How to manipulate God

Q: Can any 2 believers gather together, declare their gathering is “in Jesus name” and thereby compel the Lord to join them?

Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you. (Matthew 18:20 CEV)

When I was young in the faith (read: immature), my approach to God’s Word was like that of an attorney who pours over the fine print in a contract to identify beneficial provisions and hold God accountable to fulfill them for me. In so doing, I was trying to use God in a selfish and manipulative way to do my will.

Bricklayer

The Bible software I use, has available 32 English translations for exploring scripture, some of which are mapped to the Greek texts for further study. Often while studying, the Holy Spirit will prompt me to compare all 32 translations to get a better understanding of a scripture. His Spirit prompted me to read every translation of Matthew 18:20 and one in particular jumped out at me; a subtle difference from the other 31 translations. Continue reading

You do not need anyone to teach you

Before retiring a few years ago, I was an auditor and analyst. A successful auditor requires a well developed nose for error, i.e., we’re a suspicious lot, but hopefully not to the point of paranoia. Likewise, a good analyst is all about the facts and data. So I suppose it was only natural that my suspicions together with my need for fact-based truth, would compel me to sit down with a large stack of church bulletins spanning several years of worship services, to inventory and analyze the many scriptures that were read for the sermon. My “gut” strongly suspected us pew-warmers were not getting the whole story and so I set out to confirm my suspicions.

holyspiritandbibleIt was quickly apparent that the same scriptures were read year after year in the weeks preceding Passover, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, while entire books and chapters of scripture were never read at all. The first time I attempted such an investigation back in the early 80’s, I discovered that the pastor read just 10 verses of scripture on average, before giving his sermon. A few minutes of number crunching demonstrated it would take almost 60 years** to preach through the Bible at that rate, assuming no scriptures were ever repeated. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; “how anal” and I don’t deny that. It’s just one of those things us analyst and auditor types do for fun when we’re not digging through the freezer to sort TV dinners in order of the “best used by” date. Suffice it to say, the exercise showed me IF I wanted to know what was in the Bible, I would have to read it for myself. Continue reading

Assembling, military style

As mentioned in the post Fun with numbers, I was a professional business system analyst before I retired. When I first hired into the aerospace industry, I worked for Quality Assurance and traveled all over the country to conduct audits and reviews of major space and defense hardware systems. My work exposed me to government contracts, military and federal standards and specifications, technical documents and statements of work that give me a somewhat unique approach to studying and understanding the scriptures, now that I am retired and have devoted my life and talents to Christ Jesus.

assemblyWhile writing the post The crook who forsook the assembly, I began to meditate on the word assembly and remembered an old Military Standard that defined the word “assembly”. The thought launched me on an amusing thought train, worth sharing.

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The crook who forsook the assemby

In my observation, when paid ministers, aka “hirelings” (ref. John 10:12-13) make accusations from the pulpit, they are often guilty of the very thing they have accused the congregation of doing. Psychologists refer to the phenomenon as “projection”, or more commonly “blame shifting”. Of course that doesn’t account for the spirit(s) behind the accusation about which Jesus said the religious rulers were speaking for their father, the devil. Scripture says Satan is a liar, the father of lies (John 8:44), and the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).

So when a hireling resorts to accusing the sons of God about whom scripture says there is NO condemnation (Romans 8:1), is their behavior any different than when the religious leaders did so in Jesus day? And what of the hireling’s minions, aka “members of the congregation” who more often than not, mindlessly parrot the hireling’s accusations? Are they not also acting on behalf of their father, the devil in accusing the brethren? It is well to remember that Jesus runs off the accuser and He does not condemn (John 8:3-11).

forsookOne favorite accusation among hirelings is “you are robbing God”, which stems from a deceptive application of Malachi 3:8. The manner in which God was being robbed is outlined in Nehemiah 13:4-13, wherein the wicked priest Eliashib allowed Tobiah, a Molech worshiping Ammonite, to plunder the temple storehouse thereby robbing the Levite priests of the tithe, which was theirs by law. When the Levites did not receive their portion of the tithe, they abandoned their temple duties and took to the fields and pastures to raise food for their families. Thus, robbing God had to do with robbing the priesthood who ceased their temple service.

If as the law of Moses teaches the tithe is brought to the temple for the priests, where now according to the new covenant every believer is a priest and living temple, then all believers should share the tithe (if the tithe were still applicable under the new covenant, which it is not). Accordingly, hirelings are modern day Eliashibs and Tobiahs who are robbing believers of their inheritance in Christ Jesus! No wonder John 10 speaks of hirelings, thieves and robbers, who come to steal, kill and destroy in the same breath! Continue reading

Where do you go to church?

When Christians meet for the first time, the question most often asked is “where do you go to church?” I dread that question more than any other because the people who ask are usually shocked by my answer. I hope by the end of this column, to show the reader just how silly the question really is.

wheredoyougotochurchSince the time of Christ, the question has been asked in many ways. There was the woman at the well who asked Jesus about worship on Jacob’s mountain or in Jerusalem. Jesus’ reply made it clear that where we worship is no longer relevant, but who and how we worship (John 4:21-23). On another occasion, the disciples stopped a man from working miracles because he was not a member of their church. Clearly angered, Jesus said “don’t stop him – if he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally” (Mark 9:38-40).

So if where is not important and there are only the 2 sides in the conflict between light and darkness, can there be more than one church (Mark 3:25)? Continue reading

Worship Services

Among the things that continue to grieve me since the Lord first called me out of man’s traditional church, is the observation of how seldom believers ever question whether or not common church practices are even of the Spirit and the Word. For example, most churches refer to the Sunday service as a “worship service” and hold to the notion that “worship means singing” hymns and choruses. Rarely have I seen the idea challenged; believers simply accept the modern worship model as handed down from our forefathers as Biblical and correct.

comeworshipFor the sake of examining the modern “worship service” and in particular singing as worship, let’s lay a Biblical foundation for discussion.

  • In the OT, the temple was a stone building in Jerusalem. In the NT, the temple is us (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 1 Pet. 2:5).
  • In the OT, the priests were the sons of Levi and Aaron. In the NT, the priesthood is us (1 Pet. 2:5, :9, Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).
  • In the OT, the Spirit did not indwell the people, He resided in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. In the NT, the Holy Spirit has made His home in us since the Resurrection and Pentecost (Jo. 20:22, Ac. 2:4)

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Preemptive grace

Washing the disciples feet has often left me wondering whether Jesus intended a greater lesson for us than to simply marvel at His servant-hood as is common in the annual celebration of the last supper. In fact, when Jesus had finished washing their feet, He asked:

Do you understand what I have done to you? (John 13:11)

FootWashingIn trying to grasp the significance of what He did, it is well to remember that Jesus remained with the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection. Surely Jesus could have found the time to wash their feet then, rather than on the night of His betrayal. Mere hours before His arrest, trial, flogging and crucifixion, Jesus must have been in emotional agony. Yet, Jesus concern was for the disciples who would be wounded by His death and scattered by the persecution that followed. Jesus knew they would be overcome with guilt and shame for denying Him and therefore potentially reluctant to return to Him. By washing their feet before they deserted Him, Jesus laid the groundwork of grace and prepared the way for the disciples to be reconciled to Himself. In so doing, Jesus reassured them of His love and the forgiveness that awaited them when eventually they did sin against Him. Continue reading