Sunday, March 29, 2009

Will You Keep Watch With Me?

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto
Peter, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”
Matthew 26:40

John chapter 17 – Jesus prays for his disciples and those whom will believe in Jesus to save them.

Chapter 18 follows with John’s account of the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26 gives us a more detailed account. What we see in Matthew 26 is Jesus praying for strength as He prepared to go to the cross. Each time Jesus went to His disciples, He found them asleep and He askded, “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?”

What did Jesus mean by asking “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?”

Perhaps we should trace a path toward an answer by asking another question;

What was the purpose for which Jesus came into the world?

Answering this question places us at the very center of Jesus’ focus. He came to die for us. We are the reason He prayed so intensely in John 17 for the disciples and those (us Christians) the disciples would be given to become one as Jesus and The Father are one.

Here is another question we must answer as we trace a trail back to answering, what did Jesus mean by asking if His disciples could not keep watch with Him....

What does it mean that we become “one”?

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 describe it like this: "The body is a unit, though it is
made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So
it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body -
whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to
drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many."

(yet another question)
What more does Paul say of this “one” “body”?

Ephesians 1:22-23, "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him
to be head over everything for the church, which is
his body
, the fullness of him who fills everything in every

Paul is telling us, the Temple is no longer the “House of God” but the body of Christ; The Church is The House of God.

Take a look at how fiercely Jesus intends to defend (keep watch) The House of God.
Prior to the Passover, people made their way to The Temple (House of God) to make their offerings. Merchants set up tables with the intent to capitalize on the sins of the people. The merchants stooped, even as to take advantage of the poor. Jesus saw this as a direct assault on the House of God…

15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep
and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their
tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you
turn my Father's house into a market!"
17His disciples remembered that it is
written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

John 2:15-17

Psalm 69:9

Jesus did not go to Gethsemane to hide. He went to pray for strength. For He embraced the legacy His Father had handed Him. Jesus even reminded those who came for Him that if He wished, He could ask His Father to send armies of angels to rescue Him. Then He asked, ‘how will the scriptures be fulfilled? This must be done.’ ‘Put up your sword’.

When Jesus asked His disciples if they could not keep watch ‘with Him’, He was referring to His mission; to be in defense of the House of God. Jesus’ focus was on us, the church. We are what He came to live, die and be resurrected for. We are what He was keeping watch over.

To ensure God would be united with His family was the mission Jesus came to fulfill.

Jesus prayed, in John 17 over many concerns for the church. He prayed for the disciples, that they would be one as Jesus and The Father are one. Jesus prayed that his disciples would continue the mission to defend the church as The Gospel was delivered for the purpose of building God’s family.

Why then, do we say we are Christians and allow all manor of assault on the Church, The Body of Christ? What is all of this compromise about?

I hear a lot said these days of how the Holy Spirit is capable of convicting and changing those whom are in direct conflict with what God’s Holy Word says. The problem is, God did not instruct us to keep our mouths shut against those things which mislead and falsely teach, as well as present a false appearance to the world. We are commissioned to carry the word of God to the world. This is plainly laid out for us in John 17 as the ‘Truth’.

When we consider Christ having asked His disciples "Will you not keep watch with me...?", we should also consider, who of us today are His disciples? Christ is asking, “Will you keep watch with me…?”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Colapse of Evangelical Christianity

A few days after Russ from Satire and Theology posted his most recent, I ironically posted on the basis of the same article.

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth".
I Timothy 2:3-4

"...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;"
Ephesians 4:13

The Coming Evangelical Collapse , the title given to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, by Michael Spencer lays its foundation on the lack of Biblical education among Christians and identifying with the culture war.

I agree with Spencer on one of his two main points. I identify with his criticism of the church on the culture war. However, I do not agree with Spencer when he implies the decline of Evangelical Christianity began when we began to oppose such things as abortion and homosexuality.

Christianity has become more of a culture, in which Christian media takes precedence over actual Christian education. And, yes, there are some congregations that have set out on a type of crusade to bring down ‘secular humanist’. However, in my opinion, the problem began when the church lost its courage, fearing that their tax exempt status would be lost, so it allowed the ushering of secular humanism by the likes of Madeline O’hare.

Here is the Question, then...

What is the “Knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3-4), or “the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13)?

In my opinion, as an individual, my relationship with Christ strengthens when I admit my weaknesses. Are we to encourage “Christian humanism” by not offending someone when, as a Christian, we ask the new convert to give up his ideas of homosexuality or his fight in favor of “Christian humanism”?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wired For Service?

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:1-7

συσχηματίζεσθε - I am never certain of how to pronounce this word. I believe its’ root is pronounced as ‘su-ska-ma-tede-zo’.
My reason for wanting to share the pronunciation, other than to validate the word for you, is, suskamatidzo is the ancient Koinean Greek word from which we get our word, schematic from.
"figure of speech," from M.L. schema "shape, figure, form, figure of speech," from Gk. skhema (gen. skhematos) "figure, appearance, the nature of a thing," related to skhein "to get,"

The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament by William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 1993; number 5372, says of suskamatidzo

-to fasion in accordance with; to conform or assimilate one’s self to.

Paul is suggesting these people to be a part of a schematic diagram . The imagery is as if one were a part of an electrical wiring diagram (modern analogy, of course). The diagram would illustrate how the components of a machine are wired into the power source and are able to function. If a switch is turned on, then power travels from that switch to a component that performs a specific task as a part of one machine.

Now, incase I have misrepresented my intentions, please understand, I am not suggesting that Paul knew anything of electricity or technology.
By using an illustration involving a diagram, we see Paul use this idea of a practical member of the body, assisting in the entire, healthy functionality of the body. And then Paul goes on to discuss the gifts a person has as being important to the body of Christ. And, that these gifts should not be stifled, but encouraged for use as the body of Christ works among the people of the world.

What is very unfortunate is many ministers who have developed their gifts in seminary do not believe there is any value in a person’s gifts if they have not also invested in study at an institution. A very hard pill for these men and woman to swallow is the truth that the church was not born nor raised in seminary. In fact, there are few ministers for whom I have respect concerning their diplomas. Many of these institutions will not allow any deviation from the institution’s syllabus or curriculum. I know this from experience. Having a note written on the work I turned in saying, “I agree”, with a piece of paper, cut from the syllabus and pasted below the handwritten acknowledgment, containing the answer I was expected to give, I found that I was not permitted to freely think and attempt to understand aside from someone’s opinion.

If I sound like ‘bitter apples’, well, maybe most of us should adopt the part. Because, the gifts that God have given are being shelved without cultivation and mentoring. And, we need to begin getting back to the basics of Christianity.

Many of us will never teach or be ordained. We have not spent countless hours of condensed discipline to labor over what someone else has stated. That does not make us wrong, just wrong according to the criteria that has become the status quo.

How many of us feel we even have a spiritual gift? Many of us do not consider it because we are taught by the status quo that we have not developed them. But what does the scripture say?

If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

We may not gain exposure to many people whom we will be able to share the results of our studies with. If you are like me, we can say, ‘ I am happy to have spent the last twenty years, slowly digesting the word of God in order that I have found confidence in my salvation, know who I am and what God’s entire effort has been from Genesis to Revelation'.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gifts For The Edification Of The Church

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men’.” (Ephesians 4:7-8 NIV)

In my last post, I made reference to the Greek work ‘charin’, which we have translated as ‘an account’, as in the account of righteousness that belongs to Jesus.

From Ephesians 4:8, ‘gave gifts to men’, the word for gifts is (singular accusative, by the way) ‘charis’. ‘Charis’ is to bestow graciously. So, we arrive at the word ‘Grace’ as an alternate way of saying ‘gifts’, which we read Paul explaining that Jesus gave gifts.

Look at what Paul says about what God gives in Romans 2:6-8, below;

“God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done’. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”
(Romans 2:6-8 NIV)

Look at how this plays out in Matthew 25:31-46: click here (specifically verses 44-46).

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evil doers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

You may want to ask, “How is it that these people have the Holy Spirit by which they were empowered to prophecy, drive out demons and work miracles?”

“If anyone confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (which these people in Matthew 7:21-23 do) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead that person will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-9)

Paul reiterates from Psalms, in reference to those who confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord:

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men’.” (Ephesians 4:7-8 NIV)

The people in Matthew 7:21-23, as well as those in Matthew 25:31-46 do call Jesus Lord. They believe in Jesus’ ministry and obviously the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So God recognizes them as righteous. They had faith. With that, (and here is the point I am getting at concerning gifts) they received gifts for the edification of the church.

So what was lacking?

Jesus said to them, “I never knew you.” Could it be as Paul says in Romans 2:9, these people were “self-seeking”? Could it be they sought to do these works in an effort to secure eternal life? In their selfishness, they were not seeking a relationship with God through holiness. These people did not consecrate themselves for God’s use?
Paul says:

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached..” (Philippians 1:15-18 NIV)

We can now apply Romans 2:6-8. Paul says we will be judged according to what we have done. Christ gives us the opportunity to draw near to God. This is what it means to be saved from ‘the law of sin and death’. But, with out doing, ‘works’ we have no relationship with God. The relationship never grows, only recedes.

In our works, we show ourselves to be the family of God, signing our membership with love. And so, I conclude, the gifts we are given are for the edification of the Church. In using them we cultivate our relationships with man and Jesus Christ. If we sit on them as in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 , we can expect that God will not see us as being truly invested in the atonement of Christ. For this, as we see in the parable of the talents, the imagery is of one being cast away from the Master, in the dark and cold where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Unity In The Body Of Christ

Ephesians 4:1-16 (New International Version)

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it[a] says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."

9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then 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 men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

At first glance for the casual reader, this may not be apparent; However, Paul is telling the people of Ephesus, ‘God has given gifts to men’! Each of us has abilities that are performed as spiritual duties.

We should not be concerned for our lacking in gifts and abilities that others have. God declares he knew us before we were formed in the womb. Do you suppose those gifts were given, then? Some would say the gifts are not gifts but a product of the environment a person is raised in. I disagree as I have siblings with very different interest and temperaments.

I’m further inclined to believe that when we enjoy participation in certain wholesome activities our enjoyment is an indication of where our gifts are. I remember a saying said to me years ago; “It’s not ministry if we don’t enjoy it”. God loves a cheerful giver.

Here, in Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul writes using various nouns in reference to specific gifts. And, he writes with various adverbs and nouns with intent to identify attributes of the Christian belief structure.

Paul is declaring these things listed as being very different from one another. However, they are all a must for the Body of Believers. Used together, the Body of Believers is healthy and functional.

In verse 7, Paul actually says an account has been provided for us. This ‘account’ is translated from the Greek word for Grace; it is (Karin) – an account. With that word, ‘account’, Paul declares, “it was Christ who apportioned it”.

Grace, or the account came from Christ’s account!

I have not written a fresh blog for over two weeks. To those who regularly read my blog, thank you for repeat visits, only to find I have written nothing new. In the next post, I am considering writing more on the idea of what Christ’s gift giving is about.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Every Thing They do is for Show

Matthew 23:5 - New Living Translation

5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – New Living Translation

4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.[a] 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

To wear “them” (scripture) on a person’s head or hands, he would be wearing a ‘phylactery’ or ‘tefillin’.

These were commanded in Deuteronomy 6:8 as a reminder of God’s promise and His commands. However, as is often the case, only the character of the person wearing the phylactery told of what value was held in wearing the phylactery.

There is a song by ‘D.C. Talk’ entitled “Jesus Freak”. Before I became married, this song seemed sort of ‘corny’, to me. But, I thought it was funny and was a source of encouragement.

I often wore t-shirts that had a message from the “Living Epistles”, God’s Gym series. My favorite shirt had a picture of Jesus Christ in a front, lean, as if He were doing a push-up. He had the cross lying horizontally on His shoulders. On the cross were the words “Sin of The World”. Beneath the sketch of Jesus leaning in a push-up position, were the words, “Bench Press This!”. On the reverse panel of the shirt, a nail pierced, bleeding hand with the words, “His Pain, Your Gain”.

For me, personally, this type of paraphernalia served as a constant reminder of who I am. I am a representative of Christ.

I wore these shirts with the knowledge that not everyone shared my zeal for Christ and I would appear to them just as the song by D.C. Talk suggest; a Jesus freak. I drew attention. And with that, I often got what I expected; scoffing. This was not showing off. I wore the shirts as a message for those who met me, for those who saw me as well as to those who knew me. But, most importantly, the shirts were always a reminder of who I was and the witness I would exude.

In Matthew 23:5, the Pharisees are being referenced as people whom do all they do for a show. My concern for people who read Matthew 23:5 is they will believe scripture is telling them to not be proud of who they are; and will stop wearing t-shirts, crosses, wwjd bracelets and other paraphernalia. I pray these people will be encouraged to continue living boldly for the Lord, in speech, action and activity. Be identified. The days of people asking, "Are you a Christian?" are dwindling. I made that mistake a few months ago when I came in contact with an old high school friend of mine. He’s a Muslim. It happened again with a co-worker who informed me that I was creating a hostile environment for him.

Most people have a desire to be good. It is easy to mistake that we Christians are in mutual friendship. Today, it is not enough to even ask a person if they are a Christian. We have to dig a little further to understand where the person is coming from. Those are the people who may ‘show’ their t-shirts or display an ichthus (out line of a fish) on their cars with out acknowledging to themselves that their conduct or language betrays those icons of identity.

Joshua 1:9 (New International Version)

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No One Can Serve Two Masters

Luke 16:13
“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”(μαμωνᾷ - Mamona).

Definition from Encarta
“Mammon, in the Bible, a personification of wealth and greed as a false god. Mammon was a Syrian god of riches. In the New Testament, Mammon is used in opposition to the Christian god (see Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13)”.

If you are reading this blog, you have a computer. Look around at all of the conveniences of our society. This is the world we live in. We may believe we are not serving ‘Mammon’. But, every day, we get up and place one foot in front of the other to get ourselves in gear to serve someone, all for the sake of monetary gain.

Several times, I have thought “I’d like a way out of this system. Maybe my wife and I can live among the Amish and learn their way of life. Would they accept us?” But, then, I think “I just can not live like that”.

These thoughts have been on my mind a lot, recently.
In this economy, I’m lucky to have a job! I’m a plumber. I resigned, into a recession from a company I had been with for two and a half years. Since then, I have had three employers. Most recent, I work with a small company who has found its niche, working in the off hours and on weekends.

In order to continue living among the wealth of toys and technology, where, when I need something, I pay someone for it; I must work off hours and weekends. I have become frustrated in having to sacrifice time with family and being able to have time for studying the Bible. I can’t find time to do work around the house. I’m constantly being called out when I am on call or not on call. And, I must go if I am going to be a part of the team. And, besides that, I am on commission. The economy does not allow me to make enough money during normal work hours, so off I go at 10 minutes to 10pm to help someone who is wealthy enough that they will not wait until normal work hours to clear a main line sewer blockage. Or, they will not wait until Monday, when it is Friday at 7:30pm, to have me fix a leak on a trap under their kitchen sink (Put a bucket under it! My mother and grandmother are in town!). And that parenthetical statement does not, at all reflect how grateful I am to have someone believe they have an emergency. Not reflective of who I want to serve and whom I actually do serve.

I want to serve the Lord, but our monetary system reminds me that I have to divide my time among work and working for the Lord.

I know there are many multitudes of people in the same position I am in. But, how did we get here?
I imagine;
"Sometime after Adam and Eve, a plot of land grew apple trees. Someone else’s land grew wheat. The person with wheat needed the vitamins from apples, (An apple a day keeps the doctor away) so he was forced to make an unbalanced trade. Here, he had to decide, ‘ I can either go along with it, or, I can try and take it.’ And so, the monetary system was born".

All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:44-47

In my opinion, I believe what occurred among the Christians of the first generation is exactly what God had intended for us. What you read in Acts 2:44-47 is a model for community. I won’t say, “we will never get there”. I believe we are on our way; but not by our volition. I think the only way the human family will ever live as a community in the sense of Acts 2, is by necessity. What we are now, is a society.

I continue to imagine much pain before we see a Biblical existence of community.

I confess my rebellion. I know there exist a community of believers in Christ who live as a self – sustaining people. However, I am too stubborn and proud to go. Unable to go, even if I were willing. I've grown accustom to live among the toys and the many people who struggle to play hard, pretending to progress toward gain, hoping to find want for nothing.

What next?