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israel

It is funny in a sad way how systems of theology (especially erroneous ones) effect the way we live and minister to others.

I remember listening to Christian radio maybe 5-6 years ago and hearing “those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed”. I won’t saturate you with the scriptures that were used to defend such a case. But to put it frankly they are all Old Covenant texts. I remember hearing people cheer as Israel would strike their enemies (my good brother Daniel Cosby has a good post on facebook about that). So they would applaud the death of those wicked “Palestinians”.

I really didn’t know how to take that. I thought it wrong to cheer the death of an enemy given the fact that Jesus says “love your enemies” and Paul says “if your enemy is thirsty bring him something to drink”. I would wonder how we would applaud the death of someone who did not know Jesus thus they would spend an eternity away from God. I thought that we should mourn and tear our clothes at such an event, but many were endorsing and applauding all in the name of American Christians responsibility to “bless Israel”.

So I want to address a theological fallacy. That fallacy is the one that states Israel is God’s people! Now to be biblically faithful Israel is God’s chosen people, the problem is who is the “True” Israel. If you spend anytime in Romans or Galatians or Ephesians or even Peter that questioned is answered quite easily. The problem is when we apply the broken interpretive method of reading the New Testament through the lens of the Old. That is similar to a group of individuals who celebrate the first half of a football game when they were up 3 points at half but lost by 30!

If you want to faithfully handle your bible, the first thing you want to do is begin with the fulfillment of God’s plan. Paul says God gave Him the full revelation to that which was a mystery hidden from the writers of the Old Testament. They see shadows and types, however, the New Testament writers see the full picture. They don’t talk about a Messiah. John says “we touched Him”. Peter says the prophets “longed” and “speculated” on what God was revealing to them, however, they walked with Jesus and received the full revelation of God’s eternal plan of redemption.

So with that said, there is only ONE people of God. Paul says in Ephesians “that two people are made one new man”. The one new man is the Church or the true Israel of God in Christ! That leads to the point of this blog. The church is not to involve herself with the ethnocentric/nationalistic/self preserving conflict in the middle east, other than to pray for peace and to find a way to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ.

To applaud Israel’s method of controlling a land (that has been fulfilled in Christ) is to employ, as Boyd would say, the kingdom of man! As believers we don’t get people groups to comply by exercising power over, but power under. I remember when Dr. Black told me “I pray for the opportunity to wash Bin Laden’s feet“.

Peace in the Gaza Strip will not be accomplished with the sword. As Jesus says “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword”. Jesus did not gather a group of man to bring a militia against Rome! Jesus was not concerned with an earthly parcel of land, wrongly defined today as the “promised land”. No! Jesus’ kingdom was not and is not of this world and that means neither is ours. The kingdom we are servants of is the kingdom where our King currently reigns and will reign until God the Father makes all of His enemies His footstool. Those enemies aren’t Palestinians friend. Those enemies are those who did not do will of the Father.

I want to let you know I am not “anti-Semitic”. I am pro-Christ! And Christ’s heart is for the whole world and the remnant that will believe is who the bible calls Israel or as Paul says in Romans 2 “a true Jew”. I love Palestinians as much as I love the Jewish people. I love Iraqis as much as I love Americans who they are fighting with.

We should be alarmed when a minister of the Gospel spews hate speech from his mouth in the name of nationalism. The center of the Gospel is love displayed by a “joy” (as Hebrews says) to endure Calvary. Believe it or not, Jesus does not need the land we have defined as Israel today. Jesus is not coming to set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus is already reigning as the Son of David and when He returns He will return for His bride that He has made pure. Our job is prepare others for the King.

I close with this. Our hearts should be broken by the constant warfare and the loss of life that plagues this never ending conflict. We should be quick to rebuke anyone who applauds such demonic nationalism, especially if they name the name of Christ. We have the only answer to the problem. That answer is Jesus of whom both those of Israel and Palestine reject. As bullets fly in this earthly realm we are to move to the Spiritual. Lets beg our Lord of peace and reconciliation during these turbulent times. Both parties are equally wicked, both are fighting for a parcel of land that will be leveled at the second coming of our Lord. Neither are endorsed by God. Lets pray that the Gospel would infiltrate their hearts and they would drop the national ties and see each others as brothers and sisters, which only can be done by and through the Spirit!

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I love this quote from Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation

So, too the reason God now calls kingdom people to remain separate from the ways of the kingdom-of-the-world is not to isolate them from their culture but to empower them to authentically, serve their culture and ultimately win it over to allegiance to Jesus Christ. The reason we are not to be of the world is so we may be for the world

This point is especially important today, for a significant portion of evangelical Christianity has come under the influence of an escapist apocalyptic theology. Believing Jesus will soon “rapture” Christians out of the world before destroying it, they have little concern with the church being a witness on issues of social justice, global peace, the environment, and so on. To the contrary, in the name of fulfilling biblical prophecy, many are actively supporting stances that directly or indirectly encourage violence, possibly on a global scale (of instance, extremist Christian Zionism). Since the world is doomed for soon destruction, the thinking goes, the only thing that matters is getting individuals ready for the rapture.

Whatever else one thinks about the New Testament’s eschatology, it certainly does not encourage this sort of irresponsible escapism. The hope offered to believers is not that we will be a peculiar elite group of people who will escape out of the world, leaving others behind to experience the wrath of God. The hope is rather that by our sacrificial participation in the ever-expanding kingdom, the whole creation will be redeemed (Rom. 8:20-23; Col 1:18-20)

I believe Mr. Boyd to be correct in his assessment. It is much easier to let the world go to hell in a hand basket then engaging it with Calvary type love. It is much easier to look at homosexuals with AIDS and say “this is God’s judgment” than to put our arms around them and love them. It is much easier to ignore the rapid decline of our environment than it is to march hand in hand with “tree lovers”. It is much easier to say “we will be raptured away from it all, so prepare yourself for the next kingdom” while ignoring the world around us. Why care about child slavery? Why care about Darfur? Why care about world hunger? It is funny that Jesus came to reverse the curse of the fall while we not only avoid assisting Him, we actually applaud such destruction and pain in the name of God’s judgment!

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Here are a list of things I apologize for. This is  to the Black Church, the next will be to the Charismatic Church and then the Emergent Church. I want you to read this carefully.

1. I am sorry that I thought your hermeneutic was inferior!

2. I am sorry that I mocked you!

3. I am sorry that I thought you were sub-par to the Reformed Church.

4. I am sorry that I called your worship “buffoonery”.

5. I am sorry that I wanted to make you white

6. I am sorry that I disregarded your history in this Country.

7. I am sorry that I overlooked the divine blessing of your culture.

8. I am sorry that I left you out to dry

9. I am sorry that I didn’t think you deserved to be at the table with other theological thought.

10. I am sorry that I forgot that you were the only place I could worship 40 years ago.

11. I am sorry that I forgot that you preached the Gospel!

12. I am sorry that overstated your failures, minimized your good, and slandered your good name before those who can’t understand you.

13. Finally I am sorry that I didn’t love you!

Please accept my apology!

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Here is how we would define Sola Scriptura:

The phrase sola scripturais from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings” – referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is ‘God breathed’ (given of inspiration of God) and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness…”

Most people who visit this blog don’t need a history lesson. So since the audience knows the history of the Protestant Reformation I won’t go into much detail.

However, I will say this. Sola Sciptura was a necessary doctrine for the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church had a strong hold on all things called Christian thus the development of Sola Scriptura was timely, relevant and again necessary for its season.

500 years ago there was only 2 churches. The Reformed Church and the Catholic Church both fighting for the right to be called “the true church”. One church felt it was tradition plus scripture the other said it was “sola scriptura” though as we come to find out they also attached just as much tradition to scripture as the Catholic Church. There was  third voice however, that was muted by the Reformers called the Anabaptist that had a desire to take Sola Scriptura literally but we know they found out quickly that there was no room at the table for another plate so they were burned at the stake, drowned, imprisoned, had their goods taken all in the name of  “orthodoxy”.

So why do I believe this doctrine is irrelevant? Because by practice no one upholds it. It sounds good and I know people like to quote Latin and seem smarter due to the terminology but at the end of the day we fail the test of holding to “sola scriptura”.

Let me give you an example. There are some today who believe that the Gifts of the Spirit (well the Charismatic ones as they call them or Apostolic gifts) have ceased. The same people who say “scripture must have a witness, in order for it to be made a doctrine” have one verse in the whole bible to defend such a position. So what do they supplement as the witness? Ding, Ding, Ding! Tradition! That is absolutely correct “what do they win Bob”. They say “the early church fathers did not talk about these gifts so they died out somewhere in the first century”!

Now for you sola scriptura guys who also hold to a cessasionist view I am bit confused. The bible nowhere says these gifts ceased and we see them in full operation through the end of the book of Acts; however, you say they cease because you don’t see it! That is like saying Pluto don’t exist because no one has landed on it.

Here is another example. Church buildings! For the sola scriptura guys they use double standard interpretive methods. In one voice they say “the bible is the final voice of authority on Christian practice and faith” but then they say “if the bible doesn’t say we can’t do it then there is freedom”. Now let me fall back a little. Nowhere in the bible does it say “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods to get people into church” or “you can’t use seeker sensitive methods because its unbiblical” the problem is you can’t find a verse that says that. The bible is silent. However, I hear “well the bible doesn’t tell us to use such methods”. See where I am going? But back to the church buildings. As much as I can see ALL the gentiles met in homes. The Jews were the only ones to meet in a building setting and as soon as the Jews labled them a cult they had to run to houses also. Where does the bible say “as soon as possible take 20 million dollars and erect musems buildings to meet in”? Nowhere!

So where am I going? Great question. We need to quit saying we believe in “Sola Scriptura” because we don’t. What we believe is Scripture plus my denominations interpretation. Or Scripture plus my seminary’s hermeneutic. Or Scripture plus my private interpretation. Or scripture plus my favorite theologians theological slant! “Why do you say such heretical things Lionel” you may ask! Because we are gravely mistaken at best, and hypocritical at worse. We all come to the bible with our presuppostions (wherever they have come from) and we all interpret the bible through our foggy lens. We need to quite saying we believe in Sola Scriptura.

This doctrine was for a specific group of people (most of who a Baptist would almost call a heretic LOL). It was necessary then but it is relevant now? My answer is a resounding no! One guy feels you should obey the Sabbath. The other believes you will be raptured in some secret meeting, one guy feels we should have a full meal for the Lord’s Supper, the other feels a shot of grape juice and an oyster cracker suffices, one guy feels that the Law should be preached for sanctification others believe (me) that the Law was a covenant document made obsolete by He who fulfills the Law, one person believes in a plurality of elders the other in a Senior pastor (with elders others with deacons). One person believes that we should bless Israel because of their future promises, others like me only acknowledge the “true Israel of God”. One feels women can preach/teach others not so much 8) Some feel that infants should be baptized into the covenant others feel disciples only, some feel that the sacraments “imparts grace” others not so much. Some feel that a theological education is necessary for pastoring others not so much. And guess what! They all do it under the banner of  “Sola Scriptura”. If you still believe this doctrine to be relevant, reread this post again and tell me how!

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This is not a post to minimize or degrade the work of a Pastor. At all! But it is a genuine post about things I wrestle with. Especially as of lately (6 months or so maybe 9 months). As I struggle through what it means to be a Christian, how I am to live as a Christian and how I am to live and serve with others who are Christian, I usually end up with more questions than answers. Most of those questions is due to what I was taught to believe and why I should believe it. One of those questions that keep coming up is leadership within Christianity. Notice I didn’t say local church. Paul was an Apostle in Galatia just as he was an Apostle in Ephesus. So again I am trying to blend what happened in scripture to what happens today. So I have drafted some questions, or thoughts, ramblings, and such. If you are a pastor, was a pastor or desire to be a pastor I would love to hear from you.

1. What makes you a pastor?

2. Why should I submit to you as a pastor?

3. Are you just a pastor in the church you are in or in other churches also? If so how?

4. As a pastor what is your job?

5. Why did you decide to become a pastor?

I ask those questions genuinely. Here is why. Today there are many people who call themselves pastors and they use the bible as their defense. The problem is they don’t become Pastors (I use that interchangeably with Elders because that is the norm today) the way the bible sets up pastors. In 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul goes and tells Timothy and Titus to select elders to lead those congregations. They were actually commissioned by Paul. Who commissions such a task today? I guess I am asking who appointed the person who appointed you and can you trace back to those Timothy and Titus selected? If not then why should you be a pastor?

The next two questions are why should I submit to you? Or better yet why shouldn’t you submit to me? Is it more bible knowledge? Today in 99.9% of Reformed or Bible circles that is the answer. Seminary separates the haves from the have nots or the leaders from the nonleaders. But the question again is why should I or anyone else submit to you? And what if we decide not to? I am not against seminary as I think it enlightens many towards the great doctrines of God. The next question is what if a Pastor from another church comes in to your church? Do you submit to him? If not why? Should I submit to an elder from another congregation that isn’t associated with mine? Isn’t an Elder in the Church of God in Christ an elder in the Baptist church since we are one “universal” Church?

4. The next question is what is your job as a Pastor? Is it what the church that pays you draw up as a job description? What do you do that makes you a pastor or better yet is what you do make you a pastor or is it your “position” or “office’ that make you do what you do? Would you do what you do if it were not in your job description or if you weren’t paid to do it? By the way why should you get paid? What is it that you do, that other Christians should do and if nothing why aren’t they paid for it? Shouldn’t we pay Sunday School teachers and other Christians who visit sick Christians and study their bible and pray for the church and teach other Christians? What exactly do you do or don’t do for that matter that makes you a pastor?

5. Finally what makes you a pastor? Did someone tell you that? Was it some warm and fuzzy feeling that made you say “I want to get paid to be a Christian”? Did someone in school convince you of this? Was it someone at your church that convinced you that you should do this “professionally” and go to school to validate it? Did people come to you and say “hey we want you to be our leader”? Did you take the initiative in becoming a pastor? Did your church nominate you due to your work of service there? Or did a group of elders like the amount of information you had and suggested you take the next step? Why do you do what you do? Would you do it all for free (like Jesus LOL).

Again these are genuine questions as I discern God’s call on my life. I don’t know if I should be a pastor or if I shouldn’t. I have been told I should go to seminary in one group of churches because of my passion in other churches (Charismatic circle) I took Jesus and holiness seriously (I was quite the legalist and still can be, got to put that dude under the cross) so they would prophesy over me and say I will be a preacher one day. I guess we all come to this crossroads and wanted to know from you: when, where, why and how!

I guess I see no real reason to “become” a pastor officially but I see many reasons to pastor functionally. I see no real reason to do this professionally when I can do this function while holding a normal job, thus having more opportunities to pastor more people. I see no special calling other than a gifting to shepherd but this again seems more functional to me. Other than the great burden of serving others like Jesus: washing their feet, healing them, feeding them, protecting them even at the cost of one’s own life, and a “desire” (as Paul writes) to do such a thing, I don’t understand why anyone would want this task.

So pastor! What makes you a pastor really if it is Jesus is it revocable? Is Jesus an Indian (excuse the word) giver? I anticipate your responses.

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My last post sparked a discussion that I didn’t want to get lost so I am reposting one the subpoints as a main point here.

It seems that many believe that I think Theology=Maturity! That would be untrue Theology Applied=Maturity. Rather we like it or not we all have a theology and certain theological positions. It seems smart today to avoid calling it something, the problem is you can’t. For example. If you take metal, rubber, glass and plastic, put it together, put fuel in it and use it to get from point A to point B then you have a car or some type of motor vehicle. You can say “I don’t want to call it that” but that would be irrelevant! Such is the same for theology. You don’t have to call it that, but the fact that you believe something about God, something about the bible, something about how the church should meet, something about Christ, something about salvation and something about what Christians should obey and what they don’t have to obey means you have taken certain theological stances and positions.

Now if it is you want to avoid labels then fine! I have no problem with that, but just because you want to avoid them doesn’t mean that someone has not defined what you believe and has written it in a book, and it is taught maybe even in seminary. If you believe like I believe that after 2000 years nobody has figured it out, then I promise you some smart dude has written what you believe.

But lets take it a bit further! What you believe has been taught to you and what you hold to has been shaped by some theologian over the past 2000 years. I bet my yearly salary to a Peanut Butter with no jelly sandwich and a stick of celery to that statement! What you believe didn’t fall out of the sky, you were shaped. Listen to me very carefully. The Ephesians, Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, Macedonians, the Jews, Laodacians, Thessalonians, The Bereans, and any other person who became a Christian in the 1st Century was shaped by Pauline Theology! Now you might say that is Holy Spirit theology, but it is still Pauline Theology! The thing they have that you and I don’t is access to Paul, Timothy, Titus, Epaphorditus, John, Peter, Apollos and others who can directly ask a question and get a straight answer, even if they could answer the question!

Theology was before Seminary! Let me say that again Theology was before Seminary. Now theological language can be avoided, but we as humans always use language to discuss concepts. For example I am in Coporate America as a Financial Analyst. There are terms we use to describe what we do! When my wife asks me certain things, I have to show her more than I can tell her because the terms will leave her void of what I am trying to explain. The same goes for musicians when they talk music, writers when they discuss writing, artist when they discuss art……. You see terms like the Trinity are theological term, The Fall is a theological term, The Divinity of Christ is a theological term, and many other words we use are theological terms and concepts that are deduced and put into books to discuss them.

Now for this one I will get shot but I am going to say it anyway! Is the bible all we need? My answer is no! Absolutely not! Heck no! When I look at the Gifts given by the Spirit one of those gifts is teaching! Just because someone decides to write it in a book doesn’t negate the gift! Actually the printing press has become a blessing! We now can print 1,000,000 bibles in different languages in a a fraction of the time it would take to hand-write 10! But not only that things that was passed orally or taught can now be written and reproduced! In my experience my vast amount of theology has helped me once the Spirit caught up with my learning! So the problem wasn’t theology the problem was my ability or even desire to apply it!

Are there drawbacks to theology? I think I have written extensively about this. Theology can make one proud, arrogant, self-righteous, it can produce unbiblical distinctions as Daniel brings up, it can even produce a Christian caste system. But theology isn’t the problem, application is. Pursuing a theological education isn’t bad in and of itself. Understanding the work of the Holy Spirit systematically, that Jesus is the metanarrative or the interpretive key of the whole bible (a Christ centered interpretation) or learning the difference between how to apply the law in the Old Testament versus the New Testament are not bad things!

Using are minds and hearts simultaneously is not a bad thing. Back in the day I took an Intro to Theology class under Michael Patton, one of the books I had to read was J.P Morelands “Love God With All of Your Mind”. Listen the Holy Spirit isn’t quenched by theology. My move towards my current ecclesiological perspective and theology of the New Testament was assisted by wrestling with theological concepts and terms. Again the Spirit is quenched by not obeying and applying what you do know. The Spirit not only works in the heart He works in the mind also. The book of Romans is a theological work of Paul. It would have taken some thinking to wrestle with and it was written by the Holy Spirit! Does it mean that the uneducated couldn’t understand the Gospel? No! It does mean; however, that someone with some form of eduction would have to read it and explain it to them though.

I end with this. A little theology ain’t going to hurt nobody! The Spirit works in the mind and in the heart! But most importantly if you believe you are void of theology you are only fooling yourself. Your theological position was shaped by someone rather that is Viola and Barna or Owen and Edwards! Both sets have theological knowledge and extensive theology as a matter of fact! Most of what we believe has been shaped by 2000 years of theology from the Deity of Christ to the Trinity to baptism we have to affirm that.

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The great ministry and even greater brothers at Christ Communicators Worldwide has announced the future release of what I believe to be a very proactive and critical issue. Marriage and Divorce. There are many reasons why, this is important, the primary one is what does Jesus say of remarriage and divorce! One of the biggest issues facing the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is divorce. So bad is that a movie “Fireproof” had to be made. Well if you want to Fireproof your marriage I think this book may just help you do that! Here is what CCW is saying:

Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence ViewWe expect to have this book back from the printer/binder by the first week or so in December. Releasing a book on divorce and remarriage in the holiday season is not going to work, so we will not mail the book until around January 1. This means that we can offer a pre-publication price up until January 15, 2009. This $16 book will sell for just $11 until that time. Free shipping in the US/Can. For overseas orders, write for S/H costs.

 

Click to read the back cover, preface, and table of contents.

Thanks Elders of Christ Fellowship and thanks to the members for allowing them to teach this and submitting! I will order mines here shortly rather you agree or not, I think it is worth studying! For my Piperites this is Piper’s view! Hopefully I can interview one of the elders of Christ Fellowship after reading and reviewing it (hint, hint)

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