no notes
Marriage divorce and remarriage
Lord's supper before sermon.
Color of the song leader
Interracial marriage
Bus ministry
Gospel meetings
Guest speakers
Stained glass windows
Children's church
Sunday school literature.
Bible translations
Suit and ties
Women wearing pants
Bossy wives of elders
Color of the carpet
Tract rack material
Paint trim color of the building
Appropriate song selection
Dimming lights during Lord's supper
Vacation Bible School
Church owned vehicles
Picture directories
Lawn maintenance
Cross on top of Lord's supper trays

I listed some that I have experienced or read about that has caused strife and a divisive spirit resulting in many cases of followers leaving in anger.

Now why can't we understand that Paul told us to be of ONE MIND and taught "Unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace"?

No wonder we have problems when we "focus on problems" instead of focusing on unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Profound Realizations

It's sad when you know there's something profound on the edge of your brain but you just can't quite access it, and therefore have no clue what it is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eve the Complement

From OneInJesus:
Obviously, God’s calling Eve ‘ezer does not mean that Eve is subordinate to Adam or that women are subordinate to men.
Perhaps our difficulty in interpreting ‘ezer can be better seen by noticing how we use “helper” in English. We speak of “mother’s little helper,” a “plumber’s helper,” being a “good helper.” In current English, “helper” carries the connotation of a subordinate — even a child.
Thus, if I were drowning, I’d call out, “Help!” But I wouldn’t refer to the person who rescued me as my “helper.” My rescuer truly helped me, but calling him “helper” would be too condescending — even belittling.

But these thoughts are utterly foreign to the Hebrew ‘ezer. There is no condescension in the Hebrew word at all, so that “helper” (or “help meet,” as in the King James Version) is truly a clumsy translation. In other verses, ‘ezer is used in the sense of “rescuer” or “liberator.” The word is also used in the sense of “one who fights alongside against a common foe.” “Comrade” or “ally” would come close to the sense in many contexts. Thus, the psalmist sings that God is Israel’s help, not a mere helper — but an ally so powerful that Israel must prevail.

When the United States’ armed forces came to the rescue of Kuwait, we were there to help, but we were not helpers — the U.S. military was an ally, a comrade, and an overwhelming superior to any military capability that Kuwait could have mustered. This is the sense ‘ezer used with respect to God and His relationship to His people.
“Complement” is therefore a proper if not excellent translation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doing What Seems Right in Your Own Eyes

Many raised in the church have developed an automatic, Pavlovian response to variants of the phrase:
Every man did what seemed right in his own eyes.
Our automatic response is to associate this concept with evil. And this view is not necessarily inaccurate, but then again, it's not entirely accurate either.

The phrase, or something like it, is found in several places within the Bible, and it means different things in different contexts.

For example, in Deuteronomy 12:8 (HCSB), we read:
You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone [is doing] whatever seems right in his own eyes.
The context here is that Moses is giving instructions to the Israelites as to how they are to worship YHWH. Currently, everyone is doing their own thing, but he makes it clear that as of that point in time, there are certain prescribed rituals and ways of doing things when Israel worships God.

Proverbs 12:15 (HCSB) says:
A fool's way is right in his own eyes,
but whoever listens to counsel is wise.
Here, the Pavlovian response is justified. The meaning is clear that it is foolish to trust one's own understandings and wants when making choices.

This same warning is echoed in Proverbs 16:2 (HCSB), which says:
All a man's ways seem right in his own eyes,
but YHWH weighs the motives.
Although the warning is echoed here, there's also another message you can see if you read between the lines: People act according to their inner beliefs. In other words, "I wouldn't act this way if I didn't believe it's right for me to do so". (Granted, people often act in opposition to what they believe to be right, but at their very core, they believe what they're doing is "right for them".)

Perhaps the most recognized variant of this phrase comes from Judges 17:6 (ESV):
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
But this is also the passage that is probably most taken out of context.

This passage is not saying that the people then were living wild and having orgies and stealing from their neighbors and killing strangers for fun, and should not be so applied.

Instead, this passage is giving us the ideal form of human government: control of one's self according to a Godly mindset.

Now, I don't know that the people were fulfilling this ideal; I suspect, humans being the selfish creatures we are, that those people were not living according to a completely-given-over-to-God mindset. But that's the ideal.

Notice that the contrast in this passage is not between ungodly and Godly living: it's between a monarchical governmental system vs an individual-oriented system.

Imagine that in a perfect world everyone was Godly, and lived by the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. In such a world, there would be no need for a sheriff, or a Congress, or a standing army, or a President, or a King, or any other of the trappings of "government". The ultimate, and only real, purpose of government is to make sure one person does not mistreat others. From the establishment of property boundaries, to the control of traffic lights, to the oversight of the radio spectrum, the proper role of government is simply to make sure that I don't fudge land from you by moving property markers, to make sure that I don't kill your family by running a red light, to make sure that I don't broadcast my radio station and silence yours with a jamming signal.

This sort of self-rule is easier in a smaller population, but if everyone were to adopt a God-mindset, it would work in any size population.

This is the ideal Kingdom of God. When all the citizens of the Kingdom fully submit to God, then we'll have no more need of man-made governments: we will need no king in Israel, for we will all do what is right in our own God-focused eyes.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gravity: It Ain't What It Used to Be

Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, believed for centuries to be unassailable, has already had to undergo a couple of major modifications. Now, due to observations in the past decade, it looks like there's a paradigm shift taking place among cosmologists concerning gravity.

As the article at Crev.Info puts it in a quote from the primary source:
“Maybe Newton was indeed wrong”, declares Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa of Bonn University’s Argelander-Institut für Astronomie (AIfA). “Although his theory does, in fact, describe the everyday effects of gravity on Earth, things we can see and measure, it is conceivable that we have completely failed to comprehend the actual physics underlying the force of gravity”....
Or one must assume that some basic fundamental principles of physics have hitherto been incorrectly understood. “The only solution would be to reject Newton’s classical theory of gravitation”, says Pavel Kroupa.
This would wreak havoc on current cosmological models and concepts such as dark matter, dark energy, and the Big Bang theory.

What's amazing is that the High Priests of Science have been telling us for years that they have all the answers, and that some "facts of science" are beyond question. Kind of puts a big question mark on other "scientific claims", such as the claim that “evolution is a fact, like gravity,” doesn't it?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Inherited Sin

On the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Group, George K. Howsepian wrote:
George: Was Adam born totally corrupt? Was Jesus?
It might be pointed out that Adam was not born. Nor was he created with corruption within him. That corruption, as I understand things, came as a result of his disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit.

Concerning Jesus, it's well to remember that he only inherited the human cell and his mother's half of his genetic material; the father's half (presumably) came directly from God.

My own personal thoughts is that the term "sin" is used in two ways in the Bible (but only directly "defined" in one of those ways, as "lawlessness - 1 John 3:4):

1) Breaking the law: an action or inaction causing guilt. This is the definition we've all grown up with. It's a "missing of the mark" in that we haven't met the specified requirements.

2) A flaw: an imperfection. We typically do not consider this as "sin", yet, it too is a "missing of the mark", a sub-par manifestation of the designed Ideal. Paul uses the term this way in Romans 7, when he talks about sin dwelling in him, in the very members of his body.

The first type of sin is not inheritable. Each person shall bear his own guilt, and shall not inherit the guilt of his ancestors.

The second type of sin is inheritable, and we've all inherited this sin from Adam. Thus, even babies who are innocent of the first type of sin, sometimes die, because they are subject to the second type of sin.

Jesus, however, did not inherit whatever part of the cellular machinery the rest of us humans inherit from our human fathers. My guess is that this has significance in relation to the inheritance of the second type of sin. My guess is that Jesus did not inherit the second type of sin, and I know he did not commit the first type of sin. Jesus was sinless.

The rest of us humans, however, are not sinless. We are sinless in the first sense at birth, but not in the second sense.

Thus, to claim that we are "totally depraved" is to go beyond the evidence, I believe. We are not totally depraved; yet we are flawed, and that flaw eventually leads to depravity for those of us who reach the "age of accountability".

I would hesitate even to define this second sense of sin as "sin", except that it seems to me to best fit the context of Romans 7 and Romans 3:23.

Skins for Adam and Eve

On the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo! Group, billysh226 wrote:
In the first place Adam wasn't born,he was created.Adam became corrupt when he died spiritually by his disobedience. That's why God made the first blood sacrafice and clothed them with animal skins{Gen.3:21} [errors in original].
Whereas I certainly do not dispute this claim that God killed [an] animal[s] and clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins, for that seems to me to make the best sense of the passage, it's good to realize that's not what the text says.

The text does not mention the killing of animals at all. Nor does it say that the skins came from animals.

If I had to offer any other hypothesis than the one billysh226 makes above, and which most of us have believed all our lives, I would suggest that perhaps before the Fall, Adam and Eve were dressed in light, much like Jesus and Elijah and Moses were dressed in light on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Being so clothed, they were not ashamed.

However, when they sinned, their light went out, and they were ashamed of what they had become. In this hypothesis, they were not ashamed because they now associated nudity with sin; they were ashamed because they no longer fully bore the image of God, Who is Light.

It would be kind of like you as a teenager being told by Mom and Dad to not get a tattoo, and then getting drunk one night and coming home covered in tattoos. You could not hide the evidence that you had broken your parents' trust. (Not a great analogy, I know, but it's the first thought that comes to mind.)

Adam and Eve could not hide the evidence that they had broken God's one rule, and now things had changed drastically, just as He had warned them they would. If it was merely a matter of becoming aware of their nudity, they might have tried to bluff their way through by pretending all was the same as before, which would have been possible if their external appearance had not changed.

But they couldn't bluff their way if their external appearance had changed. But perhaps they could cover themselves with leaves and such, and hide the fact that underneath the leaves their lights had dimmed.

God then prepared human skin to wrap around our bodies, to fulfill the job that the light formerly did.

There are flaws with this hypothesis, and so I really don't fully subscribe to it. But I do find the idea interesting. Perhaps the glow of an expectant mother is a very dim remnant of that original light. Perhaps the encouragement to be light-bearers, etc, are based on cultural reminders of once being dressed in light. Perhaps the angels of light are more reminiscent of what we looked like originally, and what we'll be like in the resurrection. Perhaps Moses' face glowed after meeting with God as a result of his cellular matrix being slightly recharged with the natural state of our bodies.

But regardless of whether this idea has merit, or some other idea might have merit, the main point I started off with, and with which I want to finish, is that the actual text says nothing about the death of an animal, or of the skins provided to Adam and Eve being from animals. That's a meaning that we've inserted into the text rather than taking out of the text.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Crashing Into God

I saw the movie "Crash" tonight. I have to say, I was more impressed than I expected. As I watched the film, two thoughts came to the forefront of my consciousness:

1) Love your neighbor. The movie dealt with relationships (and yet, it wasn't really a chic-flick; imagine that!), and whether taking a gun in hand to avenge a wrong, or reacting in anger at a scared, hurting person who rages at you unjustly, or simply being in your own little shell oblivious of real people around you, the answer to the sickness of these types of relationships was the foundational proclamation by Yahshua, who said that the two most important life-rules for living are to love YHWH with all your being, and to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If we all made this second rule of loving others (i.e. "the Golden Rule" - "Do unto others as you would have them do to you") the starting base of our lives, and constantly strove to live our lives by this rule, our lives and our world would be healthier than they are.

2) Do the right thing. The movie also had some subplots in which certain right/wrong decisions had to be made: "Do I frame the innocent guy to 'pay' for the guilt of my family member, or do I do the right thing?" The answer should always be, "Do the right thing, even if it costs you dearly."

A third thought came to mind later: You may not be who you think you are. In the movie, one person who was the bad guy turned out to be the good guy, and one who was the good guy turned out to be the bad guy. (Actually, this happened with several characters.) And the solution to this problem is to refer to Thought #2 above - "Do the right thing, even if it costs you dearly."

A friend pointed out a fourth thought, which I deem important: Don't judge people without knowing them. You've heard it since Grade School in the phrase, "Don't judge a book by its cover".

The evening was capped by a message from God as I did my nightly Bible reading. In Luke 12, Yahshua condemned hypocrisy. In the same breath he pointed out that, "[t]here is nothing covered that won't be uncovered, nothing hidden that won't be made known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops' (Luke 12:2-3). In other words, if you're sneaking around with your best friend's husband, or you're hiding your stash of porn mags, or you're secretly drinking or doing drugs, or you're slyly stealing from the cash register, you may think you're doing these things in the dark, but you're not. One day, in a grand courtroom, the bailiff will stand before all your friends and family and spouse and kids and enemies and announce to the world that you did X, Y, and Z in private. You may think you're hiding it, but you're not. I think it would be best if we learned to live our lives in such a way that we won't be ashamed of our private lives when we're in the Defendant's Seat. Don't be a hypocrite: be in private the person you pretend to be in public.

Luke 12 also has some other good nuggets:

* God knows every detail about you, even the number of hairs on your head. You may think He's not paying attention, that He's ignoring you (after all, He hasn't answered your prayer, has He?), but He's not. He knows everything about you (including those things you do in private, which are being recorded for announcing to the public later) (Luke 12:7).

* Store up treasure for God, not for yourself. Don't spend your resources on yourself. (Luke 12:16-21)

* Don't focus on supporting your lifestyle: instead, "Seek His Kingdom .... Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:31,33).

* The sinner who knows better will be punished more severely than the sinner who is merely ignorant (Luke 12:47-48).

This evening has been educational, and encourages me to take these lessons to heart.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let's Go Fishin'

A friend showed me a Bible study in which he's currently involved, and I noticed the phrase "fisher of men". This is found in Mark 1:14-17:
14Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." 16As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
We, not knowing our Tanakh's ("Old Testaments") very well, think that this turn of phrase was a merely a pun played by Jesus as he called these two fishermen to be his disciples.

But those fishermen were very familiar with their Tanakh, and recognized both the pun and the reference Jesus was making.

Hundreds of years earlier, Jeremiah (chapter 16) had prophesied that because the Israelites were not true to YHWH, YHWH would hurl them away from their own country and into another place, and take away their joy and rejoicing and replace it with famine and war and death and disease. But then Jeremiah continues on to say that after a period of punishment, YHWH will gather the scattered back to their home. And in this context he says:
16"Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen," declares YHWH, "and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks.
Jesus, as he passes by the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, is essentially telling them, "It's time to bring Israel back to God; you men are going to be the fishermen who do so."

Jesus may also be making a reference to a prophecy in Amos 4:
1Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, "Bring now, that we may drink!"
2The Lord YHWH has sworn by His holiness,
"Behold, the days are coming upon you
When they will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks.
Mark, in his rendition of the story of Jesus, seems to tie this phrase with the imprisonment of John. John had been oppressed and crushed by the elite in Judea who sit around and sip champagne; Jesus is calling these lowly fishers to be the men who use fish hooks to drag such oppressors away.

(Thanks to Brent for the inspiration for this entry.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life is About People

I was at the bathroom sink the other day, washing my hands, when a forceful sense of thought came into my head:
Life is about people.
And I realized that really, life is not about doing your job, whatever it is; it's not about making art, or music, or finding a cure for cancer, or running a farm and producing food for millions, or repairing cars, or writing blogs.

It's about people.

And I realized that two years ago, I pretty much just wanted to be self-contained, and/or with a few close friends/family maybe. Over the past two years, I've realized that's a selfish position, and I've tried to be a bit more outgoing and aware of other people. I'm not at all good at it; don't really like it; but I'm trying to be more people-oriented.

Then this "revelation" the other day just hit me that this is the important thing.

It's an echo of what Yahshua said when he was asked what was the most important commandment in life. He answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. - Luke 10.27
John also hits this point, saying:
For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. - 1 John 4.20
And the New Testament is full of admonitions to think about the other person, to do good for others, to be focused on the needs of others.

Others others others.

As mentioned, I'm not good at this. I don't really like people as a rule. But I'm learning that I need to change my ways, and become people-oriented. I'm not really changing my life yet, but if I can get my mind to change (which is what the word "repent" means), then my life will align with my thinking.

Life is about people. It's not about me.

Wow. Hard lessons.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dancing with a Mop

So a friend texted me the other day; he had just bought a new sponge-mop, and while using it for the first time, the head came loose.

I texted back the following:
Oh, you probably got the dance-teaching mop instead of the floor-cleaning mop. As you gyrate around the kitchen trying to catch the mophead you're learning to do the Spongemop Square-Dance.
I'm pretty proud of my wit at the moment ... :-)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Franchise Agreement

But word got out. Word always gets out. A retired elder grabbed me in the hall. He said he’d heard about our discussion. He had a look of sheer panic on his face.

“You know you can’t do that,” he said with the greatest of urgency.

“You mean politically? There’s nothing in the Bible on it, of course, and the church will support the decision, I’m sure,” I replied — naively as it now seems looking back on this fateful conversation.

“No, no,” he shook his head. “You forgot about the franchise agreement! How could you forget about the franchise??”

I assured him that I had no idea what he was talking about, and I thought sure he’d lost his mind. He was, after all, quite elderly.

It must have shown on my face, because he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m not crazy!” He looked deeply embarassed. “When I retired, I guess I forgot to give a copy to the next guy. You see, in churches of Christ, the senior elder always keeps a copy of the secret franchise agreement. It has all the rules that you think ought to be in the Bible but aren’t.”

A few days later he drove to my house and handed me an ancient, dusty document, plainly labeled “Franchise Agreement.” And as old as it was, the lettering remained very clear.

The retired elder leaned close and whispered in my ear. “Now it will all make sense. All the gaps, and silences, and peculiarities — now you’ll understand.”

If you grew up in the Church of Christ, I suggest you go read The Franchise Agreement. Then it'll all make sense.

A Look at the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 11

Norman, on the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Group, says (typos and grammar-o's are his):

Then, how can we duplicate it EXACTLY? (It is clear what was going on in Acts 2 and 20?) Certainly the LS [Lord's Supper] was involved. (At least, they claimed to be meeting for the LS) But also an abuse that involved "factions" (Yes, we learn later there was partially) v 19; some eating before others arrived, (they did not understand the LS) v 21, some even getting drunk, (On an 8 ounce bottle of Welch's grape juice? Why would they have gallons of alcoholic beverage if they only came for a 5-part worship to take the LS as we take it today?) v21. Whether this involved another meal or not and whether, if it did involve another meal, it was a Love Feast, is simply untold. (It was NOT the LS only.) In this discussion, it is not important, because the discussion is whether I MUST do exactly as they did and why or why not? My point is that we must know exactly what they did and we agree that we do not know. Therefore, we need to look at other scriptures to determent if they are facts or traditions. Acts 2: 42, 46 and Acts 20:7. The scripture is not followed in these verses (when we come together to worship), traditional beliefs dictates what we teach as scripture.


It may appear that it was the LS supper turned into a meal; however, we cannot know for sure, can we? Isn't it true that we do not know EXACTLY how and why they met? If you will look at Paul's explanation of the proper method to take the LS; you see that his illustration was with a meal and AFTER the meal the LS was taken.
(1 Cor 11:25-26 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
To say is was the LS being tuned into a common meal come from outside sources, not scripture. Paul established this church and had already taught them how to take the Lord's Supper. He spent 1 1/2 years with them , and a good while . He had taken the Lord's Supper with them many times; probably about 150 times if they took it every Sunday and only on Sunday as you claim. He showed them how to take it. I am quite sure he did not show them how to remain silent while trays were past with a piece of cracker in one tray and follower by another tray with tiny cup of Welch's grape juice for 150 times and they decided later to have a common meal with alcoholic beverages and call it the LS. They didn't understand or they had forgotten the importance of it.

If you will remember Paul said one remains hungry, or do you despise the church of God and HUMILATE those who have NOTHING (to eat)? Their intentions were to have a love feast and feed the poor. Paul did not condemn them for eating a common meal with the LS. He only said if you can't wait until the poor Christians get there eat at home. The only problem was they were despising the church of God and humiliating those who had nothing?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is the Church of Christ a Denomination?

(The following was written to a "Church of Christ" mailing list, from a typical "Church of Christ" mentality.)


To me, a "denomination" is a part of the whole. Full stop. It doesn't have to recognize itself as such. Nor does it have to be organized above the congregational level and have a statement of faith. These things are often true of denominations.

Using this simple definition, let me show you how I've concluded that the Church of Christ (big "C", Sign-Out-Front) is a denomination.

Imagine a young man in the dark jungles of interior Africa. He's never seen a white man, has no idea of modern civilization, has never heard a radio or seen a TV.

All his life, every Thursday evening, the tribe gathers around for a worship meal. They sacrifice a small animal, and roast it, and each community member eats a small piece of it in a ritual. They interpret this ritual as a means of gaining the characteristics of the animal (if it was a rabbit, they gain speed and agility; if a wolf, strength and cooperation; if a snake, ghost-like movements; etc). They also place a drop of blood from the animal into a common water container, and then all drink a small sip from the water. In this manner, they become one with the spirits of the world. After the meeting, they sing and dance around the fire, in honor of all the gods of the earth, and especially in honor of the Great God above all the other gods.

One day, this young man is out hunting, and he comes across the dead body of a white missionary. He's never seen a white man, but he remembers stories from his youth of God-men coming to Earth as messengers, to deliver knowledge to humans. He recalls that in the stories, these God-men had bodies that glowed white with light. He concludes this dead missionary must be one such messenger. Searching the body reverently, he finds a small book, amazingly enough, written in the language of a neighboring tribe, which this young man understands. He takes the book, and begins to read.

From the book, he learns that the Great God created all of the heaven and earth, and all the animals, and even the first ancestral humans from whom all humanity is descended. He learns other history, and even recognizes the story of Noah and the Ark as being very similar to the story of his own people, and realizes that the stories refer to the same event, only his story must have become corrupt over the generations (after all, it would be presumed that the "God-Man" would have the correct version of the story as part of his message to humans).

He continues reading, and realizes that much of his beliefs, while floundering near and about the one true God, missed it in so very many ways.

He learns that God sent a very special God-Man to Earth, one that was in essence the Great God Himself, in human form. The young man doesn't understand all the nitty-gritty details, but he does comprehend a basic understanding that this Jesus is the Son of the Great God, and that like the animals they sacrifice every Thursday evening, Jesus was sacrificed, but his sacrifice does so much more, in that it opens a renewed relationship between humans and the Great God.

Further study reveals that if the young man accepts this fact, and believes and confesses to it, and changes his mind to start worshiping the Great God and his Son as found in this book, rather than worshiping according to his life-long understandings, and if he's immersed in water for a cleansing and a renewal, he will emerge from the water as a new person, saved before the Great God of the book.

He does so.

My question: Is this young man now a Christian?

I'm going to assume you'll say "yes", even though this young man still has a very incomplete understanding of the ways of Christianity.

Now, come Thursday evening, this young man joins his community for worship, but now, instead of worshiping the gods of the Earth, all his activities are oriented toward giving worth to the Great God of the book, and His son, the God-Man Jesus. The young man still participates in the sacrifice, and the eating of the roasted meat, and the drinking of the blood-tainted water, and the dancing and singing around the fire, but he does so giving worth to the real God, not toward the gods he formerly worshiped.

My next question: Is this young man still a Christian?

Yes, he's worshiping incorrectly, out of ignorance; that's plain. But does that "un-make" him a Christian?

It seems to me that he's a Christian, a member of the church of Christ, the church we read about in the New Testament. He doesn't LOOK to us like a member of the church of Christ, but if I understand the conversion process, he is indeed a member of the same church of which I attend every Sunday and Wednesday. Hopefully, as he continues studying, he'll learn more and more of the Biblical way of worshiping.

Now, one last question: What if instead of being in the dark jungles of Africa, this young man was raised in the Baptist church? At some point in his young adult years, he decides to read the Bible, realizes that what he's been taught all his life is not Biblical, decides to be immersed in water to have his sins washed away and to become a Christian, and asks his Pastor do immerse him. The pastor says he'll immerse him, but not for the forgiveness of sins; the young man replies, "Just immerse me; your reasons don't matter; mine do." So the young man is immersed. Is he now a Christian, a member of the church of Christ? If so, if in his ignorance he still attends the Baptist assembly the next Sunday morning, and still worships in form as the Baptists do, does that "un-make" him as a Christian?

Now perhaps you haven't come with me to the same conclusions I have drawn, but if you have, then it must be asked, "Is it possible, at least theoretically, for a Christian to be 'hidden' in some non-Church of Christ denomination?" If so, then the "church of Christ" is larger than the "Church of Christ"; thus, the "Church of Christ" is a part of the whole, thereby making it, by definition, a denomination.

All Christians everywhere, in the dark jungles of Africa, or in the confused trappings of a Baptist assembly, are members of the church of Christ, even if they are not members of the "Church of Christ".

Of course, you may put more requirements on becoming a Christian than I have laid out here. Perhaps you insist that a true convert have proper understanding that he can't wear any non-Biblical name (such as "Episcopalian" or "Methodist"), or that he have a proper understanding of acceptable worship forms (no women speaking in church; the "Five Acts", etc), or that he have a proper understanding of church organization (multiple pastors, multiple deacons, congregational autonomy, etc). If that's the case, then you essentially require a person to convert to a system rather than to a person.

Maybe I've just wasted a bunch of bandwidth with these what-if scenarios, but hopefully they help demonstrate how it is that although I believe the Biblical church of Christ, as found in the New Testament, is not a denomination, the group we generally consider as the "Church of Christ" is, at least theoretically.

If there are any Christians hidden in denominations, we need to call them out, to be "just Christians"; not "Baptist Christians" or "Assembly of God Christians" or even "Church of Christ Christians". We need to drop the descriptive and divisive names; christians who meet in a building with a Church of Christ sign-out-front should alternate their signs every week with other Biblical descriptions; there's nothing wrong with the term "church of Christ" when it's on an equal level with other equally Biblical terms for the church, but when it becomes the "official" term by which our group is distinguished, we have, in
essence, become a denomination.

Lots of words; probably very little value; my apologies for being so long-winded. Hopefully it'll convey the meaning I intended.