Writing for Him

 

 

In Memory of Cheri Risch

 

I write today in memory and honor of Cheri Risch our sister in the Lord and dear friend who has battled faithfully against cancer.

David, in his wonderful psalm powerfully presents the victory of our lives with the Lord as our Shepherd. Cheri walked in that victory daily and we witnessed her faithfulness. She knew our Lord as the Shepherd, the One who leads us, if we are willing to follow. She seldom took her eyes off Him. She had no “want” for riches of this world because she had all her desires met in her Shepherd. Her continuing posture of soul told us she was at peace lying down with her Master in green pastures where her soul was continually being restored. She followed His path, not one built by men, a path of righteousness not for her glory but for the glory of the Shepherd who led her onward. Often, especially in these last days, she walked through the valley shaded by the marks of death, but she never failed to catch the eye of the Shepherd and reject all fears of his evil. She knew that He was with her with His rod and staff that could ward off the enemy or gently pull her back to His side. She often sensed the presence of that enemy who sought to turn her aside but she kept her eyes on the spiritual table of heavenly riches set for her by the Shepherd. He anointed her head with the oil of the Holy Spirit a foretaste of future glory and filled her cup of grace to overflowing. Goodness and mercy followed her all her days and is with her now dwelling in the Shepherd’s house forever.

We love you Cheri and will see you in glory. Say hello to our Shepherd.

The body of Christ

 

The Twenty-Third Psalm

 

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever


The Curse of Individualism

June 3, 2024.

 

We are living in a time of individualism while forgetting the significance of connection with others. We have abandoned the importance of sharing with others and receiving sharing from them. We have been cursed with the false notion that we can exist and prosper without the need of others in our lives. This is an astronomical lie and we must turn to God for His answers.

I appreciate the book Lost Connections by Johann Hari. He is not necessarily a Christian writer but is a prolific journalist on subjects about the issues that face people in these days of growing isolation. In his book Hari has drawn from the research of John Cacioppo, a well-known neuroscience researcher. Cacioppo discovered in his research that loneliness causes a “significant amount of depression and anxiety in our society.” He concluded that humans exist because we learned to cooperate and this led to formation of tribes with people who connected with one another in various ways.

Where Hari sees a developmental, evolutionary reason for our need of connection, I see something even deeper. I see that humans have been created by their Creator to be tribal people--to need connection with one another for their physical, social and spiritual survival. We were not created to be isolated, individuals but to be part of a family of caring, loving members of a community. For this reason the Bible says “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). He then told them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (1:28). Of course that command assumes families that grow out of their first connection and result in being fruitful and multiplying this family life structure.

The Bible calls this “fellowship.” In the New Testament the Greek word is koinonia which means sharing of things we have in common. The word “share” assumes that words, thoughts, and actions are flowing between people. They are connected in many ways. Since God made us to need this connection with others, when the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers it is said “ . . . they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2;42).

Peddlers of religion have made this into the modern traditional church with its many programs and ritual but a clear reading of this verse will show that the Holy Spirit was inspiring the early disciples to meet together in family groups for having a meal and sharing their hearts. It is possible, as Hari would point out, to be in the midst of a large group of Christians going through the motions of worship but still be lonely. Unless there is viable sharing between the members, loneliness continues. Genuine fellowship is the cure for loneliness.

The apostles’ teaching was a major part of what was shared because God was using those early leaders to bring doctrinal clarity to their times together. So, these early followers of Christ ate together family style, shared what they were learning and experiencing, and prayed together as the communication included God as well who promised He would be with them and and dwell in their midst (Matt 28:20; 18:20). What better context is there for sharing than the dinner table where everyone is looking into each other’s eyes and sharing their hearts with joy?

John Cacioppo discovered in his research that people who are lonely tend to develop more depression and anxiety then those who have connections with others. Hari relates his definition of loneliness that makes my point:

Loneliness  isn’t the physical absence of other people, but the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. If you have lots of people around you --perhaps even a husband or wife, or a family, or a busy workplace--but you don’t share anything that matters with them, then you’ll still be lonely. To end loneliness, you need to have a sense of “mutual aid and protection,” with at least one other person, and ideally many more. 

Sharing, mutual aid and protection. Those are powerful words defining the antidote for loneliness. We were created to be people connecting with others in real ways through sharing things that matter to us. Through that process we ward off genuine loneliness that leads to depression and anxiety.

Our recent venture into online activities spurred on by COVID 19 isolated people, including school children, from one another, and raised an emergency flag. Schools, families and businesses saw the internet as a way to do business with the fear of COVID in the air. We masked our faces and used Zoom and other programs to attempt our communications only to discover along the way what John Cacioppo and Johann Hart concluded through their research.

Their joint conclusion after much research was obvious: “social media can’t compensate us psychologically for what we have lost---social life.” I would add the word “spiritually” to this conclusion knowing that we have a Creator who has made us to seek and find genuine sharing fellowship. Social life---life In connection with others.

The apostle Paul put it this way:

. . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is Christ, from whom the whole body, being joined and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the properly measured working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph 4:15, 16).

The apostle speaks here of  “fellowship” explaining how it works in the functioning of the body of Christ. He says here that the “church” is not a human institution but an organic spiritual body  where all the parts must function so that the whole body can prosper. He would not have dreamed of taking human control of the body of Christ by establishing his own clever programs intended to meet the needs of the saints. He knew that the Holy Spirit had been sent to lead us in functioning together as a spiritual body. He knew our job was to be led by the Holy Spirit.  He encourages sharing of our lives with one another with each member doing its part as led by Him. This sharing process allows the Christ who is our Guest of honor to cause the body to grow and build itself up in His love. 

  Often I am accused of defaming the traditional church because of my bluntness in defending what scriptures say about God’s simple, pure way for the church. Actually, I am simply trying to alert current believers to the way God intended His church to function for their benefit. The Bible is clear on this matter. God knows what we need in His church to guard against the loneliness spoken of earlier and encouraging the sharing of things we have in common that matter to each of us.   

Individualism is a curse in that it moves us to buy into the lie that we can go it on our own; that we don’t need connection with others. It is a return to the Garden of Eden where we ignore what God has said and set out on our own. We are not made for that. We need the togetherness of the body of Christ and the determination to be part of the corporate process by which we grow spiritually.

Paul warns in 2 Timothy 3:2 that the last days of the age will be a difficult time and he follows with a long list of evil characteristics of that generation. The first of those mentioned is the term “lovers of self.” That is individualism on steroids. That’s where planet earth is headed and the antidote of this hyper individualism is the body of Christ overcoming the world’s ways and living in the ways of the God who created  us to connect with one another in Him. The world will continue on its headlong descent into disobedience but He will have a remnant of people who connect with others and let His life flow among us through the sharing of fellowship.


To be faithful

May 28, 2024

 

In today’s world of spiritual chaos it is becoming a real challenge to be faithful to our God. To be faithful is to stand firm on the rock of God’s word, believing and following Him, in the midst of the testings of the world and its god Satan. All of hell will come against the true believer but his ability to stand firm, to not be moved when the testing comes, will produce endurance enabling faithfulness to God.

James makes this point in this familiar passage:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its  perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing  (James 1:2-4; NASB95).

James is saying that testing will definitely come against our faith and encourages a faithful response from us. The testing can either cause us to back away from God or allow it to produce endurance in us. We then must let that endurance work in our lives to mature us toward a place of spiritual completeness. We must stand firm in our endurance because that will cause our faith to be strengthened resulting in maturity. The writer of Hebrews makes this point: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb 12:7). Endurance comes from the Lord’s discipline often in the midst of testing from the enemy.

Paul warns us that the challenges to our faith will come. He bluntly says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). In the  same passage Paul had earlier alerted Timothy that  “in the last days difficult times will come” and follows that warning with the long list of horrifying conditions that will develop. As each day passes we get closer and closer to that time of extreme difficulty. We are now living in days leading toward those last days of trouble caused by the outpouring of satanic wrath aimed at destroying our faith by enticing us to reject what God says and believe what Satan and his world system are saying.

Unfortunately, many are  giving in to the pressures of the testing and rejecting God and His word. At every turn I am hearing the cry, “If God is the omniscient, loving God we say He is, why does He allow all of this evil?” The clear answer is God does not allow evil nor does He tempt us with it. James makes this case in this passage in verses 13 and 14. The originator of all evil is Satan working through our fallen human flesh. He created the havoc of sin and then entices people to blame God for its results and thus abandon their faith.

So many people today are examples of Paul’s warning to Timothy where He says people will be “. . . holding to a form of godliness, but having denied its power” (2 Tim 3:5). Perhaps many are going to church, and putting on a front of godliness, but actually denying the power of God to save and bring them to that place of spiritual completeness in Christ. They have a form of godliness but deny God’s provision for true godliness.

Paul describes the sons of God as those who are “. .. being led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14). To grow toward faithfulness a believer must become familiar with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead who has been given to this age to lead His people into all truth (John 16:13). It is He who guides you into the reality of God and empowers you to live faithfully toward God. It is He who empowers you to live this life so that you will not be one of those who “has a form of godliness” but denies its power (2 Tim 3:5). Get to know the Holy Spirit. Walk with Him daily and let Him gently lead you in faithfulness to God.

One last thing must be said here. Faithfulness will be difficult for you if not impossible if you are not spiritually and physically connected to the body of Christ in a real, ongoing way. I am not talking about finding a church on the corner, joining it and going regularly. Rather, I am referring to finding a group of people who also desire to be faithful to God and help others do the same.

There is a reason why Jesus said  “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt 18:20). We have bought into the “bigger is better” idea and forgotten that small groups lend themselves to genuine scripture- centered fellowship and genuine expression of God’s love in a family environment. Many of our mega churches have become places where shallow living and hypocrisy are easy and genuine accountability is difficult. The early church met for centuries in family meetings in homes around the God’s word and a family meal (Acts 2:42-47).

The point is that as a child of God you are part of a family that loves and cares for one another. God created us to be corporate beings, not isolated individualists. The world is elevating the individual in contrast to connection with others. You need others to remain faithful. He is not after religious businesses but desires to live in us as His organic body on earth ( Eph 1:23;  4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:12-31). We are the living temple of the Holy Spirit and live to function as priests and kings together (Rev 1:6; 5:10; 1 Pet 2:5-10).

Fellowship in the Greek is the word koinonia which means sharing. Luke says the believers in the beginning were “. . . continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). What better place to share than around a family meal where the word of God and prayers are the main activities. How unlike the stilted, programmed, services of most churches today!

Sharing involves opening your heart to others in order to encourage and comfort. It may involve apologies and repentance,asking and answering questions, praying for needs, thanksgiving for life in Christ, and exhortations from scripture. This open, sharing atmosphere encourages steps toward faithfulness and spiritual growth.

I am not saying that the traditional church service is of no value but am trying to emphasize the things we are missing by insisting on our traditions while abandoning these essentials to spiritual growth that encourage faithfulness. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate how we gather as the body of Christ. This may bring up more questions than answers but I believe the answers will come as we genuinely seek the Lord.   


To Be a Disciple of Jesus

May6, 2024

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He left these words with His disciples:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20).

Jesus revealed to them that all authority had been given to Him and He was now commissioning them for their assignment after His ascension. It was a simple commission: “Go therefore and make disciples.” A disciple is a student of a teacher. In those days, a group of students would be chosen by a rabbi, a teacher, and would commit to him daily for instruction. He would then teach them what he had come to accept as knowledge for their lives.

Jesus then told them how they were to make disciples of people from the nations. He told them to teach people what they had learned from Him. It seems at first that this commission was just for His immediate disciples but when He said , “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” it became clear that this commission was for all believers for the age in which we are now living. He would continue to be with us through the Holy Spirit whom He had promised earlier would come and guide them into all truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit, then, would become the teacher of future disciples of Christ.

The subject matter of the Holy Spirit for this church age is “teaching them to keep all that I commanded you.” It is a simple curriculum--what He had commanded them to do they were to pass on to others. You will notice the obvious absence of many things that we consider essential or traditional today. He said nothing of going to church, or building any sacred buildings, wearing any special clothing, special rituals,  or special ways of worship. He said nothing of a pastor, sermons or any of the other countless traditions we think of as Christian essentials.He knew that the Holy Spirit would lead them into what was necessary for their lives.

Jesus made it simple for them because He was always leading them away from religious mandates in favor of genuine lives of devotion to God. Actually, to make it very simple, Jesus gave only one commandment during His ministry. It was very simple and very profound:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39).

Of course, Jesus had many other specifics He encouraged but He made it clear that all that the Father desires of us is wrapped up in these two crucial commandments. Love God and love others--simple but profound. His only sermon was directed toward the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and the persecuted (Matt 5). He was not trying to build a following but teaching people to love themselves, love God and love one another.

The entire ministry of Jesus was simply teaching people how to love with the Father’s love. In the midst of His sermon, He said this about His message:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat 5:17). He fulfilled the law by being all that it stands for and through the Spirit coming to dwell inside of us (Col 1:27). Through His indwelling presence we learn to live according to His will. The fruit of the Spirit, His likeness, begins to grow in our lives (Gal. 5:22, 23).

So a disciple of Jesus is a person who follows Him, learns from Him and adjusts his life accordingly. Our life was meant to be a spiritual school in which we learn from the personal teaching of Jesus. We have a teacher who not only teaches us but stays with us to lead us into the truths of His lessons. Just before HIs death He promised us the Holy Spirit would come to lead us into all the truth. Before He ascended He said,  “. . . behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Remember, He, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one and together lead us into His truth if we seek to know His will.

Being a disciple is not a matter of raising your hand or coming forth at a church meeting or repeating certain words. Those may be tiny first steps but discipleship is a life lived in ongoing fellowship with the Master of the universe. We are not called to be theologians who immerse ourselves in a pool of doctrinal issues. We are called to follow and listen to the One who is the subject of all the doctrinal discussions. He is the Teacher and the curriculum because eternal life is not about filling our heads with knowledge but about knowing Him and living in fellowship with Him (John 17:3).

God’s people today are being called out of the disarray of modern church life into a genuine life guided by our Rabbi, the Messiah Himself. We are being called once again to take His yoke upon us and learn from HIm (Matt 11:29).

That’s what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and that's what it means to be the church--a disciple-making gathering of people following Jesus and teaching others to do the same. 


To Be a Bible Believer

April 3, 2024

Sola Scriptura is a Latin term made popular during the time of the Reformation in the 16th century. The term means “ scripture alone” and implies that we should gain our understanding of truth only from God’s word, the written scriptures. We are called to be bible believers.

Certain social issues are challenging our commitment to the Bible. Secular ideas about gender, same sex marriage, evolution, racism, the role of women, teaching our children, family, marriage and divorce, and others are the world’s hammers aimed at the anvil of God’s word. These ideas are taught in our school system to which we send our children for seven hours every day and then we wonder why society if collapsing.

So it comes as no surprise a generation is “deconstructing” its faith or abandoning it altogether. They are challenging the notion that there is one God who has revealed Himself through His Son as expressed in the Bible. Whether they identify as Protestant or Catholic, traditional churches are gradually experiencing serious losses in membership and many are adjusting their doctrines in order to accept those who reject the Bible as God’s word.

Sola scriptura developed at a time wn the Catholic Church had allowed unbiblical traditions to gradually distort the clear teachings of scripture. In the years leading up to the Reformation, the Catholic Church began to see the organization with its buildings, programs and traditions as the arbitors of truth despite what scripture teaches. They developed concepts such as praying to saints and Mary, indulgences and an elaborate clergy system leading to the false authority of the pope and other clergy.

The reformers broke with the Catholic Church and declared that scripture alone is to be our source of authority as we seek to know and practice truth. They spoke out against allowing tradition to replace the scriptures in our desire to be at the center of God’s will.

But the reformers did not fully embrace sola scriptura because to do so would have taken them all the way back to the first century understanding of scripture before the organized church developed many traditions that cannot be found in the Bible. For example, they had allowed a clergy system to develop which insisted that certain skilled preachers were given a position of authority over other members of the body of Christ. They embraced denominations, tithing, infant baptism, transubstantiation and other doctrines that enlarged their control.  Like the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, they were guilty of embracing many traditions that stifled the priesthood of all believers, an essential part of God’s will for the church (1 Peter 2:9; Ex 19:6; Isa 61:6; Rev 1:6; 5:10).

Unfortunately, the institutional church of today has developed traditions that have moved it from its spiritually organic place being led by the Holy Spirit to an organization devised and controlled by men. Most protestants denounce the Catholic attitude of placing their tradition on a par with scripture while allowing their own traditions to slowly replace the spiritual life of the body of Christ.  

The clergy system, sacred buildings, man-controlled worship services, infant baptism, the one-man professional pastor, the sermon replacing fellowship, ministers of music, school-inspired youth classes, and much more, were not part of the early church for centuries. The slow drifting toward a universal (Catholic) church solidified these practices as permanent features of our corporate life as believers.  The traditions have replaced the leading of the Holy Spirit and thus the life of the body of Christ.

Many of my dear brothers have responded to this message with either of two arguments. First, many will simply say that they agree but see such change to be impractical. My answer has always been to remind them that we are not committed to being practical but to being led by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Rom 8:14; Gal 5:16). He is supernaturally practical in leading us into all of God’s truth (John 16:13).

Sola scriptura implies more than just a commitment to the book we call the bible. It encompasses the understanding that God’s word is spiritual and living and will change people’s lives. The writer of Hebrews makes this point:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

God’s word is more than just words. It is God speaking to us. His speaking to us is the logos word of God which has a supernatural nature that pierces between soul and spirit, between our own thoughts and the very mind of God. To truly read God’s word with an open heart will open your spirit which will enlighten your soul so that you see with spiritual clarity.

Jesus verified this when He declared “. . . the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (John 6:63). His words, spoken from Him and reaching seeking hearts, are “spirit and life.” His word will change you if you allow it to penetrate our heart. This reaches beyond human thinking into the realm of enlightenment and revelation (Eph 1:17, 18).

We are not given the prerogative to pick and choose our practical actions but are exhorted to hear what Jesus says and allow His word to shape us as individuals and as a corporate spiritual body according to the Holy Spirit.

We must understand that the Holy Spirit is always leading us forward into change ordered by Him. If He is the Leader we are to follow and He definitely believes in sola scriptura because He inspired the word of God (2 Pet 1:21). The word “practical” implies something that works by man’s ability. The church is to be the work of Jesus through His Holy Spirit. It is a living body created and empowered by the Holy Spirit who always leads us back to scripture for answers.

The second response I hear from others is that this approach would leave many people working in churches without employment. Pastors, secretaries, worship leaders,  janitors, and others would be without jobs and retirement benefits if we allowed these changes. Anytime the Holy Spirit produces a new wineskin, the old one will suffer especially if we try to put new wine into it (Matt 9:17).

There are many other arguments against a return to scripture in regard to our lives as followers of Christ. Our traditions have slowly led us away from scripture into the craftiness and deceitful scheming that Paul warned against (Eph 4:14). We have an old wineskin that cannot be changed without damage. We have allowed the building of a religious system while ignoring the simplicity and purity of God’s original plan.

As time unfolds in what could be the last years of this age, Christians must make a decision about scripture. If it is God’s word then we must realize that it clearly describes the wineskin that God always intended for us. The old wineskin of traditional Christianity is failing to contain the new wine that God is bringing to the table.    


To Be the Church

March 23, 2024

 

Words have meaning but they change with their usage. The word “church” is a word that is used to translate an ancient word that means something completely different than its present usage. Its meaning has changed with time as people’s understanding of it faded or was confounded by tradition.

In most modern translations the word “church” is an Old English replacement for the Greek word ekklesia, a group of people called out of a city-state to administer the authority of a city. The word used in the New Testament always refers to an assembly of people coming together for a distinct purpose. Never is it used of a building or religious program of any kind.

Jesus used the word ekklesia of the corporate body of believers that He was spiritually building together of which He said, “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt 16:18). The word is translated “church” of course. The ekklesia, the church, is the Lord’s mission for planet earth. We are His masterpiece, His workmanship, His divine project. We are the center of what He is accomplishing on earth, His body on the earth after His resurrection and ascension. Paul calls the body of Christ “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23).  

Almost all religions have their temple, priest and sacrifices. Scripture makes it clear that Christ is the temple of God, He is the High Priest and our sacrifices are praise and thanksgiving to Him (John 2:19-21; Heb 6:20;13:15). Christ is the temple and He has made the body of Christ, the ekklesia, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). So Christ is our temple, Christ is our High Priest and His death on the cross  is the final sacrifice that settles all issues of sin.

He never intended for us to build sacred buildings in which to worship Him. Those are pagan practices of the pagan religions of the world. We are His building, His temple in which He lives (1 Peter 2:5; Eph 2:21, 22). As I wrote earlier, the body of Christ, the church, is “. . . the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Christ dwells in His body, the church, His people and through it manifests Himself to the world.

He never intended for us to have human priests or a high priest or religious clergy who stand between us and the Father. He is our High Priest and we are declared to be “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9; Rev 1:6). Every believer is a priest unto God privileged to enter into the holy place with bold confidence because of the forgiveness provided by His blood (Heb 10:19).

He never intended for us to offer up religious sacrifices or do religious works as provisions for our sins. He is our sacrifice and the cross is the altar upon which we offer to Him our praise and thanksgiving knowing the source of our forgiveness in Him (Heb 10:22; 13:15).

To be the church is to realize we are the body of Christ, a people called out of the world to glorify our Lord by living in the guidance of His Holy Spirit and being gradually transformed into His image. We are not a human organization controlled by people but a spiritual organism under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 1 Cor 2;10-13). This requires some things promised to us by our Lord.

First, it requires that we cast aside all our false ideas stated above about what it is to be His church. If we lean on man’s understanding instead of what He says about us, we will never realize the fullness of our individual and corporate calling in  Christ. We need a return to scripture to determine His definition of His church.  

Secondly, this requires that we must understand that if we are His body we need to taking part in activities that encourage life to flow between the members.  Paul put it this way:

. . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

This is true fellowship. Sharing our lives in Christ with one another. Praying together. Sharing our daily struggles and victories. Fellowship is not just about words but actions of love and blessing toward one another that build up individuals and our corporate expression. This is body life which involves closeness, eye to eye, and shoulder to shoulder contact with one another. Large church gatherings do not provide these qualities of close sharing.

In this passage from Ephesians we see that close fellowship involves speaking and living truth with one another,as each member of the body realizes that they are part of a whole and doing their part to contribute spiritual life to the spiritual body, the church. Out of this fellowship growth comes and the church is strengthened and built up in love.  

Thirdly, to be the church requires that we live in unity with one another. Some Christians find this one hard to swallow because they look around and see such division and doctrinal confusion in the lives of supposed believers. True unity is impossible in the eyes of those who refuse to see it from God’s vantage point. We argue and point our faultfinding fingers at those who disagree with us on matters of doctrine. Pre-trib rapure vs. post trib, Calvinism vs. Free will, immersion or sprinkling, women in ministry, the style of our music, the gifts of the Spirit, and on and on the arguments go. Our unity is not in these things but in our possession of Christ.

Jesus said that those who follow Him, His church, would express the same unity that He and His Father have toward one another. He prayed “. . . that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21.) Verse 20 of this passage shows that Jesus was praying for of His church throughout the church age. Also we know that this was a real, practical unity because He declared that it would cause the world to believe that the Father sent Him.

Genuine unity, not a fake unity where we hold hands over the fences between us, but the real supernatural unity that the citizens of Jerusalem witnessed in the first century Christians, is a game changer because it is supernatural and its only source is God.

Paul clearly says that a church being properly equipped, serving and growing spiritually will “. . . attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12, 13). Instead of writing this off as an accomplishment for the millennium or one already accomplished in the first century, why not look at this as a promise of our hope for today’s church in Christ as led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yes, in Christ we can literally come to a place of unity of our faith and the full knowledge of Christ so that we are fully grown expressing His image and fullness!

Next, being the church requires us to be in submission to the One who has been given to us to lead us into all truth and keep us from the quarrels and divisions that cause the world to reject us as hypocrites. That One is the Holy Spirit who is surprisingly ignored by much of today's traditional church. For some strange reason much of the church ignores the ministry of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Could this be caused by so many churches and Christians abusing the gifts of the Spirit by turning them into toys to play with instead of powerful instruments of ministry? 

Paul clearly says that in our gatherings “. . . each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26).  Psalms, teachings, revelations, messages all contribute to the building up (edification) of the church, the people of God. 

The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead who is primarily ministering during this age of the church. Instead of being guided and empowered by Him we are grieving Him and quenching His life among us (1 Thess 5: 19, 20; Eph 4:30). We quench Him by ignoring His part in our lives and we grieve Him by doing the very things that cause divisions and problems among us (vv. 31, 32). We gather in large groups too big for sharing and allow only one or two people to share and wonder why we are not being edified and growing in Christ.

We can be one in Christ. We can experience His unity if we will allow Him to walk among us and do the Father’s will in our lives and in His church.

Lastly, I agree with Paul that we must seek ways to maintain simplicity and purity in our devotion to Christ: “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”(2 Cor 11:3). Paul’s fear was well founded because he knew the powerful influence of Satan and His world system.

Simplicity is being single-minded. We have lost track of Christ in the midst of our many complicated activities and  entertaining ideas. We have allowed the world to pull us from our purity by pushing its impure ideas and market driven practices on us. Our motivation has become nickels and noses, money and people, instead of Christ manifest in His church.

To be the church is simple. Christ is knocking at the door and we need to answer the door and let Him come in to us to lead us forward into His fullness.    

     

To Be a Christian

March 9, 2024

To be a Christian is not what many people think. Being a Christian has nothing to do with the mindless ritual of religion but everything to do with knowing God through Christ and living in fellowship with Him and others who choose to follow Him. It is not a religious experience filled with regulations and programmed protocol but a supernatural life in which Christ comes to dwell inside of us and inspire the process of transforming us into His image (Col 1:27; John 14:20; 1 Cor 3:15; 2 Cor 3;18).

First of all the early followers of Christ didn’t even call themselves Christians. They preferred to refer to their experience as “the way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9) because they experienced a new way of life in Christ who called himself “the way” (John 14:6). It was simply a way of life living in fellowship with Christ and His people.

Jesus met with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who came to Him with all of his Jewish understanding of what it meant to follow God. Jesus replied to Him  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3). He elaborated with the same thought:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which has been born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5, 6).

This expression “born again” could be translated “born from above” implying a rebirth conceived from heaven through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spoke here of a supernatural life whereby a person is reborn in his spirit into a completely new life experience.

Paul says of this experience:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). A supernatural change takes place whereby a person is a completely new created spiritual being filled with the Spirit of God. It is a matter of knowing God and having a personal, living experience of Him with His people (John 17:3).

So genuine Christians are actually aliens on planet earth in its present condition which is under the illegal control of the god of this world system. The earth belongs to the Lord and all who will inherit it (Ps 24;1; 1 Cor 10:26; Matt 5:5). It does not belong to the hordes of demons who possess it because of man’s sin against the Creator.

We are commissioned with the task of loving Him and His children and revealing the kingdom of God and its King to the kingdom of the world. Our love and unity were meant to display the nature of God to the sons and daughters of  of men. Satan and his minions have cultivated religion, including the Christian religion, to distract the followers of Christ from their divine mission. Religion is what man makes of God but genuine Christianity is what God makes of man. We have reversed the process and are paying the price.

At this point in history, in this place we call America, we are a colossal failure in our mission. We have bought into Satan’s lie that human cleverness and ingenuity are a substitute for the power, enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is a life led by the Spirit not be theologians (Rom 8:14).  We have built human edifices reaching to the sky like Nimrod did in Babel. We are divided by doctrinal issues, enticed by the world’s lusts, majoring in minor issues while neglecting the issue of God and His kingdom. We are like the Pharisees to whom Jesus said, “You strain at a gnat and swallow camel “(Matt 23:24).  

The theme of my message at this point in my life is the need to return to the simplicity and purity in our devotion to Christ (2 Cor 11:3). I have written a book presenting my case entitled The Coming Divine Reset of the Body of Christ for those interested in exploring further. It is can be found on Amazon and many other places.

I have no desire to sell books but have in my heart like Jeremiah “. . . a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot prevail” ( Jer 20:9). Whether it be through words on pages or spoken into the air, this is my message and that of many other faithful Christ followers--it is time for a reset at the hands of God that will guide the body of Christ, the church, back to its place of glory.

 

Growing in Christ

February 1, 2024

 

. . . we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Eph. 4:15).

 

Spiritual growth does not just happen automatically in the life of a follower of Christ. All kinds of life require certain conditions to grow effectively. Without those conditions a living organism will grow weak and possibly die. A newborn Christian is a spiritual organism that demands spiritual conditions in which to prosper.

If we ask the typical Christian today what those conditions are we will usually get an answer something like this. Go to church regularly, read your Bible, have a time of devotion and pray. Some will add things such as tithe regularly, be involved in some ministry of the church, take part in the worship time etc. Yet, massive numbers of people are not growing in such an environment and many are leaving these churches because they aren’t seeing genuine growth in their lives and others.  

God has provided a corporate setting in which we are continually growing spiritually It is called the body of Christ. If we are truly born again, and Christ dwells within us we will be growing if we are planted in a healthy spiritual environment. This is true of all living things. A plant, for example, may have life in it but if that life is not cared for it will begin to lose vitality and stop growing. The question we need to be asking is whether our church environment provides the essentials for genuine spiritual life?

The typical church service in a typical traditional church consists of a time of musical participation and a message from the pastor and perhaps some formal prayer and a challenge to the congregation at the end. Many people are going to these services week after week without experiencing  much genuine spiritual growth.

Paul explains bluntly the conditions for growth in the body of Christ. Keeping in mind that it is a spiritual body with spiritual needs, he says:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:14-16).

In verse 14 the apostle sums up what we are experiencing in many of our traditional churches. A lot of doctrine is tossed around through teaching using eloquent methods of oratory on topics of interest and the result is much cunning and craftiness and in some case “deceitful scheming.” The actual Greek in that verse could end with “people in their methods of error.” In other words Paul is indicating that certain methods err because they miss the mark of providing the conditions for spiritual growth.

In another place he says that in the end times  “. . . people will not tolerate healthy doctrine, but with itching ears will surround themselves with teachers who cater to their people's own desires” (2 Tim 4:3). In the first place what we call “pulpit preaching” was not a practice of the early church because it did not encourage spiritual growth but only served to attract people who wanted their “itching ears” satisfied. Secondly, speaking at people is not an effective method of communication. Dialogue is much more effective. Any effective teacher will agree.  

In the next words of this passage Paul explains the conditions needed for the body of Christ and individuals in it to grow spiritually. He starts with “speaking the truth in love, we will grow.” In the Greek it is not “speaking the truth” but “truthing” or living in an environment where truth is prevalent. So, what does that look like? It is a context where all pretending and false spiritual facade is avoided. In this environment people are not trying to impress others with their knowledge or speaking ability, but are simply being honest and expecting the same of others. They are being truthful with themselves, one another and God. That attitude sets the stage for growth to take place.

Next Paul shares how the corporate spiritual body grows. Everything flows from Christ, the Head of the body. He is life itself and came to give us abundant life that must flow from Him to everyone else. Then as Christ flows His life to us through His Spirit the body is “fitted and held together by what every joint supplies.” The joint is the connection between the parts of the body allowing every member to flow life to the others through their words and actions. This can only happen when each individual member is working properly. In other words, no one gets to just sit back passively and take it all in without participating as a member of the body. This flowing of life between the members “causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

This scares many people because we tend to shy away from open sharing, This sharing will be very diverse as each person participates  according to their unique place in the body of Christ. Romans 12 speaks of this diversity that God has provided His body. Some share out of a teaching, leading or prophetic gift. Others are givers, servers, merciful or encouragers but each is coming from their unique place in Christ.

There is no clergy system in God’s provisions for His church. Instead He has called us to be a kingdom of priests, each having equal access to the throne of God (Rev 1:6; 1 Peter 2;5; Heb 4:16).

Growing in Christ is not about how much knowledge you have or how many hours you pray. Paul says “. . . we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:15). If we are growing spiritually we will slowly look more and more like the Christ we serve. We will gradually become “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).

This process is called “transformation”  which is the English word for the Greek language from which we get the word metamorphosis, which is a gradual change that takes place in living things. The word is used in Romans 12:2 where Paul says “. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is.” He says it another way to the Corinthians: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). As we spend time in the presence of Jesus we are changed into His image and have His glory in our lives.

This happens as we are in fellowship with other followers of Christ not in isolation. We saw this in Ephesians 4:16 earlier.  God made us to be connected to others, not to live in isolation. So often I see believers who have no connection to the body of Christ who can’t figure out why they are not growing but are staying in the same place or move backward and abandon their faith.  

So what will your life begin to look like when you grow in Christ? Here are the characteristics you will begin to experience: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22, 23). Notice that all of these qualities have to do with how you treat others and of course God. Love, of course, is the overriding quality that God shares with us as we walk with Him and it is accompanied by these other spiritual fruits that will change your life as you begin to look more and more like our Lord.

But you can’t do it in isolation. You need God and the fellowship of His people to begin and continue this transformation and growth toward spiritual maturity as a child of the King.

 


What if the Ten Commandments were Still Honored?

January 23, 2024

Sometimes it is helpful to imagine the value of something we have lost by seeing what it would be like if we had not lost it. In this message I will address the question of what our society might be like if the Ten Commandments had not been removed by government misunderstanding of the establishment clause of the Constitution and the principle of separation of church and state.

Let’s start by understanding how the Ten Commandments were  slowly barred from the public life of American citizens. In November of 1980 the US Supreme Court decided Stone v. Graham which struck down a Kentucky law requiring that a copy of the Ten Commandments be posted in every public school classroom. The Court’s argument concerned the first four commandments which deal with religious aspects like worshiping God whereas the second group of commandments deals with primarily how people treat one another.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The word “establishment” was clear to the founders. They had seen the problems that were created when nations establish one religion as the official religion of the country. They had seen this in England and most of Europe and knew that the Constitution should prohibit the establishment of a state religion so that people would not be coerced to be part of one religion.

So, the First Amendment tells the “Congress,” the federal law-making body of the nation composed of the House and the Senate, that it cannot pass any laws that establish a religion. It tells the Government what it cannot do and does not address what the people can or cannot do.

The second part of the religion clause states that the federal law-making body cannot pass a law “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The federal government  cannot take any action that prohibits citizens from exercising their religion as they see fit. So Congress is barred from interfering with religion in any way.

People will often respond with the question “But what about the separation of church and state?’ The answer is that the expression “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution. The expression was used by Thomas Jefferson to remind the church that they need have no fear because there is a separation of church and state by which he meant that the state cannot interfere in the affairs of the church. The expression is used by some to claim that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution. A simple read of the First Amendment will dispel that notion.

Notice that the states are not mentioned in the First Amendment. Some states had established churches such as the Puritans in several states, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, or the Catholics in Maryland. With this background in mind, the Founders left the issue of a state church up to the individual states. Eventually all states moved away from the notion of establishment and it remained the thinking of the nation that any issue of religion was left to the states.

So, the issue of church and state should have been left up to the states in the same way the Supreme Court recently ruled  on the abortion issue in keeping with the Tenth Amendment. But for now at least we will have to live with this misunderstanding of the First Amendment which essentially allows the government to do what the Constitution prohibits.    

So let’s examine what our country might be like if the Ten Commandments were still part of our lives setting moral standards for behavior.

The sixth commandment tells us to honor our fathers and mothers. Imagine what life would be like if children and young people treated their parents with honor. If they learned obedience and honor at home our schools would be filled with young people who honor their teachers and administrators. As a former teacher I can tell you that would be a game changer for our families, communities and schools. If this kind of honor was being experienced at home, the next four commandments concerning murder, adultery, stealing and lying would be almost unnecessary.

The next commandment, “You shall not murder,” covers the tendency of people to allow their anger to get out of hand. Jesus realized this telling us that to be overly angry with a person is the same as murder because murder starts in the heart (Matt 5:22). Imagine our country without this plague of violence we now experience.  Imagine not hearing about the daily shootings and murders in cities like Chicago, LA and other big cities in the country. Imagine if gangs were not forming and anger was not rampant because respect for life was common.

Then there’s that question of adultery. Adultery is having sexual relations outside of marriage. It is the highest human expression of love which leads to the birth of another person  with the potential to bear the image of God. It is the result of the very first thing that God did in regard to the human race. Marriage is dear to the heart of God.

Imagine men being faithful to their wives and passing the value of that faithfulness on to their children who then continue the trend. Imagine these men in the inner cities loving their wives and being in the home for their children who would then learn  moral behavior from mom and dad. Gangs would cease to exist as young men find meaning in their parents and the home instead of the chaos of the street. Drug dealers would have no market and would find another way of making a living and potential prostitutes would find love instead of sex partners.

Pornography on the internet and other media would dry up like old leaves in the sun when men find pleasure with their wives and their children learn the same. The movie industry would have to find a new way of portraying young love as young people wait for marriage to have sex. Abortion  would once again be recognized as murder of the innocent and thousands of children each year would live to see their lives realized. Maybe one of them would grow up to cure cancer or become a great leader.

Stealing would slowly become a practise of the past as people learn respect for people and property. Mob stealing would be replaced with mob charity events as giving began to win out over taking.

Lying would slowly fade away because there would be so few things to lie about as people learn the value of morality properly practiced. Truth would replace falseness as moral values become a part of our lives. Imagine our news media actually reporting the news and analyzing it in an honest way. People would learn the truth about things instead of the spin of a political party.

I am aware of the naivete of this message. Essentially I have been describing moral conditions of the kingdom of God ruled by the King of the universe. But take it from an old timer, there was a time when these moral conditions were more common. I never heard of divorce until as a fifth grader I discovered one of my friends had a different last name then his mother.

You’ve probably heard some old timer reminiscing about not locking the door at night or being able to walk down the street after dark without fear or getting a spanking for using a cuss word. Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end. But they did because some men in black robes decided they knew better than the Founders of our nation who created the Constitution. We’re having to live with that but it doesn’t change the truth as presented in God’s moral laws and expressed in the Constitution of the United States.

If the first commandment were honored and followed all of the rest of them would manifest in our lives. That commandment is  "You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex 20:3). We have forsaken our God and made idols of everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear or the cars we drive. We have been lured away from our God and serve other things. The result has been the banning of His moral laws in our schools and society as a whole.  We refuse to honor Him by living the way we want forgetting that He is God and we are not.

Jesus said He did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). Letting Christ lead us through His Holy Spirit is the way to keeping His laws because we can only do so in His strength. He gave us the law to show us that we are incapable of keeping it and need His strength to do so.

One thing is settled. If God’s laws were still honored our country would be in a much better place.

 

 


If you seek you will find

January 12, 2024

 

People are being scattered in their thinking. This is the tactic of the enemy. Throughout the culture of our country we hear the cries of frustration as we see how people are responding to the mental, spiritual and social attacks of the enemy on our ability to be still and focused so that we can find and know our God. God has made Himself very accessible and known for all people so that no one has an excuse for avoiding Him. The problem is we live in a world that sends out the opposite message and then busies us with every imaginable thought and activity  so that we are so confused that we don’t seek truth which is what will set us free. We need clarity from God.

Jesus spoke these liberating words in His sermon on the mount:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7, 8).

So the first step toward clarity is to seek. No one can look at the night sky and not be amazed at the grandeur of it all and wonder about how it all came to be. God gave us a spirit and created the universe to spark a seeking heart in us all. Some people reject it and some respond to it.  Jesus promises that if we seek we will find what we’re looking for. If we knock at God’s door He will answer it and come in to us. If we ask Him a question He will give us a straight answer that leads to truth. He is not hiding but is freely open to coming into our lives and having fellowship with us.

This seeking is difficult in our crazy, fast paced world of scrambling busyness. It will require you to follow the advice of the psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). The word translated “be still” means in Hebrew to “cease” what you’re doing and pay attention. Every person must come to this special place where they put the cell phone down, cease from their scurrying about and listen for the still, small voice of God. In the quiet stillness He will speak to the seeking heart.  

Paul said to the Roman church:

. . . that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom 1:19-21).

Here Paul makes it clear that God has made Himself known within the hearts of people and through His creation. King Solomon wisely said, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Eccl 3:11). God put the awareness of eternity in our hearts so that we will seek after it. He also made it clear that we will not be able to scientifically understand the grandeur of creation because it is beyond the ability of our minds. Yet, we can know that eternity is real and He is real.

Paul, in Romans, was simply agreeing with Solomon that God has fully made Himself knowable and find-able if we are seeking after the truth about Him. If we seek we will find. If we don’t look at creation and since this knowledge of creation in our hearts we will never find God but will be confused by the tactics of the enemy to distract us and keep us from seeking.

After seeking and finding, the next thing to happen is our spiritual ears are opened and we begin to hear what God is saying in creation and in our hearts. God has given us the ability to hear Him even through the clamor of Satan’s world system (Heb 5:11; Rev 2:7f).

The word says “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Hearing is simply opening the ears of our hearts to perceive what Christ is saying. Once we hear Him, faith is generated in our hearts.

Time and again in the New Testament Jesus attributed faith to someone who was healed. The woman with the bleeding issue was healed when she touched the hem of His garment. Jesus said to her "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." She was immediately healed (Matt 9:22). Why? Because somewhere along the line she had heard in her heart the words of Jesus and faith came to her heart.

Faith is the God-given ability to see things His way. Spiritual things are revealed to the seeking heart that listens to and hears what God says. Hebrews 11:1 has this definition of faith:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Faith is the God-given ability to see into the spiritual realm, to see things that we hope for and to become convinced of things we cannot see because they are spiritual in nature.

Once we hear what God says, faith comes forth like fruit on a healthy tree. It grows out of God’s word which we have heard because we listened for His voice.  No wonder Jesus repeats seven times “He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2;7f). Even in His churches Jesus must admonish us to open our ears so that we can hear God and faith can come forth.

True faith will then produce changes in our lives because it connects us to the giver of transforming life. James wrote “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Faith that does not produce works, visible changes to our lives, is dead and is not real faith.

People telling you things may affect your thinking but it will not produce faith in your heart. God’s word is a supernatural seed that when planted in your spirit will produce the life of God within you and that life will produce godly change (1 Peter 1:23). It will produce spiritual fruit like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control (Gal 5:22, 23). That’s God’s life growing in us.

Of course all of this presupposes that we are in fellowship with others on the same journey of life in Christ. The church is the body of Christ, a spiritual family and quality spiritual growth outside of connection to His body is difficult. By this I’m not talking about simply going to church but becoming part of a genuine spiritual family where growth is encouraged, fostered and sharing  is the norm.

So, the process goes like this: if we seek we will find and will be able to hear God which produces His faith in us resulting in  His life-changing presence in our lives. It’s simple yet profound and wonderful. Now seek Him with your whole heart and watch Him do the rest.

 

 


Is God in Total Control?

January 6, 2024

Often I will hear people say when faced with one of life’s challenges, “Well God is in control.” I don’t think some of my fellow believers in Christ have really thought through what that declaration means. Is God in control of all things? Does He control my every action and completely take any initiative out of my hands? Is He in control when I am disobedient or sinful? Was He in control when Hitler murdered over 6 million Jews and over 7 million others? Is He personally causing the deaths of people due to disease, war and famine?

Believe it or not there are people who believe that all of these terrible things are part of God’s plan and that He does control them. They believe that He controls every little detail of your life and that of all other humans. To them, He is in that sense in total control.

This idea is a devastating error. Let’s explore why that is so. Keep in mind that if you have a preconceived notion about anything you will be able to find scripture that seems to support it. As a former Jehovah’s Witness I can attest to that truth. We used the proof text method to support our false ideas.  Always search the scriptures to see and embrace its message but don’t begin with  your message and find passages that seem to support it.

In the beginning God created the first humans. He was not creating robots or just a higher form of animal life but children who were to bear His image (Gen 1:27). We were to bear His image in the same way that a sons or daughters bear the image of their parents. They would be like Him. He gave them a spirit and a soul so they could contain Him and express Him on the earth (Gen 2:7; Prov 20:27; Zech 12:1).

To be His children demanded that we be given a free will. He built within us the ability to choose. We could choose good or evil because our will is free. To be like God, to bear His image, demanded that we have the ability to make decisions. God is love and love demands freedom. Some people cannot understand how God could be totally sovereign and still allow us to have the freedom of choice. It’s simple--God built it into our being the ability to have that free will because He loves us. It is what all children possess. Imagine a father handing down hard rules for living without the balance of love and free will. That would be a dictator, not a father.

This freedom was necessary if humans were to exercise the authority God gave them at creation. Imagine the spiritual power they had to have to exercise dominion over every living thing on the earth (Gen 1:26)! They were to subdue the earth and everything on it contrary to God’s will (Gen 1:28). This required total freedom to make choices.

The first evidence of this is God’s command to the first man:

From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Gen 2:16, 17).

This command makes no sense if man did not have a will. God was speaking to beings that understood that they could choose between the two trees, between life and death--between the ability to live by God’s life or to live by a life of their own in which they could discern good and evil in their own way without God.

They chose wrongly and we inherited the pain and suffering of death because of their misplaced decision (Rom 5:12-14). Death and all of its consequences were the result of that act of their free will.

We see the continuing evidence of that in Cain and Able the children of the first man and woman. God gave them a choice of bringing an offering in which God no doubt had made clear what kind of offering was acceptable. Able was a shepherd and brought an offering from His flock. Cain brought vegetables from His garden (Gen 4:3-6). God accepted the offering of Able but not that of Cain. God had His reasons for His decision that unfolded clearly in later events but and the two sons had free will and could respond the way they chose. Cain chose to rebel against God and later murdered his brother Abel.

They both had a choice of which offering to bring. They both had a choice of what to do as a result. Cain chose to be petty, jealous and angry to the point of murder. Abel lost his life because of his brother’s moral decision. Did God orchestrate all of this? Of course not! Free will is built into us by God. We get to make choices and that’s why we need the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:16; Matt 16:13). Was this His will or were the two men simply exercising the moral choice that God gave them?

This problem arises from our understanding of God’s sovereignty as it relates to free will. Some theologians cannot bring themselves to believe that God’s sovereignty can include free will. That God can be sovereign and man be free to make choices is not an incomprehensible mystery.

Time and again the word of God calls us to choose. He gave Israel the choice between Him and the gods of the nations: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15).

Isaiah prophesied to Judah the same choices: "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword” (Isa 1:19, 20). Just as it was with Adam and Even and Cain and Able, the choice was theirs to make because God had given it to them. That choice remains before us today.

Our choice to receive the gift of salvation makes no sense if we do not possess free will. Paul wrote“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). That verse only makes sense if we know that we possess the will to call on the Lord and be saved.

People will quote verses like Philippians 2:13 trying to say that this is not so: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). They try to say that it is His will not ours that accomplishes His good pleasure. As with all proof text attempts, there are several things wrong with that interpretation. To begin with, the word for “work” here is the word energeo which means to energize something unlike the word ergo which simply means to do work. So of course God energizes us through His Spirit to exercise our will and do His work. God’s sovereignty certainly does mean that He gives energy to His will in us to exercise the free will He has given us. He wants our will to line up with His.

God, indeed does have sovereignty and in His sovereignty He has given us the will to choose or reject Him. The often quoted verse in Romans 8:28 is used by some to muddy the water: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God does cause all things to work together for good but there is a condition to that promise--”to those who love God, to those who are call to His purpose.” The words “all things work together” don’t mean that everything turns out “good” but that the events in our lives are used by God to produce His good in us.

The next two verses continue this thought:

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:29, 30).

Notice that God predestined us to “become conformed to the image of His Son” not to heaven or hell. This is a comforting message to followers of Christ that His eternal purpose of conforming us to His image will be accomplished. His foreknowledge does not mean our calling, justification and glorification are separated from our exercise of free will. It is by our choice that all He offers to us is given to us (John 3:16; 4:14; Rom 6:23).

The enemy of God is an effective propagandist. He is the one who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” but Christ came to given us abundant life (John 10:10). But Satan uses his propaganda through religion, philosophy and politics to convince us that God is doing all the evil things he does. An evil thing happens and people cry out “Why did God do this?” thinking that God is in control of everything that happens and could have done the opposite.

God allowed His Son to be crucified but it was His enemy who unknowingly orchestrated His death. Look how God has used that death to liberate millions from his clutches!

Is God in total control? Yes, but He has chosen us to work with Him in the  accomplishment of His will. We are invited to be His church, against which the gates of hades will not prevail (Matt 16:18, 19). The body of Christ is granted extraordinary authority and with that authority  comes freedom of will.      


We’re all in the same boat regarding sin

January 1, 2024

I have noticed that many people who are LGBT related use the term homophobic quite regularly to define anyone who disagrees with their view of sexuality. We are pinned with that insulting name with the accusation that we condemn and judge gay people because we are ignorant or fearful of people who are different from us. As a Christian this spurred my thinking about how we are to handle judgment of others.

Romans chapter one reveals God’s perspective about sin and chapter 2 tells us how to address such sins in the lives of others. Chapter one gives us a scathing rendition of God’s attitude concerning mostly sexual sin. Here is some of that chapter:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Rom 1:26-28).

This is a clear passage that is not open to debate unless one wants to pit himself against the Creator of the universe. If you reject the Bible as God’s word, then that’s another issue we all need to deal with. God created the human race as male and female with the ability to fulfill His command to multiply and express His image upon the earth (Gen 1:22-28). To rebel against this desire of God is to reject His eternal purpose for humanity and brashly shove it in His face. It is not just a minor transgression but a deliberate action in the same vein as the original lie to the first man and woman.

That lie and the defiance of Adam and Eve began the rebellion that plagues planet earth to this day. Jesus Himself recognized this when He pointed out that God originally created our race male and female (Matt 19:4; Mark 10:6). It is no wonder that the sexual nature of men and women is such a target of the enemy of God.

So that brings me to the second point I wanted to make about how we are to react to the sin in others which comes from the next chapter of Romans. Paul begins that chapter saying “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (v. 1). Clearly, He is saying that every human Jew or Gentile (and today He might include Christian) is guilty of these violations of the will of God.

The ending of chapter one is one of the most crushing judgments against the human race that I have ever read:  

unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful

Paul in chapter one bluntly says that no person can make an excuse for his behavior. He wrote “. . . that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (1:19). Not a single person can say, “I never knew about you God” because He has made Himself known within us and in the universe He created. The “them” in this verse is every human being Jew or Gentile.

Paul says it bluntly later in this epistle: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). The Psalmist knew this when he wrote “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Ps 14:3). Isaiah agreed saying “ All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa 53:6).

God gave the law to show us that we are incapable of righteousness on our own. It was not given as a set of rules to make us righteous but to lead us to God who would share His righteousness with us. His purpose remains the same as the day He spoke to Adam and Eve:  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion. . .  over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” He was not creating robots or a higher form of animal life but children who would bear His image and likeness.

Here in Romans chapter two He addresses the entire human race with a simple judgment: “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” ( v. 3). The “man” here is every human being Jew, Gentile, or Christian. We have all inherited the incurable disease of sin and the only cure is in the grace of God. We are all in the same boat.

We are not to pass judgment on any person in the world. The only judgment we are allowed is the corporate judgment we exercise toward fellow members of the body of Christ, who are involved in continuing sin. Paul deals with this in regard to the church in Corinth:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor 5:1, 2).

The church is the family of God, those who have received His grace by faith realizing that they are incurable sinners in need of God’s life to redeem them. But this is judgment aimed at helping the person who is sinning. Later on Paul sees that this person has repented and advises the Corinthians with these words;  

. . . so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him (2 Cor 2:7, 8).

The church was never meant to be a haven for spiritual elite. God designed it so that it served as a hospital where healing of the soul is available to all--a family where members contribute to the growth of one another. Everyone knows that they are broken sinners in need of continual healing. If one among them rejects that healing and acts like they are not a part of God’s family, they would be treated as they wish and not able to benefit from the fellowship of the believers.

Genuine fellowship which involves open, honest sharing brings healing to all who seek it. The body of Christ is to function by speaking and living in an atmosphere of truth so that all may “. . . grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:15, 16). 

Christians should never pass judgment on people outside of the body of Christ by accusing them. Their sin is between them and God. Each of us is guilty of sin against God and should realize that our only hope is God’s grace toward us when we receive His free offer of redemption through Christ.

Isaiah, speaking of the coming Messiah, prophesied this wonderful truth:  

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:5, 6).

We are all broken through sin but God provided a simple free way for us to be healed. Paul put it this way: “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23, 24). We are all in the same boat in regard to sin and need God’s provision of forgiveness and redemption.

God, moved by His love for us, allowed His Son to pay the penalty for our sins and offer Himself freely to us. When we receive His free gift He doesn’t give us a religion. He gives us Himself to live within us and to be our righteousness and bear His image. That was His desire from the beginning.

We are not to judge people in the world but offer to them the hope of redemption in Christ. We don’t apologize for God’s pronouncement about sin but accept it and make a decision to turn from it and receive His gift of forgiveness and redemption. That is the Gospel, the good news.   

Atheists Believe in Miracles

December 26, 2023

 

Most atheists are quick to point out that miracles are impossible. Let’s define “miracle” as anything that violates the known natural  laws of science. This would mean that the miracles reported in the Bible such as the virgin birth, healing of a diseases, raising the dead, walking on water, etc. are simply proof that the Bible is bogus. Miracles, so they say, are impossible because they violate natural law recognized by science.

I would point out, on the other hand, that atheists believe in several miracles and they are hesitant to admit this to the honest observer because it reveals the absurdity of their position.  So, here are some miracles that atheists believe.

The universe created itself out of nothing.

For many years atheists leaned on the claims of science about the beginning of the universe with all of its stars, galaxies, and other astronomical wonders. Science came to believe what they call the “Big Bang” occurred causing all matter, energy, space and time to be formed causing the universe to exist and continue to expand. Before the Big Bang, to follow this reasoning, nothing existed anywhere. There was no matter of any kind, no energy or even any space or time. There was simply nothing.

So atheists, who reject the existence of God, believe that out of this nothingness, without the aid of anything outside of the realm of accepted science, a massive explosion took place causing the creation of an ever expanding universe full of all of the elements of the periodic table and the billions upon billions of stars, planets, solar systems, moons and galaxies and all of the other amazing components of our universe. When asked “What came before the Big Bang?” scientists just shrug and say the answer to that is outside of the realm of science so science has no answer.

That, my friends, is a miracle beyond all miracles. This massive, ever expanding universe came into existence by a mysterious Big Bang that not even science can explain. Nothing existed. Not even space itself or time. Then incredibly it all just happened without any outside interference that science can identify. That’s a miracle!

The creation of life  

To top it all off, atheists believe the same thing about life itself. All living things are built from the basic elements carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, oxygen and sulfur. Of course this brings us back to our original conundrum--how did these elements come to exist out of the nothingness of a spaceless, timeless, purposeless emptiness where there is no God?

But even if the Big Bang did occur, which would be a miracle, all of these elements would have to align perfectly for life to have a start. British mathematician, astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle concluded that the odds of life arising spontaneously were impossible:

     “The likelihood of the formation of life from inanimate matter is one to a number with 40,000 naughts after it ... It is big enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of evolution. There was no primeval soup, neither on this planet nor any other, and if the beginnings of life were not random, they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence.”

So there you have it--another miracle believed by atheists.

The creation of DNA and information

DNA is truly amazing. It is found in every cell of every organism and is shaped like a spiraling staircase. Each rung in the staircase is like a letter in our alphabet and taken together spell out words with meanings. There are about three billion letters in our DNA, containing an immense amount of information about building the heart, lungs, brain and other organs and even how to produce a baby from the fertilized egg.

The sequence of these “letters” is like a language as different combinations of them specify which amino acid is to be placed in which place along the long chain. This information determines every characteristic the body will need to grow and prosper.

How did this information come into being? Information is knowledge that can be transmitted and used to build organic machines. Knowledge must come from some kind of mind. The presence of a mind would be necessary because information is the product of rational thought.

But atheists believe this all happened by some process that science can’t explain over billions of years. For every effect there must be a cause. This cause would have to have be extremely intelligent to be able to create such intelligence for thousands of organic entities. How could mind and morality develop from inorganic material such as matter? In other words atheists clearly believe in another miracle.

The origin of diversity of life

Atheists have a problem explaining the origin of the amazing diversity in all living things. The development of one form of life is miracle enough but each time a new form developed a new miracle is realized. The genomes of modern  biological life show amazing diversity that could not possibly have been created by means of mutations in the supposed original microbe that evolutionists claim. The evolutionary development of one such microbe through mutations is miracle enough not to mention the continuation of that process through the millions of different forms of life. Atheists end up believing in an incomprehensible series of such miracles.

Conclusion

The conclusion I reach is that atheists are willing to shrug their shoulders at the question “What was here before the Big Bang?” but can’t seem to imagine that the something that came before the creation of the universe must have been a being powerful and intelligent enough to create such a massive phenomenon. They claim the question is outside the realm of science so they can plead

Thanksgiving

November 23, 2023

 

Up until the last few years Thanksgiving was seen as a day of hope and gratitude for God’s many blessings. Families came together and looked past racial, religious and cultural differences and celebrated our diversity as an immigrant nation. Our motto e pluribus unum, “out of many one,” expressed our pride as a nation of diverging ethnic groups from throughout the world.

Tragically, in recent years a segment of our populace has chosen to accentuate our differences for political benefit. It seems that there are those in our society who are opposed to our history as a nation and have done their best attempting to rewrite it in their racist image. The result is an avalanche of articles, books, speeches, university classes etc. that seek to downplay our national pride in our unity in the midst of diversity. For some reason they want to accentuate our differences and reinvent our history to make it look like a nation birthed in and built on racism.

The 1619 project, a journalism endeavor by writers of the New York Times essentially revises American history based on the notion that the United States had its real beginning with the arrival of slaves and that most developments in the country were motivated by a racist foundation that has permeated our history as a nation and persists to this day. An educational curriculum was developed and spread to schools from primary to university classes. The recent tearing down of historical monuments and statues was fueled by this growing hatred of our founders and the notion that our country was founded on the people seeking the fulfillment of the promise of freedom and equality of all citizens.

These revisers of history have attempted this with our national holiday Thanksgiving. The internet and other sources are flooded with articles that use click bait and innuendo without due journalistic diligence to build their false premise that we are a racist nation. They claim that we took advantage of the early Indians and continued to take advantage of anyone not having a white, European background. This propaganda has affected many of our young people who have not been taught how to evaluate and balance information.

The purpose of this article is not to thoroughly debunk that idea, which is easy for truth seekers to do, but to simply remind my readers that it is a devastating lie that can easily be exposed with a simple, open minded study of history. Rather, I want to remind our readers that the source of thanksgiving is God.

We are the only country that has set aside a day to give thanks to God. President Abraham Lincoln was moved by the recommendation of Sarah Hale, the author of the children’s poem, Mary had a Little Lamb, to announce an official Thanksgiving holiday. She felt it would help to heal the wounds of the Civil War. This sentiment was first expressed by George Washington who, following the American Revolution, called for a national day of public prayer and thanksgiving. And so in1863 Thanksgiving was born. Today we celebrate with our founders and the people who went before us a day of thanksgiving to our God who has prospered us.

We declare that we are thankful for a nation that that began its journey with the words, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Let us continue this journey by appealing to our Creator for continued blessing and giving genuine thanksgiving to Him.

 

 

The Miracle of Fellowship

August 26, 2023

 

Alcoholics Anonymous got something right. They found that alcoholics need a connection to others through group therapy in order to get free of their addiction. They need to look people in the eye, admit their problem and open up to other people through sharing before healing manifests in their lives. Psychology is the study of the soul so psychologists inherently know that connection with others is very important to the healing process. It’s as though they have touched on a principle that we are missing in our approach to the Christian life.

What is this principle that many therapy groups have known for years? It is the simple notion that all humans are communal beings. We were never meant to be alone but joined with others as a family. God made us that way because He desires a family of children not just prosperous individuals. We need connection with others before we can be spiritually healthy.

Obviously God meant for us to be family-oriented and put within us the need to connect with others through the sharing process. This is why God’s people are called the family of God (1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19). He tells the church in Ephesus that the way to spiritual healing is through the service of the saints (Eph 4:12). This service, he says, results in “the building up of the body of Christ.” This is God’s way--each believer serving the others so that the whole is strengthened and built up spiritually.

Jesus made this principle clear when He assumed the garb of the house servant and washed the feet of His disciples (John 13). Then He said this to them: 

You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:13-15).

With this one action Jesus made it clear that there would be no clerical  hierarchy in His church but that all of His followers would serve one anther.  

So after the Holy Spirit had been poured out on that first Pentecost the followers of Christ “. . . were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They were serving one another and no one person controlled the gathering. The apostles’ teaching, God’s word, was the content of what they shared in fellowship with one another.

The word “fellowship” in the Greek is koinonia, which is sharing what we have in common. This sharing can take place in many ways. Paul encourages the Corinthians to share with one another: “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor 14:26). The purpose of the sharing, according to Paul, is edification which literally means “to build up.” This “building up” refers to their spiritual lives not the numbers of people in the gathering.

Through sharing (koinonia) our souls are strengthened. What we are sharing is God’s word which is what Luke meant when he wrote that the church in Jerusalem immediately realized that koinonia is the source of inner strength. The early church was “continually devoting themselves” to God’s word expressed in “the apostles’ teaching” by sharing it with one another. Prophecy (sharing what God puts in your heart) was the primary way of sharing in the meetings and was encouraged (vv. 3, 31).

The word of God shared between believers becomes the source of an amazing miracle. The writer of Hebrews explains why that is so:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

We forget how powerful God’s word is. It is a spiritual sword that can pierce to the core of our being where spirit meets soul, where God’s will meets self will, where the inner presence of the Spirit meets our self-serving flesh. The word penetrates and heals where man’s word accomplishes little.

Fellowship is the key to believers growing spiritually. Paul tells us why that is so in Ephesians 4:15, 16:  

. . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph 4:15, 16).

This is an amazing verse! It tells us that we were made to be connected to one another; that our life in Christ is not only a connection to Him in the Spirit but a connection with one another. Our individual and communal growth depends on this connection as we become part of a spiritual body that works best and grows up spiritually when each part is working properly. All of this of course is possible through truth expressed in love, the God quality that helps us put our self aside and allow others to rise up (1 Cor 13:4-8). This is indeed a miracle!

Keep in mind the therapy approach of Alcoholics Anonymous and other therapy groups. Whether or not they follow scripture, such groups are using a tactic that works to heal to an extent because God designed us this way. Sharing your life with others will help in bringing healing to your soul and to theirs.

With this in mind, how can we conduct ourselves as followers of Christ so that we experience this koinonia on a regular basis? For sure our program-oriented churches are too big and complicated to allow for this closeness of sharing on a regular basis. I know some large churches are trying to make room for fellowship but they are finding it hard to juggle the many activities of traditional church with genuine sharing and in most cases are not willing to give them up. Something must be done to simplify our gatherings so that true koinonia can take place consistently in our lives.

Genuine fellowship must be the priority over everything we do as a church. When Paul was advising the Corinthians in how to gather in chapter 14, he left no room for the things we see as mandatory in a church gathering. He purposely centered on open family-life sharing by the believers because he knew that koinonia was what builds up the church. He knew that the church is a family and must conduct itself as one (1 Tim 3:15).

The early church met in houses and kept things very simple and pure. This simple way of gathering continued into the fourth century until Roman Emperor Constantine gave his assent to the established church and virtually made house church meetings illegal and shifted Roman tax money to the emerging institutional church. Thus began the marriage between “the church” and government that continued even through the Reformation to this day.

An amazing divine reset of the church has begun that is indicated in the research of George Barna. His research indicates 9 percent of U.S. adults are part of a house church which amounts to about 20 million people or about 43 percent of Christians. This is happening worldwide as well. China, for example, has about 120 million Christians, almost all based in homes.

Many traditional church members, because they see the present traditional church as the  biblical standard, oppose this trend but it seems to indicate a move toward a simpler way of gathering and a necessary break with the world’s influence. Our problem is we are so steeped in traditional requirements that we think we are not truly having church if these traditions are not continued.

 I cover this at length in chapter 8 of my recent book on the Divine Reset of the church which is available on Amazon. 


The Restoration of the Priesthood of all Believers

August 18, 2023

 

God spoke these crucial words to Moses and the people of Israel:

“’. . . you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Ex 19:6).

Clearly, God originally intended that His people were to be a kingdom of priests to Him. He wanted all of His people to function as a kingdom of priests. This is the priesthood of all believers. Unfortunately, Israel forfeited this privilege with their disobedience. The priesthood that developed in Israel later was not His original idea. He wanted His people to step into His will and function in the capacity to which He called them.

God restored that promise in Christ. Peter affirms this in these amazing words:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9; NIV).

Jesus, repeating this promise in the Book of Revelation, tells us that He  “. . . has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” 

The glorious beings of heaven sing a song about this hope declaring  "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10).

With Christ as our High Priest offering up His own life as the ultimate sacrifice, the writer of Hebrews encourages us as priests “. . . to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).

The church Christ is building is to be a kingdom of priests unto God serving in His spiritual temple, the body of Christ (1 Cor 3:16). This is why the New Testament never mentions a clergy class or special priesthood that serve as a mediators between God and His church. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a ministerial class that does the work of ministry while the others passively observe.

Ministry is the work of all the saints of God. The word for ministry in the Greek is diakonia which means service. There are special equipping ministries that equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (service) which results in the building up of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11, 12).

This is why a clergy class or priestly class is not presented in God’s word and is to be avoided if we desire to see His church grow spiritually. We are to respect and honor those who lead us but never abandon our priesthood responsibilities to them. The church Christ established served one another in their homes as they spent time learning from the teaching of the apostles, sharing with one another at meal times and during the day, living together in harmony and praying together (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor 14:26f).

It has been called the priesthood of all believers and God is preparing full-scale restoration of this spiritual priesthood and the recovery of His plan for the church. This will demand doing church God’s way instead of the program-oriented, market-driven way of the world.

If you are a follower of Christ, you are one of His priests in a world that desperately needs ambassadors of His kingdom who know how to intercede for others and offer up sacrifices of praise to God (Heb 13:15, 16). The church He is building is to be a haven of hope for the lost, a place of healing spirit, soul and body, a context in which truth is spoken and lived out for all to see. Christians are mediators between God and people in that they know how to direct people to God and connect them with Him.

Our gatherings should be opportunities for sharing truth and putting things said to the test of God’s word and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 14; 1 Thess 5:19-22). We need to practice praying, sharing, worshiping and digesting God’s word in preparation for our lives in the world. We need to abandon the traditional mode of gathering with one or a few people sharing while everyone else sits by passively. The body of Christ is a training ground for the warriors of God who go forth daily as God’s representatives (Eph 6:10-20; 2 Tim 2;3, 4).

God is about to fully restore His church to His will instead of the will of clever people. I have written about his extensively in my recent book The Coming Divine Reset of the Body of Christ. Our website https://www.church-gods-way.com/ also addresses this need. God bless your journey with Him.


Returning to Simplicity and Purity in our Devotion to Christ

August 14, 2023

 

Paul believed in simplicity and purity in our devotion to Christ. In 2 Corinthians he expressed a fear that was nagging at him, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (Cor 11:3). If you check the context of that chapter you will find that the church in Corinth was being confused by people preaching and teaching a message other than the Gospel of Christ. How like to today where we have a complicated hodgepodge of religious confusion and a wholesale compromise with the world’s way of doing things.

Paul believed and taught that church life in Christ was to be simple and pure free of the impediments and impurities provided by the world. Luke agreed when he shared the simple, family-life orientation of the first Christians: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer“ (Acts 2:42).

Later Luke wrote more about this simple life:

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46, 47).

There were no church “services,” sermons, orders of service, entertaining worship music, or Sunday school with children’s ministry, or any of the other appendages of later organized religion. They simply came together in their homes, or wherever, to have meals together and enjoy one another with Christ as the Guest of honor. He had promised to send the Holy Spirit and that if they gathered in His name He would be in their midst (Matt 18:20).

The most amazing thing was that there were no men of the “clergy” there to control things. They were beginning to learn that every follower of Christ was a priest, the body of Christ was His temple and He was the High Priest who had offered Himself as the Lamb of God (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Cor 3:16; Heb 2:17).

As priests before God and with their high priest in their midst, they were free to share truth as the Holy Spirit revealed it to them. All could speak as the Holy Spirit led and all could be involved in testing the things that were shared (1 Cor 14:31; 1 Thess 5:19-21). All could come “boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Together they could “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). They were priests of God ministering in His temple, the body of Christ.

Paul later saw this taking place and explained how the church could be blessed through this family life way of experiencing church life. He explained to the Ephesians how this would result in the real growth of the body of Christ:

. . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:15, 16).

The apostle realized that the body of Christ was a spiritual organism permeated with the life of Christ. It was never meant to be an organization that men with agendas could manipulate leaving at the door knocking to gain entrance. It was always meant to be a living temple growing up to express Christ (Eph 2:21, 22).

Notice in the above passage that everyone is invited to take part in serving one another. As each believer does their part, the body of Christ grows and is built up in love. Each part of the body must do its part or the body will be a disabled, malfunctioning mess. There was to be no passivity but each member was encouraged to actively take part. In 1 Corinthians 14 everyone is encouraged to share a message, a teaching, a revelation, a song or whatever the Spirit brings forth.

This is family life. It is Thanksgiving every time the church meets and all are encouraged and blessed as Christ, the Guest of honor, expresses Himself through the saints. We enjoy the physical meal as well as the spiritual meal of the word, the bread of life.

In the verse about simplicity and purity Paul says “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness. . .” Here Paul uses the same Greek word for craftiness that he uses in Ephesians 4:14 where he says the matured church would no longer be “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

The Holy Spirit has provided a way for us to express life as the church of the living God. Do we need to return to His word and see how we have gravitated away from this simple, family life way of gathering? Some will say that this kind of gathering is impractical in our large sacred buildings with all of the many traditions and programs. That is true. So we need to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit about how to cooperate with Him for the building up of His church. It will take some changes. Are we willing to accept the challenge to let Him bring those changes?

That is the question I ask in my new book The Coming Divine Reset of the Body of Christ. It calls us back to the simplicity and purity God desires in our devotion to Christ and helps to show how we can accomplish that. To see more on this subject visit us at church-gods-way.com.

 


The Elimination of Truth, a Primary Tactic of Satan

July 27, 2023

Truth is what God is. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit sent from God is commissioned to “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13). One primary purpose of gathering as the church is to speak the truth in love, so that we will “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:15). Without truth we don’t grow up individually or corporately.

We, the church, the true followers of Christ, are to be the “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). We are also called by Jesus ". . . the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). People exposed to the church, the followers of Christ, should sense a stable pillar and foundation to lean or stand on. They should be able to see a spiritual light in us that gives them something to go towards, a beacon of light. Jesus also said, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). If we are hiding away out of fear or intimidation, the light is hidden. Notice that we are the light “of the world” not the light to one another. We have and walk in the light but the world is in darkness and needs to see that beacon (John 12:46).

We are called by Paul to be a people who do not hold back on speaking prophecy (speaking what the Spirit puts in our hearts) but, because we seek truth, we “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21, 22). How will we know what is good if we aren’t examining things carefully seeking for truth? Evil is all around us and is creeping into our lives through television, the internet, social media, organized Christianity, evil government and much more. How can we abstain from evil in all of its forms if we don’t examine everything in the light of God’s word with the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Unfortunately, we Christians have become passive receivers of ideas and doctrines from our appointed heroes rather than from God’s word as led by the Holy Spirit. Whether those ideas or doctrines are good or bad we have passive, simply believing what our trusted heroes tell us. If you are a true Christian, you are called to part of a priesthood of believers who stand independently before God and then share with His people and the dying world (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6).   

In regard to truth this country is in a mess. We need to let our light shine and be the beacons of light a dying world needs. I’m afraid that too often we are cowards hiding away so we don’t offend anyone or let anyone offend us. The church is a major culprit in regard to this need of truth. Paul predicted that in the last days people will be “. . . always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7). The traditional church in all its forms is big on gaining knowledge thinking that knowledge always leads to truth. Truth is something the heart seeks for, not just the mind in its search for more knowledge.

The spirit of the age is bombarding us with knowledge but not too committed to finding the truth. Pew Research polls in almost every area show that support for freedom of speech is slowly being eroded in this country. Most people may not be aware that freedom of speech, the unbridled search for expressing truth, originates in scripture and is a major goal of the body of Christ. When the church abandons truth it follows that it is being influenced by popular ideas rather than standing on the solid rock of God’s word.

The Pew Research polls consistently show that support for the federal government restricting information has risen sharply in the last four years. Americans are even in favor of tech companies restricting content online. The emphasis in these polls is on restricting “false information” but that leaves open the question of who will define the word “false.” Left leaning voters who support such intervention are growing rapidly (56% in 2018 to 65% in 2023).

I bring in these statistics to show that we as a country are slowly drifting in the same direction that totalitarian countries like Hitler’s Nazi Party in the years leading up to the World War II. Christians need to be aware of this trend and the pressure it places on us to slip from the rock of truth and begin to invent “truth” that is convenient for us.

Throughout scripture Paul is constantly calling us back to God’s word and warning us of the dangers of slipping from “the wisdom that leads to salvation.” His warning is clear:

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convince of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:13-15).

The search for truth is paramount in our progress as followers of Christ. If we are not seeking truth the influence of these “evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse.” We will be deceived and will drift away into the world’s oblivion.

Stand firm out there! Truth does not just fall into our laps. It must be sought for and received with courage. The body of Christ, the church, must lead the way in this continuing search.

I write extensively on this need in my new book The Coming Divine Reset of the Body of Christ. It is available on Amazon and elsewhere. 

 

 


What is the Origin of the Universe?

July 13, 2023

If you do a search of the internet on the subject “The Origin of the Universe” you will get an amazing array of theories as to how the universe got its start. The big bang is the most common theory which postulates that a primeval atom under infinite density and temperature exploded, releasing an ever expanding universe. There are other theories such as the collapse of a black hole spewed debris that created the universe. These, of course are only theories because it would appear that the answer of a Creator God is not an option for today’s scientists.

So, I thought I would answer the question using science itself. What is the origin of the universe? The originator of the universe would have to be some powerful force that could accomplish the following things.

This force would have to create something out of nothing. Now there’s a big assignment. Nothing is hard to imagine and something coming forth from nothing would take this amazing power. It would need to be able to create matter, with atoms and molecules out of nothing. Atoms are little worlds all to themselves with a nucleus and protons and electrons. They are like tiny molecular solar systems. The nucleus of one tiny atom is the same proportion to the atom as a marble would be to a football field. The nucleus is at the center of this little world taking up only a few meters of space. Trillions upon trillions of these little atom solar systems would have to be created out of nothing and each atom would have to function with the neutrons and electrons taking their places and moving in precise coordination.

This great power would have to create trillions + of stars out of this matter to fill this expanse of the universe. Scientist believe our tiny galaxy, the Milky Way, is composed of several hundred billion stars. Each star is a burning mass of matter. The biggest star we know of is a hypergiant one with a radius 1,700 times larger than our sun. The volume of about 5 billion suns could fit inside a star of that size. That’s a lot of matter with those tiny solar system-like atoms. The power to create billions of such stars is truly unimaginable.

The James Webb telescope has now identified at least 5000 galaxies each with billions of stars. Can you imagine how great this power is that created all of the stars and galaxies out of nothing? That is amazing!! That’s a lot of matter made up of atoms created out of nothing!

In the midst of this amazing conglomeration of accidental matter in the universe, this great power would have to now create one single planet in the universe perfectly suited for life. This planet would have to be the exact size, shape and location in our solar system to allow life to begin and flourish.

First, water would have to be available to provide the hydrogen, and oxygen in a state suitable for living things. Then this great power would have to provide some form of energy. The sun light from our sun would have to provide that energy but it would have to be placed at exactly the right distance from earth so this planet would be just the right temperature to provide nutrients made by photosynthesis which would be a food source for many other organisms.

Many other facts would have to be present. Our sun’s radiation output would have to be just right so we are not burned to a crisp, and the magnetic field would have to protect us from storms of charged particles from the sun. On and on it goes as we see how amazing this power is that created the universe and situated earth in such perfect position for life.

But this great creative power would have to create life in the first place. Life demands elements like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus. Just taking one of these essential components of life — carbon and we see how amazing this great creative power would have to be. Carbon has an incredible ability to bond with many other elements making it crucial to almost all forms of life. The amount of protons, neutrons and electrons determines its expression as carbon 12, carbon 13 or carbon 14. Imagine just one of these molecules created with this amazing molecular structure and your mind is overwhelmed trying to imagine a power capable of creating trillions of these which could result in life itself.

All of that seems impossible but add to that the miraculous creation of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and you will be about to explode considering the impossibility of the creation of such a phenomenon. DNA is the way life continues itself. Each cell of every living thing contains DNA which actually contains information that enables an organism to reproduce itself. Information is actually stored in the DNA determining the shape, size, sex, color of eyes and hair and every other organic characteristic of a living organism. Where did this information come from and how in the universe did it get implanted in every cell of every living thing on earth? That is a power to be reckoned with.

So, what is the origin of the universe? The answer is the entity or power source that could have accomplished the above amazing feats. Scientists will keep trying but they will not be able to answer this question in the realm of science. The truth exists in the realm of the divine which is only accessed by faith which scientists refuse to recognize. The answer, of course, is God. Eternity is in the heart of the scientists as well. They, and many others, simply reject it because it denies the teachings of their god — science.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb 11:3).

King Solomon wrote, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl 3:11; ESV). Notice that Solomon is speaking about us, the human race and he explains that we have a sense of eternity in our hearts but God has made it so that we humans “cannot find out, what God has done.”

Sometimes life’s answers come when we give up on a material answer and turn to someone higher than the things we see. God is waiting.


The James Webb Space Telescope Uncovers More Evidence of God

July 9, 2023

 

The James Webb space telescope was conceived in1996 but did not launch until Christmas Day 2021. In the meantime, the telescope is sending back incredible photos of the universe reaching much farther than the famous Hubble telescope.  

The standing explanation of the scientists is that the universe had its beginning 13.5 billion years ago when empty space of nothingness exploded in what is called the big bang and has been expanding ever since. Big bang scientists believe that by looking into deep space, they can observe the primeval past of the universe. The concept is that since we know the speed of light we can make a determination about stars billions of light years away, in a sense looking back in time at the universe. The thought is that light from the many galaxies over 13.5 billion light years away, will show us what the universe looked like in this theoretical past.

So, scientists were expecting to see galaxies that have existed from the primeval stages of the universe created by the presumed big bang. A NASA  expectation of the Webb telescope made this prediction: ”Webb will be a powerful time machine with infrared vision that will peer back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.” Galaxies from the primordial past would supposedly show the characteristics of the early stages of the universe. Their shape and size would be different based on their age. Any galaxies from before 13.5 billion years ago would show the signs of being “younger” in shape, nature and size.

To the dismay of many this was not what they discovered. They did not see the primordial structures indicating a young universe. Instead they found more developed, mature looking stars and galaxies suggesting that even 13.5 billion years ago, the universe with its many galaxies was already advanced and developed. It was as though everything was created fully developed not in a process of cosmological evolution.

Of course this is more in line with the biblical story of God creating a fully developed universe from the very start instead of one that slowly formed over billions of years of time (Gen 1:14-18). Obviously this demands a belief in an eternal God capable of such majestic creation, a belief that few scientists are willing to accept.

King Solomon of Bible fame said this about God’s creative magnificence:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

So, apparently humans were created with the knowledge of eternity in their hearts but God has not given them the ability to find out what and how God has done this from the beginning to the end of creation. The truth is this amazing universe was created by one eternal God using eternal ability of creative power. We cannot fathom this nor are we meant to. If we could comprehend such immense creativity, we would be God.

We were meant to listen to the voice of eternity crying out in our hearts. The apostle Paul makes this very clear where he writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Rom 1:19). Anything that can be known (that God allows us to fathom) is made plain to all human beings because God has shown it. People who blame God because of their ignorance have no excuse.

Paul continues this thought saying,

                   For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been                    clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom 1:20, 21).

So, God in His mercy for humanity, has made the invisible, eternal aspects of His nature, visible for all to see in the universe He has created. Only a fool would say that there is no God and this all created itself (Ps 14:1). King David continues this thought in this Psalm:

                   The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day           to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world (Ps 19:1-4).

The heavens are like God’s words, His speech that reveals His knowledge. The message goes out to the ends of the earth reaching the hearts of all humans. God has clearly revealed Himself for all to see and know. Add to that the fact that Christ has sent His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). So, the Holy Spirit guides, leads, directs us toward His truth. The word for “guide” here means someone who conducts us to something we are seeking or to a place we want to go. If we are seeking God, the Holy Spirit will lead us to His reality (Matt 7:7). If we do not look to the heavens, behold His glory and then reject Him, He leaves us in ignorance until something in our heart changes.

Of course the astrophysicists will continue their search for what Solomon says that we “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Humans were created with a seeking heart of discovery. That’s one reason most crucial early discoveries were made by Christians. Let them keep searching the heavens and many who are true seekers will conclude that the Creator of it all is God.


Sola Scripture, scripture alone, with the help of the Holy Spirit

June 17, 2023

 

A rallying cry of the reformers of the Reformation was sola scriptura, Latin for “scripture alone.” The concept developed as the reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.) began to question the position of the Catholic Church regarding the place of scripture and tradition. The established church of that time insisted that scripture must be combined with sacred tradition as we search to know truth. The church in Rome had decided they did not want to rely totally only on scripture because that would mean abandoning beliefs and practices they had adopted that could not be validated with the words of the Bible.

Sacred Tradition to the Catholic Church is any tradition declared to be sacred by the pope or the bishops of the church. By the fifteenth century the Catholic Church had amassed many traditions that were not to be found in scripture but were considered truth when the Church declared them “Sacred Traditions.” According to Catholic authorities, these traditions were considered sacred to the church “. . . because they have been revealed by God and because they have been affirmed by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.” 

Here are some examples of Sacred Tradition established by the Catholic Church: Peter is head of the church, Mary was a virgin following the immaculate conception and had no original sin. The role of the Pope, bishops and priests, papal authority and the official sacraments. One cannot find definitive confirmation of these teachings in scripture—they are the declarations of church authorities through the centuries. The church had adopted these views and considers them as binding as the scriptures.

The reformers challenged this viewpoint by emphasizing a return to sola scriptura, "the scripture alone," as the guide for discovering truth. Church tradition must be set aside for scripture alone. I would add to that view that the Holy Spirit was sent to guide people into all truth (John 16:13). So, yes, we need to commit to scripture over tradition but at the same time seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for clarity on truth knowing that the Spirit will not violate scripture.

Unfortunately, Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers held on to certain traditions such as the clergy system, sacred buildings, the state church system, infant baptism, and transubstantiation of the communion elements. Luther could have helped the church return to its simple beginning free of the compulsory traditions of religion but chose to compromise on these issues that affected the prominent place of the clergy and other religious and worldly essentials.

The Catholic Church would not abandon its sacred traditions and the reformers would not relinquish theirs and return to simplicity and purity in devotion to Christ (2 Cor 11:3). So these religious counterfeits of the body of Christ have lasted even into the twenty-first century and given us a form of church that is complicated in makeup and compromised in its imitating of the world.

I’ve probably infuriated some people who insist on these traditions as part of their version of Christianity. The key is to return to scripture as led by the Holy Spirit as we search for the truth that will set us free. Do we have practices that have become traditions that are not confirmed in scripture? Is our version of the church being stifled by its adoption of the world’s market-based way of living?

The response I often get from others goes something like this: Considering all the changes that have come to the church, God would not expect us to do away with traditions that are readily accepted by the masses of people. We cannot possibly return to the simplicity of the church of the first century.

People who make this argument are basically saying that the inspiration of scripture does not apply to the corporate experiences of the body of Christ. Scripture, they would say, is a guide for our individual walk but not for the way we conduct church life. The shape and experience of the church in community is left up to the ingenuity of men.

This sounds strikingly like Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:14, 15:

            As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful    scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who                     is the head, even Christ.

Apparently, even in Paul’s day, men were using their craftiness and scheming to build versions of the church. The antidote to that is in the next phrase referring to “speaking the truth in love.” By doing that we will grow up and become mature not by being crafty and scheming.

Ironically, the next verse speaks of how the church should function in corporate fellowship:

            . . . the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies,   according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the    body for the building up of itself in love.

It would seem that the Holy Spirit wants to be involved in how we have church life. Each member should have a part and the body of Christ will grow when we have “the proper working of each individual part.” The unscriptural clergy system must give way to the ministry of the saints which results in the building up of the true church (Eph 4:12).  

So many problems and issues could be avoided if we could find It in our hearts to return to the simplicity and purity that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 11:3. Simplicity keeps our focus on Christ and purity turns our focus away from the ways of the corrupt world system.

Two things are necessary for that to happen. First, we must accept the leading of the Holy Spirit promised to us by Jesus in John 16:13 and elsewhere. Secondly, we must find a gathering of believers who are seeking truth together so that accountability and corporate guidance can be the norm. It is the process of seeking truth together with others that the church is build up and begins to be what God desires (Eph. 4:15, 16).


Traditional Church is Failing and What to do About it

May 31, 2023

There are serious issues facing the traditional church today. People, especially the young, are leaving the traditional church in droves. Every poll taken shows a massive exodus from the organized church. It’s time we Christians take a hard look at how we express church life and ask ourselves two questions: Is it scriptural? and Is it being inspired and led by the Holy Spirit?

We are dealing with many issues: Our young people don’t see the relevance of going to church. There is little opportunity for believers to truly be involved in the ministry of the church even though scripture speaks of the priesthood of all believers. The clergy class dominates almost all decisions and activities of most traditional churches. Most church leaders have used the organized church as a means to monetary gain. Many controversies and scandals among church leaders have the ring of hypocrisy. Some churches have compromised with the world regarding obvious unscriptural practices such as the male/female issue, Critical Race Theory, and the inerrancy of scripture. Science is given more credibility than the Bible even though science is being proven false on many fronts.

Each of these issues has its solution in the body of Christ properly functioning as God designed it. We have allowed our expression of church life to be shaped by the world’s ideas. We have allowed churches to become local religious businesses patterned after the companies of our marketplace. We have developed fund raising programs because we assume that our church needs a large “sanctuary” staffed by several pastors who oversee many programs that keep the business afloat. We want all the comforts of any business with comfy seats, air conditioning, a children’s ministry, great musical entertainment and a young, eloquent speaker to expound from the scriptures weekly giving the impression that all is well.

It may come as a surprise to many of you to discover that this arrangement does not come close to describing the church the Holy Spirit inspired after the outpouring on Pentecost. They had no sanctuaries though they met often in or around the temple. They had no entertainment, or children’s ministry, fund raising program, ministry staff, comfy seats or eloquent regular speakers. Instead they met in one another’s homes in small groups throughout Jerusalem, had meals together and experienced other joys of family life together.

Time out! I sense someone is thinking this thought: “Church has evolved over the years and developed into the form we see today. These things are the result of centuries of experimentation and the traditional form we see is the outcome of the Lord’s leading.” To that thought I would respond with these words by Jesus, the founder and rock of the church:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:13, 14).

Notice the words “all the truth” in this promise of Jesus. Are we to believe that the truth given by the Holy Spirit does not include the way we worship and fellowship together? Are we to conclude that the Holy Spirit doesn’t care about how truth is shared, the participation of His followers, the priesthood of all believers, setting aside tradition and letting Him lead, the informality of family life, eating together (one of His favorite activities with His followers), how finances are dealt with and how the needs of the people are met? Did He mean for us to simply set all of this aside and do it all by human cleverness and ability? Why then would we need the Holy Spirit who was sent to guide us? 

Let’s just take a couple of the issues we spoke of earlier and see how the Holy Spirit knew what He was doing when He birthed the early church. Let’s take the issue of ministry and see if we can discern what He had in mind. In the first place, the clergy system did not develop until centuries later. Because the Holy Spirit revealed the priesthood of all believers, the ministry was to be the responsibility of all the members (Eph 4:12; 1 Cor 14:26; 12:7). The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers were given to equip the saints “for the work of ministry.” Ministry was never meant to be an exclusive position filled by specially trained people who do the ministry while the others sit passively.

Experiencing church God’s way, allows an informal setting in which the saints can be equipped and allowed to share what God has put in their hearts. Paul told us “the one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” (1 Cor 14:3). Prophecy here is not a mystical foretelling of the future but simply sharing what God brings to your heart. When we share in the gatherings of the saints, people are built up, encouraged and comforted. This can happen somewhat when a preacher preaches but will become commonplace in an environment where people are sharing in conversational style with the goal of helping one another.  

God specifically appointed the five ministries of Ephesians 4:11 to function within each local church for the training of the saints for ministry. This training was through instruction and practice in the context of church life. Paul told Timothy, an apostle’s helper and evangelist, that        

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16, 17).

Timothy’s job was to share God’s word to help the saints grow to maturity as believers but it is those saints who do “every good work.” Healthy church life will encourage this process.

Another issue the church is struggling with is how to handle the false teachings that are permeating the lives of the believers through traditional churches. In a large setting where one prominent minister shares, it is easy for the enemy to influence him so that he will influence the whole congregation with heresy.

When the body of Christ functions the way God intended, the person with the heresy comes into the meeting of a small group of Christians and his heresy is revealed when he opens his mouth and shares. But he is not instantly condemned as the church follows Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “examine everything carefully.” For example, if the person brought up an LGBTQ issue he would immediately be taken to the word as the group put his words to the test of God’s word. The church cannot hold fast to what is good unless they test things in the light of scripture. If the person rejects the word of God, then he will quickly know that he is welcome in the gathering but his heresy is not welcome because God’s word is clear on the subject.

Imagine that person being taken to Romans chapter one where Paul addressed these violations of God’s word directly (see Rom 1:24-28 for example). If this person rejects God’s word he might be quietly reproved and led toward repentance. If he refused, it would be clear that his heresy would not be welcome in God’s house nor would he be welcome if he insisted on it.

All such issues are dealt with scripturally as the Spirit leads when believers are free to participate. Scandals would be rare because no one is ever put on a pedestal that the enemy can kick out from under him. People using the Gospel as a means of gain are rare (1 Tim 6:5) because no such opportunity would be available as there would be no massive programs demanding huge amounts of money to be abused. The saints would give as they purposed in their hearts when led by the Spirit as scripture advises (2 Cor 9:7).

We desperately need to return to the simplicity and purity in our devotion to Christ that Paul advises in 2 Corinthians 11:3. We have allowed things to become so complicated and worldly that the enemy has many inroads into our lives. Jesus promised a church against which the gates of hell are defeated (Matt 16:18). The church is God’s people. The structure we call “the church” can be defeated but the true church, God’s people, is victorious over Satan.


The Coming Divine Reset of the Body of Christ

May 16, 2023

 

In technology experiences we often hear the word "reset" referring to that red button that allows us to return a device to its original settings. This usually follows a period in which a series of errors have produced a breakdown in the technology and its effectiveness.  For many years the traditional church has allowed traditions to displace the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. God is sending many clues that He is inspiring a divine reset of the body of Christ to bring it back to its original settings as revealed in His word and led by the Holy Spirit.

In some ways we have come to a point where we have accepted the position of the Catholic Church concerning tradition. Their idea of tradition states “According to the theology of the Catholic Church, doctrinal issues must be interpreted looking to sacred tradition and scripture, under the teaching authority given by Christ to his Apostles and their successors the Pope and Bishops.” In other words, traditions that developed over time have as much authority to Catholics as scripture when interpreted by “the Pope and Bishops.”

Those of us who are not Catholic have made the same serious mistake. We allow traditions to develop over the years just as the Catholic Church solidified into the traditions that developed after they began to leave the simplicity and purity of God’s word. The big difference is that they established a doctrine about tradition that allowed them to develop a massive religious organization based on scripture skewed by tradition.

Evangelicals have allowed traditions about worship and church life to replace the leading of the Holy Spirit who would keep us in living waters instead of the dammed off stagnant waters of stilled spiritual rivers. Once we discover something with a little life in it, we do it, and do it and do it until it becomes a tradition that we view as the work of the Holy Spirit but is really the work of failed humans who constructed a religious system.

Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to His church with the promise that “He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak;” (John 16:13). The promise was He would guide us into all truth. We would not be left as orphans He had promised earlier in the same upper room message (John 14:18). The all in this passage pertained to our individual walk in Christ as well as how we were to conduct ourselves corporately as one body in Christ. We know that because the first thing the Holy Spirit did was show the early church how to live together corporately (Acts 2:42-47).

Jesus gave us the Spirit and the Spirit gave us the scriptures as men in the Old and New Testaments spoke and wrote from God as the Spirit moved them (2 Pet 1:21). So, we have two balancing sources of truth—the guidance of the Spirit and the scriptures He inspired.

If we will let Him, the Holy Spirit will speak through these two channels concerning the reset that is being inspired by Him. Paul gave this warning to us: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Eve was deceived by the craftiness of the serpent when she was led away from two things—simplicity and purity. Simplicity is single mindedness—not allowing our minds to drift away from the simplicity of God’s message to us. Purity results from not allowing the world to corrupt us into the image of its god—Satan.

Religion is one of Satan’s deadliest weapons. It is the result of doing what Eve did in the garden. She decided she knew better than God. We do the same things when we devise traditions that have no foundation in the word or in the leading of the Spirit. Religion is what man makes of God. Christianity is what God makes of man. A.W. Tozer put it this way:

God never called man to walk knee-deep in the sludge of the world, nor did He intend for man to be mired down in the traditions of men. Therefore, the Lord sets us free and opens a fountain of living water for the wounds of the world. In spite of this, man deliberately chooses the bondage of religion over the liberating freedom in Christ. (Tozer, The Purpose of Man, p.73).

This reset will slowly bring us back to the simplicity and purity that the early church possessed but lost when they started listening to crafty men who led them into religion (Eph 4:14). The Holy Spirit, if we will allow Him, will show us which traditions have robbed us of our simplicity in Christ. He will show us the places where we have allowed the world’s pressures to affect our music, our doctrines, our preaching and programs and practices that we have borrowed from the world in order to be popular and accepted. Those things rob us of our single minded devotion to Christ and our purity in Him.

A spiritual reset is on the way perhaps in preparation for the last days. The world is on a headlong plunge toward one-world government and persecution of followers of Christ. The traditional church is in many cases caving in to these attacks. People are leaving the church in droves thinking that it's message is trumped by science. This reset will pave the way for people seeking church God's way to find it and grow in Christ. For those steeped in the tradition of the organized church, it will provide a way to leave the confines of religion in search of real life in Christ with others

We are Members of one Another

Lloyd Gardner

April 28, 2023

The world wants diversity. God wants unity. The word diversity is made up of the adjective “diverse.” Diverse, according to Miriam-Webster means “composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities.” To remain diverse, we must continually emphasize our differences and ignore how we are the same and head out on our own. Biblical unity includes the idea of diversity but sees a way of coming together in real unity led by the Holy Spirit.

Paul says something amazing in the book of Romans: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (12:4, 5; NKJV). The apostle recognizes our diversity saying that the body of Christ has “many members” with many different functions. He spends much of this chapter clearly showing that different giftings granted to each of us give us diverse ways to express the will of God. We are not little robots that march in manmade unison but are children of God each of us having a special and unique place in Christ.

But then Paul says something that is even more remarkable. He wrote that we are all individually “members of one another.” The word “member” simply means a part of something. There is a whole and many parts make up the whole. Amazingly Paul is telling us that we are not only parts of the body of Christ but are parts of one another. If you’re like me your head is now spinning as you try to make sense of this. How can we be parts of one another and remain diverse in our uniqueness before God? In building a house the foundation can’t be part of the roof. Or can it?

This mystery is understood in the light of the word “fellowship.” The Greek word is koinonia which means sharing something in common. Christ, in the Holy Spirit, has made it possible for us to share Him with one another. In this way Christ flows throughout the body of Christ making it possible for us to be part of one another. The pinky on my hand shares the same life of Christ that my heart possesses. Each part of the body gains its life from the flowing of Christ between the parts.

Unity is accomplished in the spirit not in the soul or flesh. Your soul is your personal mind, emotion, will—the part of you that makes you unique in all of God’s creation. Our soul must be transformed by God’s Spirit before it is capable of anything approaching unity (Ps 19:7; 23:3; Job 33:30; 1 Cor 15:45). Churches have tried to have unity based on the soul which merely results in exterior, human unity that impresses no one.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul tells us the source of unity in the body of Christ:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The apostle addresses the Ephesians exhorting them in their walk and encouraging them to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We who are in Christ possess a human spirit filled with the Holy Spirit. Notice this is a unity that believers already possess that must be preserved or guarded so that the bond of peace holds us together. We have this unity because we all possess the Holy Spirit in our spirit that encourages unity in the body.

But there is a deeper unity mentioned later in that passage in Ephesians 4:12, 13: “. . . to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” This is a unity that we will grow into as we mature in Christ. We will get to know Christ more deeply and more fully as a body expressing “the fullness of Christ.”

This noticeable, real unity is unfortunately lacking in the body of Christ today because we are missing “the building up of the body of Christ” which develops in the midst of genuine fellowship (mutual sharing of Christ). Meanwhile, we continue church life according to traditions that are failing to help us mature.

In Christ we are destined to reach a place of “unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God” (v 13). It baffles me that we do not take Paul at his word when he says that it is possible to “attain to” this unity of the faith. We should all be asking, “If this is true, why do we not have unity in the church?”

Could this be because we cultivate diversity while not even believing that genuine unity is possible? So many of my brothers and sisters tell me that such unity will never be reached in this life and is being saved for the kingdom age. If that is so, then Jesus was mistaken when He prayed for the church of this age that “. . . they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).

Jesus believed it. Paul believed it. Maybe it’s time for all of us to put aside our emphasis on diversity and believe that Christ will produce His oneness in us.  

In Christ you are Free. Now Act Like it.

Lloyd Gardner

April 26, 2023

What if God loves freedom so much that He created us with absolute freedom of will purposely handing over the future of planet earth to the human race? What if God in His omnipotent and omniscient nature, having the ability to know and do all things, purposely handed over the future of earth knowing the disaster that absolute freedom of will would produce?

So often I hear people in movies or in real life blaming God for something terrible that has happened. The death of a loved one. A serious illness. A dreadful accident. We’ve all experienced something that has made us wonder about life and death and God’s will when things don’t go as we would like.

If we believe that God has predetermined everything and is controlling all events of human history, we will naturally blame Him for bad things. “God if you are in control, why did you let this happen?” We blame God because we do not understand God’s stand in these matters.

Here is a passage that helps explain God’s stand concerning our freedom of will. God is explaining to Adam the choices He was giving them:  "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen 2:16, 17). Two choices were granted Adam and eventually Eve. “There are two trees. You may eat of any tree in the garden except that one over there. If you eat of that one you will die.” This choice clearly shows that God had granted humans freedom of will. We were granted the gift of free will.

Well we all know by now the tragic choice that Eve and then Adam made that day. Being tempted by the serpent, they ate of the forbidden tree. Instantly, they died. They were cut off from the spiritual life of God. Death was spiritual separation from God. No longer was the divine flow of life flowing into them from God. They were alive in soul and body but not in spirit. On that day their souls and bodies began to experience the slowly developing effects of the death of their spirit.

They made this choice. God gave them free will and they used it to satisfy their own curiosity rather than simply obeying Him. But there was someone else in the Garden with a choice. The Serpent was there. I have no idea what kind of creature this was that Satan used to speak his lies to the woman (Gen 3-4) but this was Satan at his deceptive best.

This break with God was the beginning of sin which is simply acting outside of the will of God. Paul tells us what happened next:

“. . . through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12).

Sin resulted in a DNA change that would be passed down from generation to generation as death became the norm for all people. So don’t blame God for your sins or for the evil things that happen. Blame your sin and repent of it and blame the enemy of God, Satan the power behind the serpent in the Garden.

God pronounced the culmination of earth’s history in these words of judgment:

Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you (Gen 3:14-16).

The serpent was cursed, the demonic force behind it was cursed, Adam and Eve and their descendants were cursed and a promise was made by God. The promise was that Satan would have a temporary victory over the woman’s descendants [you shall bruise him on the heel] but her descendants would have a permanent victory over Satan [He shall bruise you on the head]. Christ and those born into His family would be bruised but in the end the victory of Christ in His people would be accomplished over Satan (Rom 16:20; Rev 12:11).

By the way, we don’t blame God for these curses but place the blame on the first humans and all of their descendants. Jeremiah understood this and declared “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9; ESV). Paul understood this and wrote “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:3, 24). Any honest person who looks at history or their own spiritual struggles, knows inherently that something is haywire with the hearts of every person. It is called sin and we call it what it is but we declare that Christ has provided its remedy.

We are guilty of sin, rebellion against the will of God, because we are descendants of Adam and Eve. We are redeemed from sin when we receive the free gift of His grace which comes from Christ Jesus. At that time our "dead" spirit is made alive in Christ:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor 15:21, 22). 

God is not to be blamed for death and evil but is to be thanked for giving His only Son to redeem us from sin’s penalty—death. 

The word of God gives us much hope. First, Satan is the architect of sin and all of the destruction that issued from it. Second, God has continued to give us a free will to make choices. These are our choices and we can’t blame God or others for what we decide. We can choose to blame God or Satan’s destruction or we can recognize its true source and turn to God.

Jesus spoke of this choice before us. Comparing us to sheep and Himself to the pasture of a Good Shepherd, He said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:9, 10). He knew that the thief, the murderer and the destroyer was guilty of all the terrible death and destruction but that He had come to give abundant life to any who would enter His fold and be saved.

There is no mystical, religious way this can be done. God is not playing games with us but is offering us the gift of salvation from sin’s power and bondage. Becoming a follower of Christ is simply a matter of realizing this gift is available and receiving it. Then Christ will come into your spirit and your life and begin the process of answering your questions and leading you into the promises He made almost three thousand years ago through the prophet Isaiah:  

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, (Isa 61:1 2; ESV).

There’s no reason to continue to be burdened by all the bad news, to have a broken heart, to be imprisoned and bound by Satan’s lies, or to remain in that prison out of ignorance. It is the year of the Lord’s favor. Receive His favor. Stop blaming Him for your sin and rebellion and the destruction of the enemy and receive the abundant life He offers you now.


Church God's Way

Lloyd Gardner

April 18, 2023

Is it possible that we Christians have become so complicated in our approach to devotion to Christ that we have forgotten who we are in Him? Is it possible that we have mingled ourselves with the ways of the world to the point that people do not see Christ in our lives? I have that concern and Paul had the same concern many years ago and shared it with the church in Corinth:

“I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3).

The serpent’s craftiness is always aimed at leading us away from what God has said and that results in our tendency to do our own thing in our own way. That, of course, leads us away from the simplicity and purity that Paul speaks of in this verse. The Greek word for simplicity in the verse means “single minded.” A follower of Christ must keep his heart devoted to Christ and not to the enticements of the world. Giving in to these enticements, as Eve did in the Garden, will lead to impurity because the world’s ways will take us in the way of the serpent and away from what God says.

The more we attempt to look like the world so we can seem cool and impress people, the more we drift into the impure nonsense offered by the world. Like Paul, I am afraid that we have been deceived by the serpent into thinking that his voice whispered in the world’s winds of rebellion have led us astray from God’s simplicity and purity in our devotion to Christ.

The church in its early days kept things simple and pure because they would never consider compromising with the Roman Empire. Luke recorded that they continually devoted themselves to four simple things: “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The word, sharing together, having meals together and praying. That was their simple experience. Luke reported that they were “breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46, 47).

They met in each other’s homes, ate meals together and eagerly shared together this new life they were experiencing. They had no church building, no appointed pastor, no special age group programs, and no religious liturgy to deaden the gatherings. They were family, brothers and sisters in Christ and they shared with one another what they possessed (Acts 4:32). Miracles were common place because they had not yet accepted religious unbelief (Acts 3:7).

I believe the Holy Spirit is about to provide a divine reset of His church to prepare us for a coming all-out attack of the enemy. This attack will have the effect of motivating many saints of God to return to the simplicity and purity that once was common place for followers of Christ.

Jesus modeled this way of fellowship when He showed his disciples how to be family members and avoided ritual and legalism. He ate meals with those He encountered, treasured the children and encouraged the women, while they walked from place to place sharing the good news of the kingdom. He preached only one sermon but told frequent stories while He healed many sick and demonized and comforted countless people with His gracious ways. He brought the Father’s love to all and later sent the Holy Spirit to comfort, inspire and empower.

The same Jesus is with us today encouraging us to abandon our religiosity and embrace family life with God’s other children. We would do well to find this simplicity and purity He offers us as a way to overcome the enemy’s attack and the world’s encroachment.


The Source of the Political Divide in America

Lloyd Gardner

March 31, 2023

 

The growing political divide in the country is not only about two opposing parties but about two very different philosophies about the role of government. Conservatives believe in limited government because they are concerned about the concentrating of power in a few people. They tend to want to keep as much power as possible with the people and local governments that represent them. Progressives tend to look to government to solve problems because they don’t have the concern about power that conservatives see. Progressives tend to think that government is the answer while conservatives believe that government is much of the problem.

It is my belief that much of this difference is rooted in how people view the nature of humanity. Conservatives, whether they are Christians or not, believe in the principle of the depravity of humanity. They believe in the principle of original sin shared by the apostle Paul where he wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In short, the moral compass, our hearts, are broken and in need of healing and government is instituted to provide a legal framework that keeps this brokenness in check. Paul explains this idea in Romans 13:3, 4, speaking of government: 

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 

Many in the progressive movement, on the other hand, have come to believe, with Charles Darwin, that humans are progressing and improving and that government can enhance this progress through purposed intervention. They believe that people need a helping hand to evolve in morality and conduct. Christians, and others who follow Christian morality, tend to believe that the intervention that is needed must come from God or His principles, not government.

This explains the positions taken by the two current political philosophies. Take gun control for example. Progressives believe that people must be controlled by government action. If government takes away the guns there will be less gun violence, they argue. Conservatives respond that the issue is not the inanimate object called a gun but the moral condition of peoples’ hearts that can only be solved by actions that help people change within. Spiritual, moral, and social change would result in control of the guns. 

That is a call to the family and church. Outward actions through legislation do not improve the corrupt family situations and social environments that are producing people who use guns to kill other people. Strict gun laws in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles have not made a dent in gun violence. Homicides in Chicago are up 33% this year and previous years were bad enough. The same is true in Los Angeles and many other American cities. Control of violence, to a conservative, requires changed hearts not gun control.

Obviously, the Biden administration takes the side of progressives in putting government to work in attempts to affect society in a progressive direction. By using the schools, an extension of the government, according to court decisions, the Biden administration is attempting to propagate the progressive ideas of critical race theory, social justice, gender dysphoria and cancel culture. Throughout the country the schools at all levels, encouraged by the liberal labor unions are attempting to use government to influence the thinking of young people. The problem is arising across the nation that many parents do not agree with these progressive ideas and don’t want government involved in shaping the political thinking of their children.  The conservative-progressive rift is growing as Biden uses government intrusion to introduce his social ideas.     

The conservative position on abortion may seem at first like a contradiction. Abortion often involves laws being passed by state governments that limit abortions. If conservatives are against government intervention why would they then oppose abortion? Actually, the opposite is true. It has been government in progressive parts of the country that has pushed hard to make abortion legal. It was government behind the scene of Roe vs. Wade using empty arguments and a complicit Supreme Court that found a right to privacy in the Constitution when none existed. Government masterminded the whole fiasco that forced upon the judicial system the right to abortion. The conservative believes that the prohibition against taking a human life has its origin in God. Life is precious. It is His creation. The unborn child is alive and to take its life is murder.

The founders, because of their experience with tyrannical government, feared giving the federal government too much power. James Madison wrote in Federalist 47 this warning:  

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

In other words, too much power leads to tyranny. Lord Acton had this warning in this famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These men were familiar with the corrupt nature of the human heart. They knew that the accumulation of too much power would result in tyranny. For this reason, the founders included principles of balance of power and separation of powers in the Constitution to ensure that power is distributed equally throughout three branches of government. Any powers not specifically delegated to the Federal government were granted to the states in the Tenth Amendment. There is little doubt that the Founders would be appalled at the imbalance taking place in our branches of government today.

The political rift that is quickly forming in America is evidence of a growing tyranny resulting from power generated by actions that continue to empower the federal government over the state and local governments and the people. Unfortunately, tyranny of a few always results in resistance from the people being abused. Let’s hope that this rift can be narrowed and the abuse lessened so violent resistance is not necessary.


Ultimate Truth is Available to all who Seek it

Lloyd Gardner

March 27, 2023

 

       In today’s world truth is like a feather floating in the winds of confused society. With the assault of political acrimony and the theological disunity we are experiencing in Christian circles, it is difficult for many people to discern what is truth and what is fake news. In this message I will present the evidence from God’s word that ultimate truth is available but we must seek it to find it. Many will reject this evidence because they don’t believe the Bible is a source of truth and they probably don’t believe in God, the ultimate source of truth. On the other hand, genuine seekers of truth will find God’s word to be trustworthy in unveiling truth to the seeking heart.

       Jesus set the tone for this principle saying, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). He said it three ways—ask, seek, find. In each case the seeker of truth is assured that He will find what he is looking for. God is not playing games with us, keeping us in the dark about His truth, but is ready to provide a pathway to truth for anyone desiring it. During Jesus’s ministry on earth He made Himself accessible to anyone and freely answered their questions unless, like the hypocrites, they asked questions trying to trap Him.

       He was bold to tell us He was the only source of truth. He said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is the way, the truth, and the life, not merely one of many pathways to truth. Reaching God is only possible through Him because He was God manifest in human form.

        The people who witnessed His earthly life and ministry had this to say about Him: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). When truth stares you in the face and expresses itself in your domain of life it is hard to reject. He lived among His followers and they had three plus years to evaluate the validity of His claims. They became convinced and many more were convinced when they saw them transformed into people who lived in and proclaimed the same truth. Thus, the body of Christ came into existence.

       But Jesus didn’t leave them in the dark when He left. He promised them “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The Spirit did come and He began to unveil more truth to and through them which they were led to record for us in the Bible. The truth from the eye witnesses of Christ is now available to us in book form and it continues to ring true in the hearts of many.

       All of this produced the living, breathing, real earthly expression of Christ, the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the corporate manifestation of the way to truth on earth. Christ did not come to create robots who simply parroted what He said but sent the Holy Spirit to continue to help people find truth and then He birthed the body of Christ, His church, to continue seeking and finding truth and proclaiming it in the midst of the world’s many inventions of fake news.

We see this truth expressed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:15, 16).

       We see here that expressing truth in love is the context in which individual people grow up spiritually and truly begin to express Christ individually and corporately. As truth prevails in an atmosphere of love people grow like a tree with its roots grounded in healthy soil. In this body of Christ each member has a vital part to share with the whole and as this begins to happen the whole body grows spiritually in this atmosphere of love. The church is not a human program but more like a spiritual family where love is present and everyone has a part to play in the whole progress of the family members.

       This is why church gatherings of the early body of Christ were not large, programmed institutions of men but small family groups meeting throughout the cities for the purpose of encouraging this life of the body of Christ. Without this dynamic inner work of truth prevailing in love, church is just another human program aimed at its own survival instead of a context for life-giving participation on the part of each member.

       Unlike many of today’s “church services” the body of Christ meeting together is to be a place where objective thinking takes place as matters considered in the gatherings are tested by all who are present. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:20, 21). In other words, let people speak what’s in their hearts but let everyone test what is spoken in the light of His word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There were few gatherings where one gifted person preached regularly to the rest who remained passive. Where church gatherings are mentioned there is an emphasis on the corporate seeking of truth (1 Cor. 14:26-32; Eph. 5:18-21; 1 Thess. 5:20, 21; Acts 2:42; 17:11, 12).

       Truth from God exists and is attainable by those who seek it together with others who seek the same thing. Truth is the rock that Jesus spoke of in the parable of the houses built on the sand and the rock. The house built on the sand speaks of people building on something other than God’s word. The rock, of course, speaks of those who build on something solid and reliable that the storms of life cannot move us from. Jesus concluded “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt. 7:25). 

       In today’s fake news environment in society and the church, our only protection is to be standing on the Rock. It is truth and truth is Christ Himself. It is no wonder that truth is so allusive in today’s world. We are building on the sand of weak human ideas instead of the strong, rock-solid word of the living God. Truth is available. Seek and you will find it.