Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Christmas?

In my church culture growing up (and even recently in a Wednesday evening sermonette), it has been stressed that Christmas is not to be celebrated by Christians as a Holy Day, as it's not Biblically authorized, coming instead from a mingling of pagan celebrations and Catholic traditions.

Okay, if you don't want to celebrate Christmas in honor of Jesus' birth, I have no problem with that. Romans 14 makes it clear that people are going to come to different conclusions about such matters:
HCSB Rom 14:5 One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 Whoever observes the day, observes it to the Lord. Whoever eats, eats to the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is to the Lord that he does not eat, yet he thanks God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Paul continues that we should not offend one another in these issues, and that we are to get along, not looking down on one another over "doubtful issues" (v.1), saying that each of God's servants stands or falls before the Lord, not before us criticizers (v. 4), and that "stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand" (v. 4).

He finishes up this chapter with:
21 It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.
This last line is often paired with Romans 10:17 ("faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God") to conclude that anything we do in a religious sense must be authorized by the written Word of God, but I believe that's mixing two different "faith" definitions. The Romans 10:17 faith is a faith that brings us into a saved relationship with Jesus; the Romans 14:23 faith is a confidence that we are not condemning ourselves by what we approve (v. 22), specifically in the realm of disputable matters such as eating of certain meets or observing certain holidays, etc, which Paul plainly states is okay either way so long as it's done in honor of the Lord.

Now, one final point:
HCSB Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger."
The written word of God said that the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people. Then these angels broke out in joyous praise, followed by a party-attitude of the shepherds, the old man Simeon, and the old woman Anna. Should we not also be allowed to have a party-attitude about the birth of Jesus?

If so, when? Every day? Once a month? Once a year? Twice in a lifetime? How often, and when, does the Scripture tell us to celebrate the birth of Jesus?

It doesn't.

But it does tell us that his birth is worth celebrating, for all the people, not just for those immediately involved. It seems to me that the frequency and timing has been left up to us.

But if you don't want to, that's between you and God, as Romans 14 says. On the other hand, if you do want to, that's between you and God, as Romans 14 says.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

1 Corinthians 16:1-2

HCSB 1 Corinthians 16:1 Now about the collection for the saints: you should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. 2 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.

What the Bible Says

What We Claim

Addressed to the churches of Galatia and Corinth (v. 1) (and presumably Macedonia - 2 Cor 8:1)

Addressed to all churches

Not a command (2 Cor 8:8)

A command

For the specific purpose of financially helping the saints who were in poverty (v. 1; 2 Cor 8:14)

Mostly used for institutional purposes rather than personal financial relief of the saints

Had a definite completion (2 Cor 8:10-11)


HCSB 2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia.... 3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, 4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints.... 6 So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun, so he should also complete this grace to you.... 8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love. ... 10 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. ... 11 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. ... 13 It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality — 14 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. ... 18 With [Titus] we have sent the brother [who] was also appointed by the churches to accompany us with this gift that is being administered by us, ... taking this precaution so no one can find fault with us concerning this large sum administered by us.

So what's the point? We should not be making the claim that "We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 to give every first day of the week...".

Use it as an example. Make inferences if you like. But don't claim that it's a command to us for an on-going practice of paying the church mortgage and staff salaries.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Role Reversal

At the end of Mark 1 we learn about a leper who met Jesus. Being a leper, he had to stay out of town, far away from people and civilization.

Jesus, going from town to town to teach and heal, meets this leper, and heals him, telling him to keep quiet about it.

Yet the former leper doesn't keep quiet; he goes and tells everyone, so that Jesus is no longer able to openly enter any town lest he be mobbed by the crowds. Instead, he has to stay out in the wilderness.

Before the healing, Jesus went all over, while the leper had to stay in the desert, away from the towns.

After the healing, their roles were reversed, the leper went all over, while Jesus had to stay in the desert, away from the towns.

Thanks to Daniel Egan (http://tinyurl.com/74k8lyj) for this insight.

Hershey's Chocolate Air Delight Kisses

Mmm, the TV advert makes them seem so wonderful; let me go spend my money to buy half the chocolate at the same price.

Oh, wait. Half the chocolate? For the same taste? And the same price? Am I being manipulated by marketing?

Well, if I were to buy this product, yes, yes I would be. But I'm not falling for it.

Marketers. Pfft.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Surprising Realizations

* The Bible does not say that Jesus fell while carrying the cross.

* Abraham's wife, Sarah, was protected from the sexual advances of Abimelech. Why aren't other women so protected? Perhaps because it was important that Sarah be the mate of only Abraham in order to be the mother of The Promise?

* The popular song says, "We bow down, and we crown you the king", but really, there is no scriptural indication of anyone but God ever crowning Jesus as king. Humanly-speaking, we can crown him king of our own lives, but it's not a scriptural phraseology.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Israel Couldn't Sing, So They Put Away Their Instruments

Wow! I've never noticed this before.
HCSB Psalm 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and wept
when we remembered Zion.

2 There we hung up our lyres
on the poplar trees,

3 for our captors there asked us for songs,
and our tormentors, for rejoicing:
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

4 How can we sing the LORD's song
on foreign soil?

I'm familiar with the idea that the synagogue assembly arose during the time of the Exile, with verse 2 above indicating that non-Temple singing became non-instrumental at this time. But when I read this for what it says, rather than for what I'm looking for, I see something I've never seen before.

The captors asked the Israelites to sing songs of Zion, but they were too broken-hearted to do so, so they put away their instruments.

Notice that they did not put away their instruments and then sing non-instrumentally. They put away their instruments because they couldn't sing. Had they been able to sing, they would not have put away their instruments.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wives, Submit to Your Husbands

HCSB Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord...
All my life this has been interpreted for me to mean that wives were to be submissive to their husbands. And that is true, in context.

Look at the previous verse:
21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
So we are all told to submit to one another, but then wives are singled out as needing to be submissive to their husbands. Why? Is it because women need more instruction than men in being submissive to one another?

Let's look at one more aspect of the context. This letter was written to the people in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus, as you'll recall from Acts 19 (and from extra-Biblical history), was the headquarters of the cult of Diana/Artemis. This was a matriarchal town, in which the women were the priests; the women were the government officials; the women wore the pants in the home. These women who were converting to Jesus had spent their entire lives believing that women were to be in charge.

Paul was telling these Ephesians to submit to one another, and emphasizing to the women that the Christian culture was different than that to which they were accustomed, and to stop lording it over the men.

This background may also have bearing on the instructions written to Timothy, who was the church leader in Ephesus at the time (1 Tim 1:3):
HCSB 1 Tim 2:11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Humming As Communication

It's been said that humming does not communicate, as does actual speech.

I disagree. It may usually communicate nothing, but if I hum the tune to "Amazing Grace" (or the theme from "The Flinstones"), that will put ideas and images and even words into your head.

Granted, that communication is dependent on a shared culture, and so does not communicate new information the way speech is able to do, but humming is not always or entirely void of communicative value.

Just an observation.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Citing Uninspired Text as Inspired

Reading through the Biblical book of Job, I had a thought.

Most of the book relates the back-and-forth arguments between four people. These arguments often contain tidbits that strike us as wise or true, and we might be tempted to quote these tidbits as God-inspired Truth. For example:

HCSB Job 18:18 He is driven from light to darkness and chased from the inhabited world. ...21 Indeed, such is the dwelling of the wicked, and this is the place of the one who does not know God.
But the gist of the whole book is that these men don't know what they're talking about; they're humans, grappling with the issue of evil in the world, trying to make sense of it. But in the end it's revealed that they simply don't have the answers.

So when we quote these passages as God-given Truth, we're making a mistake. We're quoting fallible humans who don't know what they're talking about, and calling it God's message. This is not God's message to us, but rather Man's guesswork.

We do the same thing with the healed man in John 9; we cite his statement that "God doesn't listen to sinners" (v. 31) as if this is a truth from God. It may indeed be true, but it's a message from a mere uninspired man; we should not quote it as an inspired message from God.

Likewise, even though we know the centurion at the cross spoke truth when he stated that Jesus really was the Son of God (Mark 15:39), we should not cite him as an inspired speaker of God's word.

Obvious examples could also be given, such as when the Assyrians came against Jerusalem and said that Israel's God could not save them from the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9-13). We know not to cite this passage as inspired Truth, for whereas we know it's true that the words were spoken, we also know the words that were spoken were not true.

The problem is that when we find something we want to be true, we're willing to cite it as God-inspired Truth, even if it, like the obvious non-truth above, is uttered by a non-inspired speaker.

Conclusion: Just because the text is recorded in the Bible by inspiration, that doesn't mean the text is inspired Truth, and we should not cite it as such.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Plan, or a Promise?

At http://tinyurl.com/7dc5zav I read an entry by Justin which I found thought-catching. (I've paraphrased/cleaned it a bit.)
What if (and it is a hypothetical WHAT IF)… there is NO plan, just "God with us" (that’s Biblical). What if we come upon situations and God says, "Make a choice; you and I will explore that path together." This is not talking about “right” and “wrong” actions, but rather about paths in our lives. For instance: Is there ONLY one person for me to marry that God has planned from the beginning, OR, is there more than one person that I may come upon in my life that I am more compatible with than others? Or, what career should I take in life? Perhaps that’s not all planned out either, but together with God we are supposed to make those tough choices, reassured that God is there with us THROUGH this journey. NOT saying I completely adhere to this theology (and as crazy as it sounds, this is real theology out there, not something I came up with), but it is a viable question to ask.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Self-Serve Health Care

I think we have enough technological know-how to pull it off. Why don't we have kiosks in emergency room waiting areas, in pharmacies, and in Wal-Marts, where we can get our own triage diagnostics on basic issues?

Imagine you're a 45-year old single man, laying in bed at 1am, and your chest is hurting. You've never had chest pains; they're not painful, just uncomfortable and worrisome. You don't immediately exhibit other symptoms of a heart-attack, like sweating, or tingling in the fingers, but the more you lay there wondering if you might be having a heart-attack, the more you talk yourself into sweating, and feeling tingling down your left arm.

Do you call an ambulance, and incur a $1200 bill for maybe nothing? Do you drive yourself to the E.R., wait in their lobby for 45 minutes, finally get checked in, wait another 4 hours while it seems no one is doing much to/for you, and then finally leave after being told you're fine, it's just a pinched nerve in your spine, and paying another $200 deductible on your insurance, followed by a miserable day at work from lack of sleep?

Or do you keep lying in bed, wondering, until you actually do have a heart attack and die?

We have technology. This is fixable.

The E.R. waiting room should have kiosks and monitoring equipment that has clear instructions for clamping on a sensor or three, that checks whatever needs to be checked to give basic indications of your health: blood pressure, heart rate, EKG readings, oxygen level in your blood, chemical indicators in a mouth-swab or even a finger-prick. There should be a safe "x-ray" machine for checking for bone breaks, for when your 13-year old kid falls and then complains about his arm hurting worse than ever before, but you think he's just being a drama-queen.

Yes, I realize this technology does not exist, at least cheaply and safely, Today. But it's just a technological issue. It can exist Tomorrow.

And that would improve the health of many, and save billions of dollars in medical costs. If the kiosk indicates a problem, then you check into the E.R. If not, you go home, having spent a few dollars on gas, and maybe $5 (to cover sensors, pin-prickers, etc) on the kiosk session. The $5 will prevent abuse of the system, but is low enough to allow all but the poorest to get immediate feedback on their health concerns.

I believe it can be done. I believe it could be done by private individuals who have cross-over knowledge in both medicine and electronics/chemical technologies, or by the medical industry itself, or as a last resort, by government, serving in its role of protecting the general welfare of the populace. I think it hasn't been done, mostly because of inertia. But what we have now, and have used for decades, is no longer working. It's time to put technology to work for us.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pan-Worship Out; Yeshua-Worship In

Matthew 16:18

... upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Yeshua had just taken his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, which was built on a massive rock, and which was the headquarters for the cult of Pan, the half-man, half-goat god. In the side of this rock was a cave from which issued the beginnings of the Jordan River, and which was incorporated into Pan-worship as the Gates of Hades, through which Pan descended into the depths of the earth every Winter and ascended every Spring. Before this cave, on a flat space of rock, was a temple to Pan, in which massive orgies (of every kind of sex, including homosexuality and with goats) were conducted in worship to this god of earth fertility, to assure good crops.

I suspect that Yeshua and his followers were standing on this rock foundation, his young disciples awed with confusion, interest, and guilt for being at such a place of sin, when Yeshua announced, that here, on this rock, he would build his regularly-assembled community, and the gates of Hades can't do a thing about it.

It would be like your youth minister taking the senior boys to the local strip club before regular business hours, standing on-stage, and announcing that here, on this stage, the assembly of Christ will meet, and there's nothing the forces of worldliness can do about it. Everyone would be shocked, and think the youth minister was corrupting the youth, as well as being out of his mind.

Interestingly, Christians often assemble at this site of former demon-worship now, following in the footsteps of their Messiah. Pan-worship has faded away; Christ's assembly is overpowering the forces of Death.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tear into the Word Like a Lion Eating His Prey!

onomatopoeia - a word that imitates the sound it makes, like "buzz", "boom", "meow", "oink", "roar".

A Hebrew onomatopoeia is "hagah". After a lion has taken down its prey, and is settling in to start supper, he might encourage himself to dig in with a hearty "hagaaaahhh", or to discourage a multitude of shepherds from even thinking about interfering with his lamb supper with a threatening "HAGAAAHHH!!!".

Now read Isaiah 31:4 -
WEB Isaiah 31:4 For thus says Yahweh to me,
“As the lion and the young lion growling [hagah-ing] over his prey,
if a multitude of shepherds is called together against him,
will not be dismayed at their voice,
nor abase himself for their noise,
so Yahweh of Armies will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its heights."
Okay, now you have the word picture. "Hagah" is representative of heartily tearing into a meal and viciously defending it from attackers.

Now read Psalm 1:1-2 -
WEB Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand on the path of sinners,
nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in Yahweh’s law.
On his law he meditates day and night.
That word "meditate"? Yep. It's "hagah". On his law he digs forcefully in.

And also Joshua 1:8 -
WEB Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
Once again, the word "meditate" is "hagah".

As a lion growling over his prey as the shepherds circle around, so we should dig into the law of YHWH.

This article is originally published at http://kentwest.blogspot.com/2011/09/tear-into-word-like-lion-eating-his.html

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fictional Heroes: Who I Am

It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out. Suddenly, a ship appeared on the horizon.
That's how his novel starts. I'm still waiting to see how Snoopy ties it all together in the second chapter. I've been waiting quite a while. Probably around 35 years or so. But I always knew that Snoopy was all about vivid imaginations, and that he one day would tie these disparate events together.

About the same time I was reading Peanut's booklets, I was also reading Archie comics. I remember the principal of Archie's high school teaching Archie that old cliché: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

Then there was the book series that had as its hero the guy with the ring that left a tattoo on his enemies' faces when he'd punch them; I can't remember his name, but I do remember that he could walk in a dark cave/tunnel, flipping on his light only for a second, memorizing what he saw, and then walk confidently in the dark for a good distance.

This guy was probably the lead-in for my later influence by Louis L'amour characters; be observant, travel by different routes to avoid patterns, do the Right Thing even when it costs, move silently when needed, don't waste bullets by missing your target; not that I'm good at any of these things.

Captain Kirk taught boldness, and risk-taking, and adventure.

Spock taught logic, and emotional control.

Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford taught the use of brains over brawn.

Col. Robert Hogan demonstrated coolness when trouble arises, and the ability to turn a bad situation, even being stuck in a WWII German POW camp, to your favor.

James West and Batman showed the importance of having the right tools, and of being prepared. Sometimes that tool is a well-trained horse or a derringer hidden in your boot heel; sometimes it's a Utility Belt or a car customized with safety nets and oil sprays.

Robert Petrie showed that a man should be a good and loving husband and father.

The Rifleman taught determination and bravery.

David Banner/the Hulk taught that we're different people in different situations, but that our basic character still shows through.

The Robinson family and the rest of the crew of the Jupiter 2 taught the necessity of keeping hopeful.

Dr. Richard Kimble amplified on that by teaching the principle of never giving in to hopelessness.

I'm sure there were lots of others.

I'm struck that so much of who I am came from television and books.

Then, there's Homer Simpson. D'oh!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are we commanded to always say "in Jesus' name" in all our prayers?

Although we're commanded to pray in Jesus' name, are we commanded to always say "in Jesus' name" in all our prayers?

  1. It is possible to do something in Jesus' name without uttering the phrase "in Jesus' name". We're told to do all things in Jesus' name (Col 3:17), not just pray. Yet when we sing, we don't start off each song (or end each one) with the phrase "in Jesus' name". When we assemble, we don't announce that "we're meeting today in Jesus' name". This is because the unstated assumption is that when we meet as Christians (or change an old lady's flat tire, or walk past the brothel instead of into it, or give back the extra change the cashier incorrectly gave to us, etc), we're doing so in Jesus' name. There is no reason to announce this fact each time we do something (although there's nothing wrong with announcing it). Adding the phrase to each prayer is a man-made tradition that has become a doctrine for some of us.

  2. Here are examples of New Testament prayers which do not include the phrase "in Jesus' name":

    • The Lord's Prayer : Matt 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4

    • Jesus' Prayer for Unity : John 17

    • Jesus' prayer on cross, asking forgiveness for his murderers : Lk 23:34

    • Jesus' prayer on cross, asking "why" : Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34

    • Jesus' prayer on cross, committing his spirit to God : Luke 23:46

    • The prayer of the justified sinner : Luke 18:13-14

    • Prayer for Judas' replacement : Acts 1:24

    • Prayer of thanksgiving for God's help against the authorities : Acts 4:24ff

    • Prayer for unity among the Romans : Rom 15:5-6

    • Prayer for joy & peace in the Romans : Rom 15:13

    • Paul's closing prayer for the Corinthians: 2 Cor 13:13

    • Paul's prayer for the Ephesians : Eph 3:14-21

    • Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians : 1 Thess 3:11-13

    • Another of Paul's prayers for the Thessalonians : 1 Thess 5:23-24

    • Another of Paul's prayers for the Thessalonians : 2 Thess 2:16-17

    • Another of Paul's prayers for the Thessalonians : 2 Thess 3:16

    • Peter's prayer for the people of the Dispersion : 1 Pet 5:10-11

    • John's prayer : Rev 1:5b-6

    • John's prayer to Jesus for him to come : Rev 22:20

    • John's prayer for the grace of Jesus to be with all the saints : Rev 22:21

  3. It is quite appropriate, however, to announce that what you're doing (or what God is doing) is being done through Jesus:

    • Romans 7: 24-25: "24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

    • Rom 16:25-27: "25 Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the sacred secret kept silent for long ages, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God, to advance the obedience of faith among all nations— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to Him be the glory forever! Amen."

    • 1 Cor 15:57: "57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

    • Heb 13:20-32: "20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

    • Jude 1:24-25: "24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen."

  4. CONCLUSION: It is entirely appropriate to announce that we are praying in Jesus' name, but it is not commanded to do so, and we have many New Testament prayers in which it is not done. Therefore, we are not to bind the practice, lest we be found to be teaching as doctrine a commandment of men rather than of God.

Levels of Reward/Punishment in the Afterlife?

Are There Various Levels of Punishment/Reward in the Afterlife?



The Parable of the 10 Minas – Luke 19:11ff. The workers are rewarded according to their performance.

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers – Matt 20:1-15 . Equal reward not dependent on performance.

Judgment to be more tolerable for Sodom, or for Tyre & Sidon, than for other cities (Luke 10:12ff).

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved – Acts 2:21

We will be repaid for what we've done in the body (Luke 14:14; Rom 2:6; 2 Cor 5:10).

In truth, I understand that God doesn't show favoritism.... - Acts 10:34 (In the context of God saving both Jew and Gentile.)

If your work survives the fire, you will be rewarded; if it does not survive the fire, you will still be saved, but as though escaping fire (1 Cor 3:12-15).

Equality is the goal, regardless of what one does or does not have (2 Cor 8:12-15). (In the context of Christians sharing worldly goods with one another.


There is a “prophet's reward”, and there is a “righteous person's reward” (Matt 10:41).

No one who believes on Him will be put to shame; there is no distinction between Jew & Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him; for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:11-13).

We each are rewarded according to what we have done (Matt 16:27; 1 Cor 3:8; Rev 22:12)

Some will be least in the kingdom of heaven; some will be greatest (Matt 5:19; 18:4).

We'll be measured by the measure we ourselves use (Mark 4:24).

Many will recline at the table in the kingdom of God, but some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last (Luke 13:29-30).

The One who evaluates me is the Lord, and praise will come to each one from God (1 Cor 4:4-5).

We will judge angels & things pertaining to this life (1 Cor 6:3).

The wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism (Col 3:25).

Teachers will receive a stricter judgment (Jam 3:1).

Be Still and Know

Psalm 46:10, KJV
Be still, and know that I am God....
I always thought it meant to sit quietly and meditate and realize that God is in control.

But reading it in a different version, the Holman Christian Standard Version, I find a different slant:
Stop [your fighting]—and know that I am God....
And looking at it in the Young's Literal Translation:
Desist, and know that I [am] God....
When we put the verse in context, it looks like maybe Holman's has it right:

8 Come, see the works of the LORD,
who brings devastation on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease throughout the earth.
He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces;
He burns up the chariots.

10 "Stop [your fighting]—and know that I am God,
exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth."

11 The LORD of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sing and Make Melody, but Not with Your Mouths or Hands

I'm no Hebrew or Greek expert, but when I just read Psalms 27:6, it clicked in my head that Paul was probably alluding to it when he wrote Ephesians 5:19.

Psalms 27:6d - (HCSB)
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Ephesians 5:19b - (HCSB)
singing and making music to the Lord in your heart,
If this is correct, unless the Psalmist was declaring that only his making music was to the Lord, but not his singing, then the subclause "to the Lord [in your heart]" belongs to both the "sing" and the "make music" sides of the conjunction, and not just the "make music" side. In other words, this rendering:
sing to the Lord [in your heart] and make music to the Lord [in your heart]
is the more correct rendering than:
make music to the Lord [in your heart], and sing
This view agrees with the grammatically-specific wording of Ephesians 5:19 to "speak" to one another, not to "sing". In other words, taking the verse at its strictest sense, we are not to sing at all, but to speak to one another, while our singing and making melody is done strictly in the heart.

This also agrees with the technically-correct grammatical rendering of its sister passage in Colossians 3:16, which tells us that we should be "singing with grace in your hearts" (KJV), not with your mouths.

Unless, of course, Paul did not mean "only in the heart", the way many of us have taught it for decades.

What's my point? My point is that if we're going to make a whole doctrine out of the technical grammar of the verse, we can't just go half-way. We've gotta be consistent. And this approach that limits making music to be in our hearts only but not in outward forms also limits our singing to being in our hearts only and not in outward forms. If my logic or my understanding of the wording is wrong, please correct me. But don't just react because this touches on a pet doctrine of yours; please honestly evaluate my logic and the wording of the passages.

The Great Bovine Dream, Shattered

This story is from 1 Samuel 6.

The Israelites had gone to war against the Philistines against God's will, and the Philistines defeated the Israelites, and stole the ark of the covenant. While the ark was in the possession of the Philistines, bad things kept happening to the Philistine city in which the ark was kept. So finally the Philistines said, "Let's send this ark home. But how will we know for sure this is YHWH's hand against us, and not just a coincidence?" And the Philistine wise-men suggested that they put the ark on a new cart, and hook up two cows that had never been hooked up to a cart before, and see if the cows leave their calves behind, against their nature, and pull a cart to which they've never been trained, working as a team which they've never done before, and if they leave their home, which would be against their nature, and pull the cart to Israel; if these things happened, then they'd know it was God's doing and not just a chance thing.

They did these things, and the cows, who always thought they deserved the Great Ameri..., uh, Bovine Dream of having a happy family and a big house in the 'burbs with a two-car garage, and 2.5 calves, and a mini-van, left their calves, and left their home, and pulled the cart, and worked as a team. They cried the whole way ("lowing the whole way"), and when they arrived, they were not informed what a great lesson they provided; they were not thanked; they were apparently not even given a handful of hay or a drink or water; instead, they were killed and roasted as a sacrifice.

Here's the key: they never knew what the purpose of their lives were. Yet, 2500 years later their lives still glorify YHWH. Even though they never knew this would be the case.

Today, you may be one of those cows. Rejoice that God has a purpose for you, even if you never know what it is and never get your dreams fulfilled. (And also know, in the Life to Come, your dreams will be more than fulfilled.)

Be faithful.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yeshua the Conquering Messiah, or the Suffering Servant

Yeshua, Jesus, from the time he was an infant, was raised in a culture that expected the Coming One, the Anointed One, the Messiah (Hebrew), the Christ (Greek), to be a conquering hero that would elevate the nation of Israel to the greatest power in the world, free from oppression from other nations, like Egypt fifteen centuries earlier, and like the hated Rome during Yeshua's earthly lifetime.

As a child, surely Yeshua's mother told him stories of all the special circumstances surrounding his birth, pumping his head full of ideas that he was special, more so than any other human ever born. And even if she didn't, she and those in the know surely treated him as if he was.

In this type of environment, it would be expected that little Yeshua would grow up to be confident, self-assured, ready to take on the world, able to love and be loved, happy.

But if on the other hand, that cultural expectation were not there, if the cultural expection had been more accurate, that little Yeshua would be born for the specific purpose of being arrested on trumped-up charges, beaten to near-death, and then tortured excruciatingly at the hands of a vile, sinful nation to complete death, what would his demeanor be? Would he not develop early on into an "emo" child, morose, dark, brooding, focused on death and darkness, having no emotional strength to be confident, to take on the world, to love or be loved, resigned, unmotivated?

The cultural expectation of a triumphant Messiah seems to have served at least two purposes:

1) It kept Satan distracted from seeing the real plan,


2) It provided an environment for Yeshua to develop into the man needed for the job.

Why We Don't Get Involved in Politics

Thus writes American Founding Father, James Madison:
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they can not be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?
Paraphrased more simply:
It doesn't matter if the people have the freedom to write their own laws, if the laws they write are hard to understand or change frequently. It's not a "rule" if no one knows about it or if it changes often.
That's why most Americans don't bother with the political process; most of it is "over our heads".

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Bible Quiz

So you think your pet doctrine is Biblical, eh? Can you prove it via the Biblical text?

Get the PDF-formatted test here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"God is No Respecter of Persons", out of context

I've heard on multiple occasions that miraculous workings from God can not take place in the modern day because God is not a respecter of persons, and if He gave a miraculous power to you but not to me, then that would make Him a respecter of persons.

This argument has never held water with me, for two reasons:

1) If it's true in the 21st century, it was true in the first century. But in the first century, not everyone had miraculous gifts. As Paul writes in Romans 12:
HCSB Rom 12:6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith; 7 if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
In the first century, it did not make God a respecter of persons if one person was given a miraculous gift (prophecy) while another was given a non-miraculous gift (giving with generosity). Why then would the exact same arrangement in the 21st century make God a respecter of persons? Has God changed in the past 2000 years?

The text clearly states that God gives different gifts to different people, so whatever is meant by the phrase, "God is not a respecter of persons", it can not mean that God can't give one person a miraculous gift and another a non-miraculous gift. The text is black-and-white on this issue.

2) To make this argument, the phrase "God is not a respecter of persons" must be taken out of context. Here are the two relevant scriptures:

KJV Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

KJV 1 Peter 1:17And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
In the Acts passage, the context is that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who will be accepted with him.

In the 1 Peter passage, the context is that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to how a person's work will be judged.

But the argument requires a different, third, context: that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who gets what gifts.

This third context is not in the text. The Bible simply does not say that God is not a respecter of persons in relation to who gets what gifts, and thus this doctrine is an addition to God's Word.

Whether God gives miraculous gifts today or not is an entirely different issue. But to use the argument that He does not do so because He is not a respecter of persons is to make an argument that is not in the Bible, and is actually opposed to a clear statement of the Bible.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Heal the Sick, Free the Oppressed!

About a week ago I was reflecting on what a great day it was, and it struck me that just as a farmer wants to see his crops doing well, or an aquarium aficionado wants his fish happy and well, God wants his Creation happy, and that's how we're supposed to be; it's our purpose to be happy and content.

But then I realized some people have no reason to be happy: they've been unfairly imprisoned, or were born with a painful, crippling disease, or were born into cruel slavery, or are stuck in a cycle of abject poverty, etc. And I wondered how these people could ever have a hope of being happy.

And then I heard in the back of my mind the whisper:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of the sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
And it struck me: all my life, the "Gospel", the good news, has been about getting into heaven. But Yahshua's ministry is to make things right ... here!

As the Lord's body, we've been given dominion over the Earth (Gen 1:28). To have dominion, we have to understand it. And once we have that understanding, it is our ministry to eradicate disease and poverty and oppression.

The congregation needs to take an active role in raising up scientists and doctors and legal professionals and crusaders to cure cancer, diabetes, M.S., the common cold, hunger, poverty, and unbalanced power regimes.

The thought is not fully gelled in my head, but that's what I'm leaning toward lately.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tradition-Awareness Exercise

(Matthew 15:9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

All my life, raised in "mainstream" Texas churches of Christ, this verse has been applied against everyone but "us", because "they" don't have the truth and they "invent" doctrines. But that's really not consistent with the context of the passage.

In context, Yahshua is condemning those religious leaders who believed that all the answers were in the text of the Bible, and that it was imperative that they dig and analyze and apply their human logic to determine exactly what God meant and how the scriptures should be applied in everyday life. On the surface, this sounds like a very noble thing, but in practice, it resulted in the leaders making laws where God had not made laws. These laws eventually became known as the "Oral Law" (or "tradition of the elders", as verse 2 puts it), as opposed to the written Law from which they were derived.

It was these traditions which Yahshua condemned as vain worship.

In another place, Yahshua pointed out how that "poring over the scriptures" thinking that's how to find eternal life (John 5:39) does not result in finding that life; instead, life is found by putting your trust in Yahshua, not in the Scriptures and your own understanding of them.

We see the same principle at work in today's church. We've pored over the scriptures and dug and analyzed and applied human logic to come up with laws which we deem binding, which God never specified. For example, I suspect that some on this list would absolutely deny the validity of a church which had a sign out front that said "Church of God" instead of "Church of Christ". Did God ever specify that the sign out front should say "Church of Christ"? No, but some of us have created a tradition that is now taught as doctrine. Another example is that a faithful Christian must attend worship services each of the three times a week that the local church meets. God never specified a thrice-weekly schedule, nor that Christians are unfaithful if they skip attendance "too often". But this tradition has become, in the minds of many, a doctrine. Yahshua condemned such man-made doctrines as vain worship.

If you doubt that this is really an issue in today's church, I challenge you to pick any well-established tradition at your local church and try to change it. Confusing tradition with doctrine is a natural human tendency, and we need to be wary of it in ourselves. I suggest you make it a habit to change things up at your church and in your personal life often, just to exercise your tradition-aware muscles.

Welcome to the Party! - Heb 12:23

There are many wonderful aspects about the venerable King James translation, but sometimes this version just... well, it just misses it.

For example, translating baptizo as "baptize". Here the Catholic influence is seen in the translation, as the translators let their tradition get in the way of properly translating the word as "immerse", instead opting to transliterate a Greek word into English letters. The word, properly translated, is "immerse"; it is not "baptize".

Another place where the Catholic influence is seen is Acts 12:4, where the word "Easter" is introduced into the Bible. This is just out-and-out a bad translation. It's not even properly a "translation"; it's a complete fabrication. This word is "Passover", and should have been so rendered.

A Jewish influence is seen (not just in the KJV, but in most English Bibles) in that the name of God, YHWH (JHVH in older or Germanic-flavored English) is either hidden behind the man-made phrase "the LORD" or translated as the man-made combination of the consonants of YHWH with the vowels of "Lord" (~ "edonai" in Hebrew), becoming "JeHoVaH". It started out as a reverence for God's name; the scribes didn't want readers to mis-use the name. It seems a great presumption on the part of the scribes, to change God's Word after so many warnings against doing so. (Many Bibles have an introduction that explains that they have done this.) It would be like whiting out every instance of the name "Jesus" from the New Testament and printing "Christ" or "the Lord" instead, "out of reverence for the name of Jesus". How is it reverent to change God's Word from what He inspired to what we think is appropriate?

And speaking of the body of Christ, that reminds me of still another Catholic influence which is woven throughout the entire New Testament of most English Bibles: The word "church" is not in the Bible.

It's "assembly", or "congregation" or "gathering".

The word "church" derives from the Germanic "kirk" and the Latin word "circe", and from even older variants of the word from pagan sources (none of which words are in the Bible). It refers to a circle, and most often referred to the circle of worshipers gathered in pagan (specifically Druid) ceremonies.

The word in the Greek most often translated as "church" is "ekklesia", which you'll see in the names of Spanish churches often, such as "Iglesia de Christo" (Assembly of Christ).

When the New Testament was completed, there was no word "church" in the text; it was "ekklesia" (gathering, congregation, assembly). But as the ekklesia of Christ spread out over the earth, and the Catholic church developed, the Catholic church absorbed many pagan believers, along with many of the pagan concepts and terms (Christmas, Easter, the word "church", etc). By the time the original Greek New Testament was translated into Latin, and then into English many centuries later, the word "church" had become firmly entrenched in the mindset of believers of the time. Accordingly, when King James commissioned the translation of the Bible into English, resulting in the King James Bible, he set down as one of the principles of translation that older established ecclesiastical words, such as "church", were to be kept, even if it violated the text of the Bible (you can see the king's list of rules for yourself, particularly #3 which specifically mentions keeping "church" instead of using "congregation", at http://tinyurl.com/3qm76rf).

So now, 2000 years later, we read in our Bibles of "the church", which is an unBiblical concept. It is Biblically "the assembly". I recommend that you start reading "assembly" or "congregation" every time you see the word "church" in the New Testament; that's what God intended you to read. And if you wind up changing the sign out front of the assembly building to read "Assembly of Christ", you'll only be more Biblical in doing so, even though you'll be branded a change-agent or worse by your brethren.

Please do not misread me: I am not declaring the King James Version to be a bad translation, or unreliable, any more than any translation has flaws. I'm simply saying it does indeed have flaws, and should not be worshiped as perfect.

So why is this article titled, "Welcome to the Party!"? Because, once again, the King James misses it.

Here is Hebrews 12:22-23 in the KJV:
22But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect....

The phrase "general assembly"? The Greek is panēgurei, and means "festal gathering". Here it is translated by the Holman Christian Standard Bible:
22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect....
If you're a believer, then the welcome is to you: Welcome to the party!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Denominational Church

Written a couple of years ago on the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Groups email list.


dan best wrote:

To Shawn
You said,
"Contrary to popular belief, the Messiah’s ekklesia is inclusive of what some refer to as “denominations".
How did you determine this? This is a question that has been debated for many years. Since there are no mention of denominations or its sub groups in the New Testament it seems to me that this is an unanswerable question from God at this time. Now it is evident to me that a disciple can be considered by God as a member of the ekklesia without any involvement in denominations or their sub group.

Kent replied:

According to merriam-webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denomination), the definition of "denomination" is:

1: an act of denominating
: a value or size of a series of values or sizes (as of money)
: name, designation ; especially : a general name for a category
4: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices

Looking especially at definition #3, we see the church leaders in Acts 21 specifying two categories of members of the Messiah's ekklesia using general names:

1) "Jews ... who have believed" - verse 20
2) "Gentiles who have believed" - verse 25

Furthermore, each group had its own distinctive set of beliefs and practices: the Jews were "zealous for the law" (v. 20), whereas the Gentiles had "no greater burden [concerning the law] ... than [a few] necessary things" (15:28 & 21:25).

Take a synagogue of Jewish Christians from the mid-first century and a Gentile assembly from the same time period, and plop them down side-by-side on Main Street USA, and I daresay that although both wore the name "Ekklesia of the Messiah" on the Sign Out Front, everyone would refer to the two groups as different denominations. Even if you don't apply the term "denomination" to these groups, they are definitely "sub groups" within the church.

Furthermore, we have a very clear-cut case of "denominations" in 1 Cor 1:10ff; Paul did not approve of these denominational divisions, but he did testify to their existence, and considered their factional members as "brothers" and "God's church" and "saints".

So it seems to me that there IS mention of denominations or sub-groups of the church in the New Testament, sometimes approved and sometimes not, depending on the circumstances.

My two cents.


We tend to make a big deal out of the idea that the Scriptures are "breathed-out" by God, but forget that the word "inspire" doesn't necessarily mean "breathed-out", but rather may mean "breathed-out and breathed-in".

When God blew into Adam's lifeless form, He breathed out, but at the same time caused Adam to breathe in.

Likewise with the Scriptures: He has breathed them out, but His Spirit gives us understanding as we breathe them in (1 Cor 2:12ff).

Dressed in Light

On the Church_of_Christ Yahoo!Group from several years ago:

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}.
Kent responds:

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 as 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.

Drop-Box Giving at Church

Seen in an old post at the Yahoo!Groups Church_Of_Christ email list:

George K. Howsepian wrote:
The greatest glory to God in our giving is when we give anonymously. I've advocated this for years. The passing of plates or hats or whatever in public is coercive and glorifies the donor. We don't blow horns when we drop our donations into a plate in public but we might as well be. An alternative would be to have a drop box in a private place and allow the cheerful giver to drop in whatever he will, whenever he will. That's just my opinion.

Kent responds:

I've been thinking along these same lines for the past few years.

It seems that the widow who gave her last two cents dropped it into a drop-box. Of course, it was still possible to observe who gave what, but I suspect it was also possible to drop the money off more anonymously than our current method of passing the plate.

I've also been thinking that it's time to bring our contribution support into the 21st century. I and my friends almost never carry cash or checks; we do everything with a check-card. When I floated the idea by a few friends a year or so ago to set up an automatic debit on a year-by-year basis, they discounted the idea because it removes the weekly remembrance that we're intentionally setting aside something for the Lord. At the time, I sort of bought into their arguments. Now a year later, I don't think that's the purpose of giving. The purpose of giving is foremost and primarily to take care of the poor/needy, and secondarily to take care of local church expenses (as I understand things), not to remind me of my relationship to God.

I'm confident that Joseph the Levite did not sell a parcel of land every week to bring to the Apostles; if he can make a one-time contribution, I see no reason why I could not set up a weekly contribution once a year and then forget about it the rest of the year. The advantage is that the poor/needy and the church needs would get a more consistent gift than if I'm having to remember to write and carry a check or go to the ATM every week.

Another advantage, as you mention, is that it would cease to be coercive. I wonder how many people avoid going to church just so they don't have to avert their eyes when the plate is passed.

Combining the yearly auto-debit plan with a drop-box would be ideal, as when I have an extra 75 cents in my pocket on a Wednesday night, I might dump that into the drop-box instead of into my coin jar at home. Over a year's time, with fifteen or twenty people doing that every week, that could add up.

I might even suggest two drop-boxes at each exit instead of just one: one would be designated for the poor/needy, and one would be designated for other church expenses. After the published budgetary needs are met per period, then anything in one or the other box would go specifically to that area so designated. (In other words, if the preacher's budgeted salary payment is $5 short, and there's $10 in the poor/needy box, then $5 would come out of the poor/needy to meet the published budgetary need, and then the remaining $5 would go to where it's designated. Of course, this policy would need to be clearly published at each drop box.) I think this would encourage more people to give, because they could be more confident that it's going to help some widow with medical bills instead of paying off the stained-glass window repair, and then the church might actually have the funding necessary to do its job of
helping the needy instead of relying on Good Will and the government to do its job.

Revisiting "Which NT Church"?, Part 2

heb12347 wrote:
To presume that Restoration has anything to do with cultural or local features misses the point altogether (and appears to be a dodge - not an accusation, just an impression). Restoration has to do with those features that are of age-lasting and spiritual significance: the plan of salvation, worship that is in spirit and truth (matters that are identified as "musts").

Kent responds:

Ah, but now you've moved into the realm of "picking and choosing":

"Hmm, we don't do 'baptism for the dead', so we'll put it in the non-must category. Oh, and miraculous gifts also, they need to go into the non-age-lasting category. Let's see, saving up every Sunday to help Christians in famine, let's make that into an age-lasting and spiritually-significant "must", but let's change it from a one-time famine-relief effort to on-going local church support. And kneeling in prayer is obviously a cultural thing, so we can dispense with that, but, oh, that guy that proved his humility by bowing his head in prayer? Let's keep that. Yeah, that's spiritually significant."

In addressing the question of restoring the New Testament church, the question remains valid: "Which NT church?"

My point is that the term "NT church" is ill-defined. All my life we have tossed around the phrase with the meaning that there was only one church described in the New Testament (and gave Eph 4:4 and others as proof text), and then went about doing the sort of picking-and-choosing as above to define and defend a particular version of the NT church.

I'm all in favor of restoring the age-lasting and spiritually-significant features of the NT church; I just think we need to be wary of our conclusions, and realize that the next person over, equally honest and truth-seeking as ourselves, may find an entirely different church in the New Testament than what we find.

In other words, my point is that the NT church may not always "look like" the church we define and defend as the NT church. If an all-Jew church moved in next door to our assembly building, and they put a Sign Out Front that said Church Of Christ, and they used Hebrew phrases and incense and observed Passover (with a Christian meaning to it) and woreprayer shawls and yarmulkes, most of us would dismiss them as being something other than a true "Church of Christ". But Paul wouldn't have. And neither would God. I daresay that if Jesus came to visit us before his next return, he'd be more comfortable going to church there than in our building, not because that is more "right" than our version, but because it's more in line with the culture he knew as a kid.

Let's be careful about which "NT church" we define and defend, is all I'm saying.

Revisiting "Which NT Church"?

A couple of years ago the following exchange took place on the Church_of_Christ Yahoo!Groups email list.


heb12347 wrote:

It comes down to this: is it possible to restore the NT church? That is the goal.

Kent responds:

NT church?

- The church of the early years that was exclusively Jewish and did things with a decidedly Jewish flavor, including worshiping in the Temple and keeping Jewish vows and celebrating Jewish holidays and insisting on circumcision and becoming fully Jewish in order to be a member of the Messiah's church?

- The church of the mid-century that was composed of a mix of Jew and Gentile, with an uneasy truce between the two cultures, which eschewed Torah-keeping for non-Jews, but had its own strange customs brought over from paganism such as Love Feasts bordering on the orgiastic and praying for the dead and glossolalia (speaking in "tongues") (which things Paul endeavored to tone down into more Christ-like versions).

Of course, if you had said "first century church" instead of "New Testament church", I could have also added:

- The church of the late-century that began to look with distrust on the Jewish community, but which nevertheless adopted much of the structured rigor from that culture and began to make laws which we don't find in the text of the New Testament, along with structures such as a tiered eldership and formal rituals in worship and special clothing for the officiators and special rote prayers and liturgies.

Please don't misunderstand me to say that I believe the goal of restoring the NT church is a bad or faulty goal; I believe it's a good goal. I just think we need to be careful about thinking that we've even properly defined what that church looks like, and even more careful about thinking we've reached our goal, which is what seems to be the perception in some of our churches.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Helping the Street Beggars

So you pull up to a traffic light, and there he is, the "homeless" person begging for a hand-out.

You intuitively know it's a scam, but you worry that he really does need help. You either pull out a dollar or two and give it to him, wondering if you're contributing to drug/alcohol abuse, or you look the other way and rush through the light when it turns green, feeling guilty the whole time.

Here's a possible solution, although it would require several groups to cooperate.

A church could provide debit cards, in the denominations of $1, $2, $5, and $20. These cards could be used at participating grocery stores, Wal-Marts, filling stations, city utility/tax offices, the city's bus system, etc, but could not be used for cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets, etc.

These cards would then either be pre-sold or assigned to members of the public, and when you pull up next to a street beggar, you could give him one of these cards. If the card is pre-sold to you, then you'd need do nothing further. If the card is assigned, your bank account would be charged when the card is used. Any cards not used within 6 months would be considered a donation to the church's benevolence work.

(Lots of tweaks could be made to this plan, but this is the basic idea.)

Now you can give money to the beggar, knowing the money won't be used for "vice" products (I'm sure the beggars could trade/sell their cards, but it adds a level of difficulty to them to do so). And if the beggars in town get most of their donations via a card, they'll either use the cards as intended (or work around the system, unfortunately), or they would leave town to find one that donates cash instead of cards.

Would this plan (or something similar) work?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Evolutionist Says Creationist Critics are Right, Just Not Scientific

Pro-evolution magazine Discover interviewed top evolutionist Lynn Margulis this month. It's an interesting interview. Here's a couple of excerpts.
Peter and Rosemary Grant, two evolutionary biologists [went to the Galapagos islands to do actual research rather than theory]. ... They saw lots of variation within a species, changes over time. But they never found any new species--ever.
Some of you might recall how I've argued that what is actually observed (true Science is observable, repeatable, testable) is "variation on a theme", within limits. This is what the science says; what the textbooks say is that evolution goes beyond these limits to create new forms of life. When pressed for evidence, what is trotted out is examples of "variation on a theme".
The critics, including the creationist critics, are right about their criticism. It's just that they've got nothing to offer but intelligent design or 'God did it.' They have no alternatives that are scientific.

From http://discover.coverleaf.com/discovermagazine/201104?pg=68#pg68

Friday, April 08, 2011

And You Thought Dragons Were Mythical

From http://www.thefeaturedcreature.com/2010/08/this-just-in-dragons-in-avatar-are-real.html#axzz1IyyC9gjz

Now, since reptiles grow all their lives, I wonder what these would look like if their lifespans were ten times longer, like was the case for humans prior to the Great Flood of Noah.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Just Wandering Through Some of Acts

As part of a conversation elsewhere:


In this particular case, Saul was going to the synagogues in Damascus to arrest any Jews who "belonged to the Way", in the name of the High Priest (Acts 9:1-2).

You may recall, at this time, the name "Christian" did not yet exist, and the only Christians in existence were Jews (who observed the Torah and who had not quite gotten beyond their belief that the Messiah was only for Jews and for converts to Judaism (involving circumcision for the males and immersion for both sexes).

By Acts 15, a loud segment of the Way was composed of Pharisees who insisted on this conversion process for non-Jews (Acts 15:5).

When the Good News reached Phillipi, Paul and his companions did not find a synagogue (probably because there weren't enough Jewish men in town to fulfill the minimum number required to have a synagogue, because they likely had been expelled from this Roman colony (Acts 16:12) when Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2)). So they went to the river-side, where by tradition would be a back-up location for Jewish assemblies. There they found women, one of whom was Lydia, who after conversion, opened her house up as an assembly place (Acts 16:15,40).

In Thessalonica, the Jews who were jealous of Paul's, et al, popularity, expected to find him in Jason's house (Acts 17:1-9). They did not find Paul and his crew there, but they did find "some of the brothers" (v 6). Perhaps these brothers were some of those who had heard Paul & Silas teaching in the synagogue, who "were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas", along with God-fearing non-Jews and women (v 4).

In Corinth, Paul spent all his time reasoning (note, not "lecturing") in the synagogue (Acts 18:4) with both Jews and Greeks. When his listeners resisted, Paul left the synagogue and started meeting next door in Titius Justus' house (vv 6-7). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, apparently went with them (v 8), and his successor, Sosthenes (who was a co-writer of 1 Cor (1 Cor 1:1)), seems to have become a believer but remained at his post as new leader of the synagogue (v 17) (or alternatively, the Christian assembly was referred to as "synagogue" (as also found in James 2:2) and had a "leader").

In Ephesus, Paul engaged in discussion (note, not "lectured") with the Jews in the synagogue (Acts 18:19), who wanted him to stay around a while. He had to leave, but Priscilla and Aquila still hung out in the synagogue, which is where they first heard the Jew Apollos teaching about Jesus (Acts 18:24-26). Later Paul returned to Ephesus, where he engaged in discussion (note, not "lectured") in the synagogue for 3 months (Acts 19:1-8), until the Jews became hardened, at which time Paul broke away and "began a new congregation" in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (v 9).

And so forth and so on.

So at least in the early days, if you wanted to find an assembly of Christ, you started at the local Jewish meeting place, and went from there.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit

One of the controversies in the assembly of Christ is that of the nature of the Holy Spirit's operations in the present day. One side says that the Holy Spirit can directly operate on a person's heart; the other says that the Holy Spirit only operates through the text of the Word.

I just came across this passage which seems to have relevance:
2 Tim 2:24 The Lord's slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them a change of mind to know the truth.
What this says to me is that the instruction of the Word is instrumental, but that ultimately, a mind-change is a function of God's will in each instance, not of what he has said at some time or another. This seems to me to be a direct action of God on a person's heart.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Death and Sin

Note in the following text:

* sin, death entered the world through one man, spread to all
* Adam's sin was different in kind from those over whom sin reigned
* Adam is a prototype of Christ
* The sin of the one (Adam) brought condemnation for all
* Likewise, life-giving justification is brought through the one (Christ) for all

HCSB Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. 13 In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to one's account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam's transgression. He is a prototype of the Coming One.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man's trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the gift is not like the one man's sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification. 17 Since by the one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone. 19 For just as through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Note in the following text:

* Death came through a man (Adam)
* The resurrection of the dead comes through a man (Christ)
* Death is the last enemy to be abolished.

HCSB 1 Cor 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, the people of Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death.

Note in the following text:

* It is our physical body which will be resurrected

HCSB Rom 8:11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you.

Note in the following text:

* The creation itself has been subjected to futility
* The creation itself eagerly waits, hopes to be set free from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of God's children
* The creation and ourselves groan, waiting
* We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies
* It is in this hope we are saved

HCSB Rom 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God's sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God's children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 Now in this hope we were saved, ....

Note in the following text:

* It was Jesus' physical body that was raised (which could be touched, could bear scars, could eat, had flesh and bones (other passages show that the tomb was empty, and that he could be hugged, could holler to his friends, walk, cook (and apparently catch fish), change his appearance, pass through solid walls, pop into and out of existence, and fly, presumably into space, without a space-suit, and return (yet to come))

HCSB Luke 24:36 And as they were saying these things, He Himself stood among them. He said to them, "Peace to you!" 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 "Why are you troubled?" He asked them. "And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." 40 Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet. 41 But while they still could not believe because of [their] joy and were amazed, He asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, 43 and He took it and ate in their presence.

Note in the following text:

* When we are resurrected/changed, we will be like Jesus

HCSB 1 John 3:2 Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.

Note in the following text:

* Because Adam disobeyed God ...
* the ground is cursed
* painful life-long labor will be required to gain food
* the ground will not cooperate
* food will require farming
* sweaty work will be required to gain food
* his body, formed from dust, will return to dust
* (previous verses list other changes - devolution of the serpent to a "less evolved" state; hostility between the woman and the serpent; the proto-gospel; intensified labor and anguish for mothers; a desire for a husband, even though it means being dominated by him)

HCSB Gen 3:17 And He said to Adam, "Because you listened to your wife's voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'Do not eat from it':
The ground is cursed because of you.
You will eat from it by means of painful labor
all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow
until you return to the ground,
since you were taken from it.
For you are dust,
and you will return to dust."

Note in the following text:

* Paul's flesh is sold into sin's power
* The entity named "Paul" does not do what he hates; it is sin living in him that does so
* Nothing good lives in Paul's flesh; he has the desire to do good, but not the ability
* There's a principle: he wants to do good, but evil is within him
* The law of sin is in the parts of his body
* His body is a body of death
* Because of his flesh, he is a slave of sin

HCSB Romans 7:13 Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin's power. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 21 So I discover this principle: when I want to do good, evil is with me. 22 For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God's law. 23 But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.


It is our physical bodies which will be resurrected and/or changed, and they will still have a physical component, although they will be different (being "physi-spiritual"). They will not be subject to death the way our current bodies are. Jesus removes that curse of death, which was brought into the world by Adam.

Adam and Jesus are unique; humans who have sinned since Adam do not sin in the same way as Adam. Adam is the prototype; Jesus is the antitype. Jesus did not have the corruption within him that the rest of humanity has, which the rest of humanity inherits from their parents, and therefore his obedience/disobedience was like that of Adam's. His obedience, and lack of corruption, freed him from natural death. His death came at the hands of an external corruption; his internal incorruptibility repaired the damage; he triumphs over death.

Jesus' father was incorruptible. That part of the male seed which passes on corruption was not passed to Jesus.

It may be that some sort of corruption is also passed on through the mother; this may be what gave Jesus his full humanity. But the incorruptibility of his father was the "dominant gene", and is the "gene" that was thus expressed in his body.

There is a type of "sin", a corruption, that lives within the corpuscles of our bodies, that is separate and apart from a person's will, but which influences the person to act against his will.

There is a type of sin, which is the action itself, which brings guilt.

Thus, there are two types of sin: 1) a sin of condition (corruption), and 2) a sin of action

We inherit the first type of sin, and commit the second type.

Jesus did not inherit the first type, nor did he commit the second type.

He was the antitype of the first Adam, free from corruption, free from guilt, able to make a conscious choice to obey or not.

The first Adam disobeyed. All humans have since, by physical means, inherited the curse he brought into the world, becoming victims of Death.

The second Adam obeyed. All humans now have access, by means of spiritual faith, to the freedom from that curse, becoming victors over Death.