[STUDY] WHAT IN THE WORLD IS ‘THE CHURCH’? most recent-
These entries show the idea of ‘church’ as being the functioning people versus the separate organization. I also stuck a bunch of stuff on leadership in here as well. NOTE- some entries specifically speak on the subject of ‘church’, others are just a feel of the context. They kinda express the broader theme of community in scripture. For a short, concise teaching on church and ministry, read my two booklets ‘Further talks on church and ministry’ and ‘The Great building of God’ [they are both on this site in the February 2010 posts]. Every year I post these categorized subjects in the February posts [on the blog] so if you go back and check the Feb. posts of each year- you will find complete and ongoing studies.
1783- THE BISHOP
Kinda wanted to cover some contemporary issues going on in the ‘church world’ being we just spent a few weeks in the ancient history stuff.
But it might take too long- some current debates in Evangelical circles concern a recent round table discussion with T.D. Jakes- a man I like- but he got in some hot water, again- because of his background as a Pentecostal Oneness minister.
This group has disagreed with historic Christianity on the Trinity- and over the years some of the Reformed brothers [Protestants] have hit him hard on the issue.
So in the recent discussion it happened again- basically Jakes says he holds to the Trinitarian view today [One God- 3 Persons] though his background stated it by saying ‘One God- 3 manifestations’.
You say ‘gee John- doesn’t sound like something to kill each other over’- well- we do- trust me- we do.
I have known and been friends with Pentecostal Oneness brothers before- and I personally accept them as Christians.
No- I don’t use the words they use when defining the Trinity- but I don’t completely out and out reject them a total heretics.
I used to listen to Jakes- and for the most part I felt comfortable with him- the main reason I do not tune in to these guys anymore is the whole persona thing- ministries- ‘churches’ huge organizations- who for the most part are clearing houses for the well intended Pastors- but the entire image of the ministry becomes the persona of a man.
This type of atmosphere actually violates the principles we find in the bible- that the churches in the bible did not have the image/gifts of a person- no matter how good that person is- as the central organizing principle of the group.
Basically- in the bible- the churches were truly centered around the person of Christ.
And in many contemporary situations- well- everything [especially the ‘tithes’] usually goes to the promoting of the image of a person [TV- teaching materials- etc.].
And very often millions are spent promoting a person- which is a violation of the principles of leadership we find in the New Testament.
So anyway- I said that to simply say I always liked Jakes- and yes- as somewhat of a history buff- sure- I know the difficulty with his past connections [the actual term for the ‘heresy’ is called Modalism- which describes the belief that God is one who manifests in 3- they don’t say ‘3 persons’].
So I know the scoop- but the reason I don t watch/hear these men anymore is because I just get turned off by the whole ‘dial 1-800- Bishop’ type thing- I mean I like reading/studying from ‘real’ Bishops.
Men like N.T. Wright- former Bishop in the Church of England- or Bishop Sheen- a popular Catholic Bishop who you can catch on the tube every so often- yes- ‘real’ bishops in the sense that they are well versed in a wide field of learning- Philosophy- scholarship- church history- yeah- I like hearing Bishops.
But in today’s world- you have Bishops ‘ordaining’ Bishops by the boat loads- and when the way you contact them is thru a 1-800 number- well then I think we have a problem.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 E.U. and John the Baptist.
Okay- let’s start with last week’s meeting in Brussels. The European Union met to hack out a deal on their debt problems. All 27 European nations met- 26 signed on to an agreement- sort of.
Britain was the only nation that did not sign on. Why? Cameron [the Prime Minister] said they did not want to give up any control over their sovereign nation. Basically the agreement says that the E.U. nations that refuse to deal with their debt problems- they will face fines/penalties if they let things get out of hand.
‘So John- how does a promise like this fix anything’? Actually- it doesn’t. In the U.S. we just came off a year of various panels/groups who were put together to deal with our nation’s debt crisis.
Some of these panels- bi-partisan- came up with some okay ideas- but in the end the President and congress did not pass anything.
So the last attempt was the ‘super committee’ as opposed to just any old regular one! Yeah- they even said ‘we are are so serious about getting our fiscal house in order- we even passed a law that said if we don’t agree to the cuts- then automatic cuts will happen- beyond our control- and then the budget will eventually balance out’.
Wow John- you mean they actually passed a real law that said this? Yup.
Okay- what happened? They came down to the wire and passed nothing. Then they started saying ‘look- we know we passed a law- to make it look like this time we mean it- but do you really think we can’t change the darn thing’!
Well John- Obama said he will veto any change. Oh yeah- that threat has lots of weight to it.
So the E.U. said ‘we will allow more oversight of our individual nations budgets’ and that was the deal. They did not fix anything yet- and the real test will be this coming year. All these nations [Italy] will have to raise new revenue [sell bonds] and if the private investors/banks do not want to take the risk and buy these bonds- then things will get bad.
So that’s the story.
Okay- in the last few posts we talked a little about the first century world that Christianity was birthed from. We call this Greco/Roman culture.
Though Rome was the ruling empire at the time of Christ- they were ‘Hellenized’. Hellenization is the word we use to describe the Greek kingdoms efforts- under Alexander the Great- to ‘Cosmopolitanise’ the world.
Whenever Alexander would conquer a people- he would allow them to stay in their land- they could hold on to their customs and habits but at the same time become part of Greek culture.
Alexander even translated the Jewish bible [Torah] into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint [means 70] and comes from the story that 70 scholars put this version together under Divine inspiration.
This Greek ‘bible’ was the bible that the Jewish people who lived outside of Israel would use. These scattered Jews are referred to as the Diaspora.
Okay- during the time of Christ more Jews lived outside of Israel than in the land. And the influence of the Greek world upon all the people under the Roman Empire was very great.
Our New Testaments were originally written in Greek- this is the reason why. Now- the other day I mentioned how the Synagogue rose up during the time of this Diaspora- this scattering of the Jewish people before the time of Christ.
So during Jesus day- you already had a habit of Jews meeting for study and prayer- in these ‘church’ like buildings. These places of worship had no sacrifices or priestly ordinances- they were places of prayer and ‘bible study’. Do you now see how the culture that surrounds a movement does indeed have the potential to shape that movement?
Yes- early Christianity took on a form of Synagogue worship and order of service. The New Testament teaches us that we have no more animal sacrifices- but offer spiritual worship to God.
In the book of Acts we read about a group of people called God Fearers. This designation refereed to gentiles [non Jews] who enjoyed the Synagogue ‘services’ and wanted to attend- but they were not willing to go all the way- so to speak- and make the final ‘cut’.
Yes- if you wanted to completely convert to Judaism as an adult- you could- but you did have to go thru the rite of passage- circumcision.
So for those who liked the ‘bible study’ but also liked to keep all their body parts as well- they became God Fearers.
A while back I read an article [book review?] about a book some scholar put out- and he had an interesting twist on why the early Christian’s had friction with the early Jews. He posited the idea that the Gentile converts to Judaism were the main pool of people that the early Christians were converting- and that simple statistics said if all these former God Fearers became Christians- well the synagogue membership would go down- and the offerings too!
It’s an interesting idea- but we do read in the bible that the friction came because the early Jewish Christians accepted Christ as their final sacrifice and they did indeed ‘leave’ Judaism and identified themselves with Christ and his Church. [I put ‘leave’ in quotes because what actually happened was these Jewish converts to Christianity were simply receiving all that the prophets said- they did not see what they were doing as being unfaithful to their faith- they saw it as simply completing their journey].
But to know the context- the world in which these things took place- that helps us to see a little more into the story.
This past week I read Mark chapter 1 and John chapter 1. These chapters cover the ministry of John the Baptist. John was called ‘the Baptist’ because he was baptizing people in the river Jordan. How come we never read anyone saying ‘hey John- what the heck are you doing- this new rite of dunking people in the water’?
Well no one said it [as far as we know] because it was not a new rite [ritual]. During the rise of synagogue worship- and thus the rise of gentiles who wanted to join the ‘church’ on their block [non Jews who liked the readings and spiritual atmosphere of the synagogue] the Jewish people developed a type of Baptism that was used as a sort of entry rite [along with circumcision] to join their religion.
But the thing about John was he started using this rite as a means to call the Jewish people to repentance- this was a first of its kind.
So Johns Baptism said ‘you religious folk- you Jewish people- yes- you need to repent just like everyone else’. Yeah- John was a unique person- and his baptism was one of a kind.
Okay- that’s it for today- maybe try and read the chapters I mentioned above- do a little study on your own.
In this month’s issue of Christianity Today magazine they started a 5 year study on classic Christianity and it looks like it’s going to be very well done- something Protestants and Catholics would benefit from.
I have been reading this magazine for many years- and the last few years they have really taken a step up in their scholarship- maybe go on line and subscribe? You can also read the articles right from the computer.
I also read the Catholic Magazine called First Things- both of these are on my blog roll. First Things is top rate- but might get a little too ‘intellectual’ for first timers [don’t want to sound condescending here] they cover issues of Philosophy and Science form a Christian perspective- and they too have great stuff.
But I think the C.T. 5 year program that they are just starting might be the way to go for new learners- or ‘old’ learners- who want to brush up on the faith.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 YAHWEH- YAHWEH- I LOVE TO SHOUT YOUR NAME!
Want to try and cover a few current events today. Last week- when the DOW went up to around 12,300- I felt like ‘here we go again’. The news came out ‘yes- Greece is solving their debt problem- hip- hip- hooray!’ Then of course a day or 2 will go by and something bad happens- ‘oh- no- the sky is falling’.
I mean it’s not even funny anymore- if the world [global] economy learns anything from this debacle- it will be to try and put a plan in place- where the entire global market is not going from week to week- based on these long term payouts that the other E- Zone nations are making to Greece- based on how much they agree to cut every few weeks.
It’s like running our govt. on the Continuing Resolutions- having to pass these temporary deals every few months- and the markets being drawn to the brink every couple of months- this whole way of working is not acceptable.
But what I wanted to say- that the so called solution to the Greek debt crisis- well it’s really not a solution at all. Yes- I think they needed to do it [cut their bonds in half] but what they actually did- was they did default [go bankrupt] and they reorganized their debt.
When a nation [or company- or bank] does this- they are telling all their investors ‘you just lost a boatload of cash’. Okay- who are these evil investors anyway?
The ‘Occupy Wall’ street guys- well they mean well- and they have some valid points to make- but the problem is not really with the bankers- or the ‘1-%’- that is if you simply slash the bonds/investments in half [those evil bank people!]- you are not taking all the money from those ‘fat cats’.
In reality- lots of the average folk lose money too. Many retirement accounts- yes- for teachers and Firemen and Cops [you know- the 99%] are tied into these investments. Now- I hope your own 401 k was not heavily invested in European debt- but many people’s investments are.
And when the nation [or company] says ‘hey everybody- guess what- we fixed the problem- we simply told everybody- today is half price day- for us’. Well yes- they reduced their debt. But they did it by ‘reducing’ the value of everyone else that had skin in the game.
So what does this mean? It means that lots of folk took a big hit- and these same folk [made up of all the other European nations] are not going to be happy about it. Will they ever invest in Greek debt again? Hell no- I don’t blame them either.
Okay John- what does this mean? Glad you asked. It means that even though the Europeans ‘solved their debt crisis’ they solved it in a way that will have long lasting effects on the global economy. Now- Greece is really a small economy- we all know this- but don’t be fooled into thinking something was ‘solved’ no- they solved it by saying ‘hey- we aint paying the people we owe money too’ Geez- wish I could ‘solve’ my debt crisis like that.
And sure enough- before I had a chance to write the post [warning about this very thing] yesterday we saw a global investment company go Belly Up. It was some firm that former N.J. governor Jon Corzine ran- they invested in these European bonds- and yes- they lost half of their investment [billions] over night.
So- before we [U.S. investors and workers] get too happy over the Europeans ‘fixing’ their problems [like the DOW shooting up to 12,300!] lets realize that there are still lots of problems on the horizon- and we are not out of the water yet [the DOW also was responding to the 3rd quarter numbers that came out- the U.S. economy did do better than expected- I think the growth was a little over 2 %- that’s good- not great- but okay].
Okay- I also found it funny [not to demean the thing] that the Syrians were protesting in the streets- calling for- well you guessed it- a NO FLY ZONE.
What? A no fly zone? Assad [the Syrian leader] is not flying planes over the protestors- he is indeed killing and torturing them- but no planes.
So why would the Syrians [not all of them] be asking for this? Well to them- after seeing our ‘no fly zone’ in Libya- to them it means ‘please come and hunt down our leader like a dog- kill him- his kids- his grandkids- and when it’s all over- let a bunch of our ‘leaders’ take over- you know- the Al Qaeda group’.
Sad- so sad.
Look- I’m sorry for the abuse that many Arab/Persian nations have foisted upon their people- and in many ways- Assad is an S.O.B.- but we need to find another way to deal with these crisis’- and the ‘no fly zone’ thing- well that has to stop.
One last note- last week I had a strange event take place. As a true news junkie [I read the papers- watch the news- for about 6 hours a day] I stumbled across a death penalty case.
I have made it a habit to pray for the cases I read in the papers- severe crime cases- people going to prison for life- mothers who killed their kids- yes bad cases- but case’s/people I felt the Lord wanted me to pray for- well- for the rest of my life.
I have cut out the news articles- and written the names of these people here in my study- and pinned them up on my prayer wall.
The list is now in the hundreds.
Okay- when I read [last Monday] that Frank Garcia was going to be executed on Thursday- I made a mental note to simply pray for Frank for the next 4 days.
I simply prayed for him every morning- prayed that God would be glorified- that God would help Frank to ‘end right’ to seek God in his last days- make any statements that need to be made- to the victims’ families or whoever else [he killed his wife- and a cop who came to the home on the night they were fighting].
I have done this ‘prayer vigil’ for the guys for many years- writing the names of offenders and putting them on my prayer wall- that’s only a few years old- but to pray for the death row guys- well I have done that for years.
Now- for some reason- in Frank’s case- I felt the Lord saying ‘John- you just adopted him’. What?
I have so many friends- ex-cons- addicts- street guys- and many of them are like brothers- ‘sons’. Some of them have become Christians thru ‘my’ ministry. The years of helping the street guys- preaching at the jails- the whole deal.
So in franks case- it seemed like the Lord was saying ‘John- franks in the group’.
I didn’t fully understand it- but heck- I accepted the thing [you know- when God says something- its’ usually a good idea to believe it].
So on Thursday- I just happened to have the local news on at 6 P.M. - here in Texas the guys usually get the needle at around 6:20 P.M. and before the news ends- they tell you the guys dead.
So as the news rolled along- I prayed for Frank for this last 20 minutes- he wound up dying a little late- at 7.
The next day- I read 3 articles on Frank’s last words- I have never read a testimony like this- yes- from a criminal who did indeed commit horrendous crimes- crimes he needed to be punished for.
The article said that when Frank entered the ‘death room’ for the entire 20 minutes or so- he simply sang out to God- very loudly- praised Jesus- shouted ‘Yahweh- Yahweh- I love to sing your name’ and went on like this for the whole time.
He prayed for the people in the ‘stands’ watching the show- he prayed ‘God- for the prosecutor sitting here right now- may she never forget this day father- may she come under conviction someday father- may she accept Jesus some day’.
He went on and said ‘Father- for this day was I born- to glorify you- even though I committed such terrible crimes- for which I’m sorry for- yet to end my life glorifying you and your Son- to praise you as my God and king- thank you father- thank you’.
The article went on to say that as the drugs began taking effect- Frank began rattling off at the end- not able to form compete sentences- his final word was ‘Jesus’.
The Mother of the woman Frank killed [his mother in law] said she was shocked- that this former San Antonio gang member was always such a quiet kid- she has never spoken to Frank since he killed her daughter- but she saw a different person this night- someone she really did not know at all.
I’m sure the other witnesses will never forget what they heard that night either- especially the prosecutor- who had to position herself as an adversary- one who accuses the defendant in criminal cases- yes- that’s her job- but by nature- she in a way had to ‘hate’ frank- yet she heard him pray for her on the night of his death.
Yes- I never heard a ‘death row’ testimony in my life like this one- and for some reason- I never prayed as much [you know- remembering to pray thru out the week- and then praying for the man the actual hour he was dying] for one either.
These last few years I have ‘sensed’ and in a strange way- ‘received’ some of my old buddies who have died years ago. Many of them were friends I ‘lead’ to the Lord- yet they had very long histories of drug abuse and crime- and yes- some did die as a result of that.
But these last few years- while praying in my prayer ‘spot’ [a special spot in my yard] out early in the morning- under the stars- I sense all my ‘sons’ and friends being in this crowd- the image of John the Apostle- seen in revelation chapter 5- he is in this heavenly throne room before God.
He is there with the angels and saints and the great Lion of the tribe of Judah [Jesus]. It’s a picture of saints that are in heaven- and also on earth- the book of Hebrews says those who have died- and have already passed on- they are in the stands and cheering us on.
I know this sounds strange- but I really sense my ‘old group’ even my buddies who are gone- they are still ‘having church’ with me under the stars.
A few years ago- when I first started sensing this- it seemed as if one of my old friends showed up one week- I just ‘sensed’ it.
His name was Miguel. Me and Mike grew up in N.J. together- good friends as kids.
After high school- I joined the navy- Mike went into the Army.
After I earned my 4 year discharge in 1 year [got kicked out of the Navy!] I went back North and me and Mike got back together as good buddies [he got kicked out of the Army faster than I got booted from the Navy- yeah- he won that competition too!] we did commit a few crimes in those months- we were no ‘angels’ but we eventually headed back to Texas.
Why Texas? Mike wanted to go to Florida- I said Texas. We had no real plans- just two18 year old kids with no destiny.
I said ‘lets flip a coin- heads it’s Texas- tails Florida’. I told Mike that day- I still remember the moment- sitting there in front of my house- on a cold N.J. day- dreary day.
I said ‘hey- some day we can tell our kids that we chose [Tx or Fla.] based on a coin flip’.
I won the flip- we left for Texas in the morning – been here ever since.
Eventually I lead Mike to the Lord- his wife- Lu Ann- and my wife became friends. Mike had a few boys- I had 4 girls!
Mike became a member of my little home church [we also met in a rented hospital for a year or 2] and we were in a sense- living the dream.
Mike had a little harder time than me. He eventually went back North- and I got a call from Mike one day- he told me had had Aids.
I stayed in touch with Mike- he wrote me a few good letters- and one day when I came home from work- my wife said ‘John- Lu Ann called’. I knew it- I said ‘Mike died’ she said yes.
I have Miguel’s funeral card here in my office- its pinned up on a wall with my other friends names who have gone on- Mike was 32.
So a while back- when I started ‘sensing’ this ‘church thing’ this reality that my friends who are still ‘on the ground’ and my buddies who have died- well they are all here with me during those prayer mornings- yes- in that ‘upper room’ that the apostle John was in.
One day I was praying and doing a home church thing with my wife- we often do a simple home meeting- pray- bible reading- communion- it’s kind of cool.
My wife tells me ‘you know- I had a weird dream the other night. You old friend Mike showed up at the door- he rang the bell. He said he was here- looking for you’.
Yes- I felt like God said I ‘adopted’ Frank- that in a way he was now part of my ‘fellowship’ yes- made up of the worst of the worst- they did say of Jesus ‘he’s friends with hookers and killers and sinners- what kind of preacher is that!’
Yes- I like my little group. O- and this past Sunday- while doing the early prayer thing- at the part of being in ‘the room’ with the guys- I almost thought I could hear Frank singing- yes- he seemed to be singing ‘Yahweh- Yahweh- I love to shout your name’.
Yea- it was a good service- the best one in the world.
 THIS ROCK
A few weeks ago I mentioned how I want to try and cover the Sunday Mass readings every now and then. I watch the Mass every Sunday [as well as hold a Protestant meeting- home meeting] and I wanted to hit on the verses so my Catholic friends can get a little more into bible study.
Last week one of the readings was from Isaiah 56- the week before chapter 55. These chapters sort of cover one of the main themes that I spoke about during our overview of the letters of the N.T.
If you remember- one of the ‘mysteries’ we spoke about was the truth that in Christ- all ethnic groups are now one in Christ. This was spoken about in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In Isaiah we read about God bringing all nations to Christ ‘you will call a nation that you do not know- and nations that do not know you will come running to you’ ‘My fathers house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’- Jesus quotes this verse when he throws out the Money Changers from the temple. Another one ‘whoever is thirsty- come- drink of this water freely’ the themes of these 2 chapters is God is inviting all groups- they can come and make this Covenant with God.
God is opening the door for all groups to make it in!
On my site- a while back I made some friends from various countries- Muslim countries. I actually did a teaching on Islam- in a positive way- not to ‘trick’ Muslims to convert- but because I felt the anti Muslim feeling in the West- with the world facing so many geo political problems- that we needed to take some positions as Christians that were more gracious to people in general.
Now- I know I too ‘hit hard’ on my site- sure. But I do believe God wants us to live peaceably with ‘all men’. That friends from other religious backgrounds- if they are going through very hard times- then we need to do what we can to help them.
Every conversation with a young Muslim person- who might be struggling with the problems taking place in their nation- we need to also be able to do ‘justly’ see that many of their nations have been oppressive- and all the young people in these nations are not radical Muslims.
Many are women who have been treated badly by the leaders- because the leaders are strict Muslims. So for these people- we need to say ‘yes we see your situation- we are praying for you’ we can’t simply think all the problems will be solved if we only preach to them- without also acting justly- seeing their plight and being concerned and speaking out.
Okay- that’s the main reason I connected with some of these friends. At the same time- obviously I teach the bible- and I hope lots of these friends from various groups [Jews, Muslims, etc..] that they can see that Christianity is not based on the West- or a certain view of Christianity- but its Gods free offering to all men/women ‘come- drink- accept the free gift- it’s for you!’
So of course I want all my friends to feel free to take the benefits that God has given to us- while also respecting them if they choose to worship their own way.
So- this week we saw that in the N.T. the death and resurrection of Christ was Gods way of saying ‘whoever wants to come- come!’. Christ died for everyone- we can all get in.
The prophet Isaiah said this years ago- that God would bring all nations and ethnic groups to ‘his holy mountain’ [kingdom] he would make them joyful- he will accept their gifts [prayers and thanks] and that he is doing all these things for the benefit of all nations- not just one.
As we close the week- go and read these chapters- to my Catholic friends – see what chapters will be in the Mass this Sunday- when you get home after the Mass- read them.
The bible says Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the spiritual building called ‘the church’. The bible says many people stumbled over this stone- they were offended at him.
Jesus asked once ‘Who do men say that I am’- Peter said ‘You are the Christ- the Son of the blessed’. Jesus says ‘Blessed are you Peter- flesh and blood did not reveal this to you- but my Father who is in heaven’ and Jesus went on to say ‘Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
Later on in Peters letter’s- he says we are spiritual stones in this spiritual temple- and Jesus is the main Rock. All the bible hinges on him- we must see everything as it relates to ‘This Rock’.
God made provisions for all people thru his Son- he said ‘whoever wants to drink- drink- come freely- without charge- it’s for you too’.
 HE NAILED IT TO THE CROSS
[Correction- in the last post I mentioned birds having a different respiratory system than other animals. The mistake I want to correct is birds do have a sort of lung system- but they don’t have a diaphragm- they don’t breathe in and out- the same way other animals/people do. Everything else in the post is accurate- just wanted to clarify this part].
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordnances- that he might create in himself one new man so making peace….and you who were dead in sins God made alive…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us..He took the law and nailed it to his Cross’ Ephesians chapter 2 and Colossians chapter 2.
Okay- as I have said in the last few posts- most of our New Testament was made up of the letters that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the 1st century. The main themes of these letters are the death and resurrection of Christ- the Cross- what that means to us.
These 2 chapters mentioned above deal with what’s called a Mystery. In the N.T. writings of Paul- mystery simply means the revealing of a truth for the 1st time. One of these truths was the reality that Jesus took the law [10 commandments and all the regulations that man could not live up to] and he nailed it to his Cross.
Now- when he did this- he not only reconciled [brought us back] us to God- but he also removed the ‘enmity’ that caused ethnic divisions between the Jews and non Jews.
In today’s terms we would say the death of Christ removes all racial/ethnic barriers between the people groups of the world. When people read these types of verses- maybe for the first time- it does seem to go against the common understanding that most Christians have.
We often are raised in a good church as kids- I went to Catholic school for the first few years of my life- then switched to public school so I could hang out with my friends. But I still went to CCD classes right down the block from my grade school.
And for the most part I learned Christianity from good priests- and the process was worth it [though many of my Protestant friends will be upset with me because I say stuff like this]. And like most ‘good’ kids- some of the stuff stuck with me- but lots just fell away.
Eventually I would go thru some crisis things- got in some trouble in Texas- was a young kid on my own- and did get into reading the bible.
That’s what really did it for me- reading these truths- straight from the bible- thinking ‘geez- I never knew the bible actually said stuff like this!’
And Walla- a Texas convert! But as time progressed- and I began to get serious about studying church history and the whole realm of Christianity- I came back to an appreciation of my early Catholic roots- I didn’t have to ‘hate’ the Catholics- like many of my friends did [and do] I just needed to see the overall view of the bible- and understand that many churches- like all institutions- do have a tendency to get lost in the bureaucracy as time moves on.
So my goal at this season is to simply re introduce a lot of the bible teachings- along with a healthy appreciation of the historic churches.
The above verses talk about the New Covenant- like I said these past few days- the New Covenant is the new ‘deal’ that God made with man- saying ‘My Son died for you- if you believe- by faith- you will be saved’. Now- this deal- as opposed to the old deal [called the Old Covenant] is really great news-
That’s what the word Gospel means- good news. Of course for people who are not familiar with the bible- it just seems so strange to read a verse that says ‘Jesus took the law- the commandments that were against us- the ones we could never live up to- and he nailed them to his Cross’.
I mean this goes against what most well meaning Christians believe- that if they try their best- keep the churches rules- obey the commandants- then they will be saved.
But that’s actually approaching God with an Old Covenant mindset- not seeing salvation as a free gift- but something you earn.
How did the church in general get away from truths like this? After the first century church moved on- you did have the church go thru lots of stages. Some Protestants hold a view that in the 4th century- under the Emperor Constantine- that the church became pagan/Catholic- and that this started a 1000 year process of the Dark Ages.
I find this view to be too harsh- and prefer to see it like this. Yes, the early church did go off the rails at times- yet there were also many good things that did happen during the so called Dark Ages. At one point the only institution that existed for the protection of society was indeed the Catholic Church.
Nations appealed to her as the final arbiter for justice and fairness in the world.
As the 2nd millennium of the Christian era progressed- you had the development of the University system and the rise of the independent nation states. Germany, England, France- many nation states began to develop armies/navies- and there was a sense of real independence from Rome.
This allowed for a sort of dynamic where the leading scholars of the day [Luther, Calvin, etc..] to be able to break away from what they saw as too much church tradition- and start a movement that would get closer to the bible.
We call this the Protestant Reformation- took place in the 1500’s. Okay- during these debates the Protestants wanted to get back to the basic teachings of the New Testament and in a noble effort- they replaced the style of church- and basically removed the communion table as the central focus of the mass/service- and replaced it with a pulpit.
That is- the new focus was the bible. Okay- we got some good things- and bad things- from this. Now- most of my Protestant friends would say ‘bad- what’s bad!’
Like everything in life- it takes time to see things- and this is one of those things. What slowly happened in protestant churches was the focus shifted from the ‘Table of the Lord’ to the person speaking. In Many present Protestant churches- you basically have a large theatre where people come to hear speaking every Sunday- and this has become a very limited view of what ‘church’ is.
So even though the Protestants meant well- they in a way did remove Christ [as represented thru the Lords Table] and replaced him with the speaking office- and exalted the speaking office to a degree that is really not seen in the churches we read about in the bible.
So as you can see- we have all made some mistakes- and in time we can see the things that need to be corrected- and make those adjustments.
I prefer to see my Catholic past as a good thing- having been blessed to have had a chance to learn abut God and Christian history- even though I didn’t pay attention too well.
And I also thank God for the various Protestants expressions of Christianity that I have come in contact with over the years.
I would encourage all my friends to make an effort to get back to the bible- read these chapters I mention every so often- mediate on these truths- think about them ‘wow- the New Testament teaches that Jesus took the law- and nailed it to his Cross’. This doesn’t mean we can now go out and kill, steal- commit adultery. But it means we are saved by God’s grace. The gift of faith is given freely- we don’t save ourselves through trying real hard to live up to the church rules.
Yes- the bible calls this good news- and if you think about it- it really is.
 OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE
Let’s cover some biblical history- that is the making of the bible itself. A few days ago I did a post on Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God made to natural Israel. The post showed how the early Jewish people saw Jesus as their Messiah- the promised one that they were always looking for.
The earliest mention of the promise goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God tells Eve that her child shall bruise the serpent’s head- and the serpent [actually the ‘seed’ or child] will bruise his heel. There have been works of art [statues/paintings] depicting this scene for centuries. It was fulfilled at the Cross.
So we have the 4 gospel accounts- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John- and these accounts give us the history of Jesus- his miracles and teachings- and they show us the fulfillment of God’s promise- made centuries before- that he would send them their Messiah.
Out of the 4 gospels- only one- John- has a different outline. The first 3- we call them Synoptic gospels. They follow the same basic structure- Johns stands alone.
John’s gospel contains no teachings about the end times- like the others. John doesn’t mention the parables- or the Sermon on the Mount. John’s gospel focuses more on the last week of the life of Christ- while the others cover the 3 years of Jesus earthly ministry [none cover the early years of Jesus- except for the account of Jesus being left behind at the temple when he was 12 years old].
The whole bible [Old and New testaments] have 66 books- 39 Old- 27 new. Only 3 original apostles actually wrote parts of the N.T. Matthew, John and Peter. Out of these 3- John wrote the most. He has his gospel- the three epistles [1st,2nd and 3rd John] and the book of Revelation.
The majority of the N.T. is made up of the collection of the apostle Paul’s letters. Paul is without a doubt the most influential person in the N.T.- besides Christ.
We also have the historical account of the early church- called The Acts of the Apostles- written by the same Luke that wrote the gospel. Luke was a doctor- and an historian. Then you have what’s called the General epistles- the kind of stand alone letters- Peters 2 letters, Jude, a few more like that.
And the New Testament closes with the apocalyptic book [prophecy] of Revelation- written by John [most think the apostle- some think another John- called ‘John of Patmos’]
Okay- one of the major themes of the N.T. is what we hit on the other day- a teaching called Justification by Faith. This is the main thrust of Paul’s doctrinal epistles [Romans, Galatians] and becomes a point of contention in the early church. The teaching is simple- it means the N.T. is a covenant- made by God with man [and with Jesus] that says God will give eternal life to all those who accept the death and resurrection of Jesus. That Jesus died for the sins of man- and because you believe in this free gift- your are/will be saved.
Now- the bible obviously says a lot more than this- but this doctrine becomes one of the main ones because this is the controversy that the apostle Paul dealt with for most of his ministry years.
I mentioned this the other day in a previous post.
Paul also has 3 epistles [letters] that are called The Pastoral epistles- these are 1st, 2nd Timothy and Titus. These are called Pastorals because these young men were protégés of Paul- he trained them up as local leaders who he could recommend to the early believers as trustworthy leaders- after he would leave a community.
These men did not function like what we usually call Pastors in our day- that is sort of a speaker preaching every Sunday at the ‘Main church’ building- but they were spiritual overseers- they led the flock in a way that if problems arose- these men could be looked to as honest guides.
Remember- in the 1st century- you did not have means of communication like we have today- so if Paul left a community [which is what the word church means in the bible- Greek- Ecclesia]. And if a problem rose up- like those who were coming in and saying the Gentiles had to become circumcised and keep the law- then the believers could look to the men Paul left his stamp of approval on.
Paul would of course correspond with these early communities- thus the letters- but until the letters arrived- the ‘Timothy’s’ would do.
Okay- the last book of the bible- Revelation- has gotten a lot of use- often too much- in the sense that we- especially lone wolf Protestant groups- have really done loops with the book.
Overall- the theme is about Christ [Lamb of God] being the central focus of this new kingdom of Priests and Kings [us] and even though there will be tough times [lots of the images of tests and trials] yet at the end of the day- we are ‘married’ to this Lamb [Jesus is called the groom in scripture- and the church is called the bride. God restores in the last book of the bible- what was lost in the first book- relationship- pictured as marriage] and we all live in a new heaven and new earth- and the story ends well.
Okay- just a few more points. The main message of the bible is that God made man [Genesis] he wanted man to be in communion [friendship] with him. Man sinned and this began the long process of God making promises to man [through/to the nation of Israel- and eventually it would extend to all men- thus the apostle Paul working with the Gentiles] that he would save man thru the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All people who simply accept this benefit- they will be children of God. The focus should not be on anti Christ- or when the end of the world will happen- or on any other of a host of teachings that the church likes to dwell on- but the focus is God loving man so much- that he sent his Son to die for man- and we can be saved thru him.
Over the coming weeks I hope to do a little more on the development of the bible- why do protestants have 66 books- and Catholics have an extra 15? I’ll cover it fairly- giving the Catholic view as well as the Protestant one- and promise not to push only one view. But things like this are real questions that honest people have- and I want to help people get a better hold on the thing.
Okay- try and read some of the N.T. these next few days- overview some of the letters I mentioned- maybe read John’s gospel- Romans. I would wait on Revelation for now- I hope to give some hints that will make it easier to understand- so after I cover that a little more- then that would be a good one to read too.
And as you read Johns gospel- notice how many times the word Believe appears- being connected with those who believe have eternal life. That’s one of the strongest promises in the bible- and its Jesus doing the talking! So maybe memorize a few of them- like the famous John 3:16 verse- those types of verses last a lifetime- and longer.
 DO THE HUSTLE?
One time Jesus was engaging with the religious folk- and he said they were like kids/people in the market place. They said ‘we piped and you did not dance- we mourned and you didn’t respond how we wanted you to respond’ [my paraphrase].
A few years back a lot of things changed with me [us- ministry]. As a ‘ministry’ I never took money for personal use- no salary- nada. And eventually I ‘forsook’ all money. That is in the first few years as a home church- we did take offerings- and it was used to meet the needs of people.
When we did rent a place to meet- we used some for the expenses. But as I progressed [some say digressed!] I just cut the whole offering thing off. On the radio- we [I] was the only person who actually paid out of pocket for the air time. Though you had others who never asked for money- yet these shows were underwritten by their church.
So I just said ‘from now on- I will not take money- for anything’. I also quit claiming my giving [which was a lot- considering the radio alone] for tax purposes. I simply wanted to give the example that being ‘in ministry’ is not some type of business that you have to constantly be prodding people to ‘give to God’. I realized that much of what we call ‘ministry’ is simply well meaning people- setting up Christian non profit organizations- and then developing a mechanism to get others to ‘support the work’.
Some churches teach ‘church membership’ but many times what they mean is- after you come for a while- we want you to commit to giving 10 % of your salary to the church.
Other ministries take various approaches.
After I retired from the Fire Dept. I got into a bind- I lost my health insurance- it was too expensive to keep- so I dumped the thing. This left me in a curios spot- I was still helping lots of the people out [homeless- church friends] and sometimes I would pay a bill or 2 for them- maybe 100- 150 dollar type thing- and I would be out that month. Yes- I live off of a retirement check- just a little over what some of these friends were getting- if you add in the Medicare/Medicaid- and some had disability/s.s. checks.
I guess they didn’t realize that paying a bill or 2- actually- really left me broke. Now- I didn’t complain [unless you count this post as a complaint!] but at times- after doing the ministry this way- I always found it strange that people still questioned me [and others in general] about the ‘money motives’ of ministry.
I had a relative call me and straight out question me on why I was not financially supporting another family member [kind of a bold thing to ask- out of the blue] I knew this relative was quite rich- multimillionaire? At least in the category of a millionaire. They said ‘if your spending all this money on your homeless friends- why don’t you use some of the funds for so and so’ I said ‘what funds are you talking about’?
They then realized I was basically doing the stuff from my measly check- yes- as bad as that sounds- that’s the deal.
Then they were upset that I was ‘wasting money’ on helping people.
Like Jesus said ‘we made music for you- and you didn’t dance’ that is people see ‘ministry/church’ as ‘we expect you to respond in a certain way’ and sad to say- because of this very subject- money- many preachers/churches do ‘adjust’ their messages based on how well the giving went in the previous month.
Needless to say- the whole thing at times seems to be a vast wasteland- coming up with all types of ‘bible verses’ and telling people ‘if you don’t give- your testing- robbing God’ geez- we better make sure were using that verse in context [Malachi] because in most of these scenarios we are not- and then to falsely charge people with ‘robbing God’ that’s pretty darn bad.
I don’t blame my friends for not realizing that at times- me helping them out- well- it did put me in a bind. And sometimes- they don’t realize that because I don’t have health care benefits- that if you actually added everything up- many of these friends are actually making the same [or more] than me.
I just feel like we all need to do our best to help others- don’t assume that people have money- or that they are in it for the money. Many times people are just doing what they feel they are required to do.
And of course- you’ll always have the friend/relative who wants you to do a dance for them- to justify- for them- why you do what you do- never mind that they are worth a hundred times more than you- and they are in much better shape to help the relative- no- that’s none of my business. But when they Pipe [make music] they just want you to dance- geez- I never was a good dancer- why start now?
 WONT YOU GUESS MY NAME?
Once again I feel like I’m in a bind- I just had a dream [actually- 4 hours ago] and I felt like I should talk about it a little. I usually don’t like doing stuff like this- because of the abuse that many have engaged in with stuff like this- you know ‘God told me/you to test him with giving me a thousand dollar offering’ the whole deal.
Okay- in the dream I was up north [N.Y. /N.J.] in a busy/populated area. I was being pursued by some type of authority figure- and was actually innocent- they thought I committed a crime. As I was on the run I realized I was being recorded- and after I got caught I saw the recording- and I was in the image of a woman. Now- I really hate sharing that- maybe I’ll get to why in a moment- but that was the dream.
After I awoke I thought ‘geez- I don’t think that one means anything’ and I felt like the Lord wanted me to read Revelation chapter 12. I did know that this chapter spoke about the woman and her seed [kids].
In the chapter you see a woman that gives birth to a ‘man child’ and the dragon [satan] persecutes the woman and her child. The woman has 12 stars on her crown- the dragon has 7 crowns [various heads and horns] the crowns denote authority.
In John’s gospel Jesus talks about child birth- he says when a woman is in labor- she’s going through so much pain- she just wants the whole thing to stop. After she gives birth- she’s so happy- she forgets the pain.
Okay- all these images are speaking about the difficulty and persecution Christians go through. In the bible- the thing that has value- is the church. The church is described as a bride. She is the ‘virtuous woman’ of Proverbs 31. Her price is far above rubies. The thing of value in our lives are the actual people ‘you birth’ by speaking Gods word to them- they are ‘birthed’ into seeing the kingdom of God in new ways.
This people group [the man child that the woman gives birth to- which of course is a symbol of Jesus- the church is also called The Body of Christ] are the thing of value. The woman [a symbol of natural Israel and/or the church] has authority- God gave her authority because of the things that she went thru. That’s the crown with 12 stars.
The dragon [satan] who goes after her- he too has authority in a sense [the 7 crowns] theologians debate whether its real or contrived- the point I would make is he’s been at this game for a while- he does take prisoners- and even kills a few every now and again [you know- Jagger sang ‘I’ve been around for many a year- a man of wealth and fame. Made damn sure the Pilate washed his hands- and sealed his fate. Made tracks for the Troubadours who got killed before they reached Bombay. Stuck around St. Petersburg till I saw it was a time for a change. Won’t you guess my name?]
These past few weeks I have been reading verses on the value of the people themselves- ministry is not you convincing people to support some type of good work your doing- it’s you sacrificing your life for others- and when they too give of themselves for others- sharing Gods word and love- then you have started a real process- a real ‘church growth’ movement- the way Jesus taught.
And of course- when you’re in a position of influence [the woman giving birth] then you become a target of attack- your on the verge of giving birth to this ‘son’ and the dragons mad as hell.
Okay- could say lots more- but let me get to the example.
Many years ago- when I first started our little Kingsville church- I had all types of people attend/join. One of the guys was a sorcerer converted to preacher brother. He told me [and showed me] all the books and stuff he used to be into. He also manipulated people a lot.
He would call you up out of the blue and say ‘f—k you’ and hang up. He also did worse- lots. One time one of the church members told me that ‘brother so and so is telling people you are both gay- and sleeping together’. Now- I knew this person [the sorcerer/preacher] was gay- and had a past history that was really screwed up. He did start rumors like this with other churches.
So that night I took the church member who he said it too- he sat in my car with the window down- and I knocked on the accusers door. He was surprised to see me- I said ‘Manuel- did you tell Emmet that we were gay lovers?’ He looked at me like he was in shock ‘of course not- I would never make something up like that’ and then after he denied it over and over again- Emmet got out of the car and Manuel knew he was caught.
I had to ‘expel’ Manuel from the church meetings after that. It’s not that I couldn’t forgive him- it’s just the fact that he was there only to destroy churches. This was part of what he was taught during the witchcraft days.
This began a few years of nonstop assaults on me and my family. False calls made to the fire house. My car getting windows smashed/tires slashed. People showing up at my house- when I was on duty- at 2-3 in the morning- trying to get in.
It was bad. Now- I have had problems in life- but the gay accusation- well that was never my thing. If it were- I would either not tell this story- or just admit the thing- but the truth is- that’s just not my thing.
Have I ever messed up in other ways? Yes- my temptation [like most men] was the woman, substance abuse- so yeah- I’ll admit that. But I wanted to tell this story so you can see how the ‘dragon’ attacks people by making accusations against them- that’s how he works.
I eventually had to move my family out of Kingsville- and that’s how we got to Corpus.
Over the years Manuel did admit what he did- and he admitted he did lie. I forgave him- prayed with him when he came by the fire house- and did the right thing by continuing to help him- even after all this crap.
I did get mad a few times- even got into some ‘I’ll kick you’re a…. if I catch you on the street’ type stuff. I did blow it with the anger thing- I’ll admit- Hebrews says ‘Moses rejected the pleasure of sin and chose to suffer with Gods people’ the bible says sin has pleasure for a moment. Yes- these few fights I had during this season- I asked the Lord to forgive me later- but they were indeed very pleasurable.
Okay- if you want to be used by God to influence others- to ‘birth people groups’ then you will become a target. The accuser has a degree of authority- like Jagger says- he’s been around for quite some time. He knows how to play the game.
But the woman [the people of God- the church] she has authority too- she has ’12 stars’ on her crown- a crown you receive when you go through tuff stuff in life.
Revelation also says the dragon opened his mouth and cast a great flood- to get the woman [a type of the accusations the devil brings up against people]. The bible says the earth helped the woman- it opened up and swallowed the flood.
As I sit here and type right now- of course there’s a tropical storm in the gulf- will be here tomorrow- heading straight for Corpus. Yes- the flood/rain/storms- there all a part of the journey. As CCR says ‘as long as I remember- the rains been coming down’ and as Jagger says ‘pleased to meet you- wont you guess my name’ yeah- I guessed it a long time ago- but Revelation also says ‘the accuser of the brethren was cast down- and they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony’ at the end of the day- we win. But sure- it’s gonna rain, even flood- every so often.
 PEOPLE LAUGHING- PEOPLE SINGING- A MAN SELLING ICE CREAM
These past few days I have been reading scriptures on the influence of the church in the nations- that is God’s original purpose for the church- to have a people/nation that he could reveal his glory though. This morning I read Zechariah chapter 8- it talks about God restoring Jerusalem and that there will be old men and women dwelling in it- little boys and girls playing in the streets once again.
The impression you get is a sort of ‘block party’ atmosphere- all types of people enjoying life once gain- after a season of captivity. As I read the verse on the old men and women- I thought of Aunt Bee.
Bee was the aunt of one of our original church members. Emmet [Senior- I have also talked about his son on the site- Jr.] became a church member early on. I don’t remember if I met him while preaching at the county jail- or through Elias- another friend who struggled with addiction. Both of them were long time drug addicts.
I would pick up Emmet at his Aunt’s house every week for church- and just visit him every so often. The ‘church’ was a little home group I started from scratch. I fixed up my 2 car garage- and the guys I met from the streets- or at the jail- would become the core group.
Over time Aunt Bee- who raised Emmet- started coming to our meetings- and as an older lady- in her 70’s- she would tell me she was learning the bible for the first time- she really liked it.
I was basically filling the slot that she missed out on- the bible study aspect of Christianity. Bee was a good Catholic lady- and she told me her friends said ‘why do you go to brother Johns’ church- your Catholic’ she would tell them ‘because I learn things’.
I never tried to ‘convert’ Bee- she stayed Catholic- and that was fine with me. Many Protestant bible churches do fill a need that some of the historic churches lack- simple bible study. Yet many of the Protestant ‘bible’ churches lack what the historic churches offer- a historic connection to traditional Christianity.
During the Reformation of the 16th century- the Protestant reformers [who were all initially Catholic] fought with the Roman church over doctrinal issues- and during this fight the reformers stated a few main principles- one of which is called Sola Scriptura- which means ‘the bible alone’.
What they meant by this was on issues where the church could not come to agreement with the dissenters- that at the end of the day- the bible would have the final say.
Now- the common mistake many Protestants fall into- is thinking that this principle means ‘Solo Scriptura’ is a belief that all Christianity is simply a process of reading/organizing your life around the bible. That is the view that the bible is all there is.
This is not the historic Protestant position- the reformers themselves [Calvin. Luther, etc.] referred often to the early writings of the church fathers [Augustine] in trying to prove their points.
I have found it helpful over the years to spend time reading/hearing the voice of the historic church- as well as being up on the bible. The other day I moved a few books from my office into a shelf in the living room- I read an article on how people are selling books ‘by the inch’ just to decorate their homes. What types of books- that didn’t matter- they were just for show [ouch!]
So I figured I’ll move the real McCoy- classics that I have read and re-read over the years.
I was glad to see that I still had the Confessions of Saint Augustine- a classic from the 4th century. Augustine was a Catholic bishop from Hippo- North Africa. He is often associated with the doctrine of Predestination [which he did believe in] and is loved by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
The major reformer who launched the reformation was Martin Luther- a German Augustinian monk- Luther was also a strong believer in the doctrine of predestination- though its common to associate the doctrine with John Calvin, Luther too was a strong believer in it.
One day Aunt Bee shared a story with me- she used to visit her daughter who lived in Alaska- her daughter sort of felt like her cousin Emmet was taking advantage of her mom. I was familiar with the environment- my older sister- who has also been a drug addict for many years- has lived with my mom her whole life.
When addicted people live with their parents [aunts] as they age- they fall into an environment where they manipulate the guardian to get what they want [money- borrow the car, etc..]
So Aunt Bee’s daughter felt like Emmet took advantage of her mom. Aunt Bee told me about an Indian she saw one time while visiting Alaska- he was panning for gold in one of the freezing streams- and was wearing an Indian loin cloth and was in the ice cold water. She said how interesting it was to see how other cultures learn to adapt to their environment.
Bee was an educator- she taught at A&I university [Kingsville- Tx.] for many years [now called A&M] and her students were some of the most famous people in Texas- Senators and congress people. I found it interesting how an influential person like Bee- would wind up learning the bible from some Jersey boy- preaching in a garage [I was around 25 at the time].
Bee was a good person- she died many years ago- as has Emmet. Emmet eventually broke the drug habit and married another church member- Janie. She was s single mom with lots of kids- they made a very nice couple. Emmet died at around the age of 50- his liver went out- too many years of drugs eventually got to him. As a matter of fact- Elias- who I think first introduced me to Emmet- he eventually became a preacher and pastored his own church. He started with me- was the song leader and filled in on the days I had to work- and eventually took a position with a church called Victory Outreach- a ministry to addicts.
One day while working at the fire house- I was riding on the ambulance that day and we got a call. As I got to the house- I realized it was Elias’s house- he had a brain aneurism that day- he went into a coma and died a few days later.
I met Elias around 8 years earlier- preaching to him at the jail. Gave him his first bible- which he would always remind me about- and walked with him for a few years. He was ex-air force. He did at least 4 years before he got out and got hooked on hard drugs- mainline addict.
We had lots of good times together- I see his boys every so many years when I venture into Bishop [a small city around 40 miles from where I live]. I think his wife- Janie- still lives there.
The bible says Gods city [a symbol of the church] has old people having fun in the streets [the aunt Bee types] and little boys and girls playing in the streets [too many names to mention in this one- Elias & Janie alone had around 6 kids- Janie & Emmet too- different Janies!].
God’s church/family is a great one- it consists of the great church fathers [men like Augustine] and it extends to the little kids playing in the streets of some small town in South Texas- it even includes those who society has rejected- those who have failed many times in life- and they know it- more than anyone else.
I read a verse the other day- in Psalms ‘sins prevail against us- yet you will save us from our transgressions’ I thank God that he helps people- people who have things that ‘prevail’ against them- he often uses these people to help others- Gods ways are sometimes very hard to understand- his ways are not ours.
 WHAT MATTERS?
The other day I mentioned how believers have a habit of getting caught up in certain ‘religious’ views [tithing was the example I gave] and over time these views develop to a point where they take precedence over the things Jesus actually placed real value on.
In the 1st century when Jesus showed up on the scene- the religious practices of Gods people were centered around religious meetings [holy days] prayer, fasting and tithing- mainly to be seen of men- that is religion digressed to a point where what seemed to be the most important thing- was actually not important.
So how did Jesus respond? He spends the 3 very public years of ministry- healing the sick, telling the poor they are the blessed ones who will inherit Gods kingdom- and blasting the rich- and those in power- by telling them that their day was coming too.
In essence Jesus was the ultimate prophet- he followed the long line of Jewish prophets who took these same positions. The prophet Isaiah told the people ‘God is tired of all your religious activities- your church meetings- your special ‘sacrificial’ offerings- these things are a stench in his nose!’ then he would go on and say that God wanted justice for the poor and widow.
Amos also rebuked the rich and defended the poor- Ezekiel said the shepherds [religious leaders] were fleecing the sheep- they were leaders who were making a financial killing off of the people.
All of these things- in today’s world of ‘ministry’ are making a comeback- it’s just we don’t see it because they are dressed in a different way. But at the end of the day- for the most part- American style Christianity is usually measured by how much money you give [or take in] how faithful your are to attend religious meetings- and how famous your ministry is- are you a really gifted speaker? Or do you give a great ‘stage’ performance.
And in the mind of the average Christian- if you ask them ‘when was the last time you gave of your goods to your neighbor- reached out to the poor- showed your Christianity thru charity’? Often times they will answer that that is not ‘their ministry’ or that their giving to some Christian organization/church is their role- and it’s up to ‘the church’ to actually help the poor.
But these responses miss the main point- Jesus [and the prophets] were saying that’s the mistake- thinking that ‘religion’ consists in these outward religious acts- which are really for show- while the true acts of mercy and love are all too often neglected. People today have made the same mistake as the religious observers of Jesus day.
The letter of James- written by the brother [half] of Jesus- tells us that Pure religion- is to keep yourself unspotted form the world- and to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. That’s it. No mention of religious holy days? No. No mention of special tithes/offerings? No. But what does he have to say about the modern religious view of the accumulation of wealth? Let’s not even go there [believe me- it’s pretty bad- go read the letter- its short].
This week in Somalia the estimates are 11 million people are on the verge of starvation- 2 to 3 million are kids. The world at large has had a hard time getting the food/resources in- because the country [like many other African nations] is in a sort of civil war.
The militant Islamic group fighting the govt. [Al Shabbab- I think that’s the name?] are made up of children. Yes- the kids have taken up an armed resistance against the leaders- and they are killing each other. I saw a news report on Mosaic world news- and the kids were in the streets- sort of like any kids on a block- but they had guns.
One young kid [10?] was pulling on the rifle of an older boy [15?] and the older boy got mad- like some school yard thing. The older boy just pulled away- and pointed the gun at the ‘opposing kids’- at the same time- they were playing in the street- throwing rocks and waving sticks- and pointing loaded guns at each other- it was like it was a game- they were used to shooting each other if they had to.
There are many things happening in our world today- things that matter to God. Many Christians- though they mean well- seem to leave these other things up to others. They feel that if they can just make it through another week- attend religious meeting on Sunday- put in the tithe- that if they live up to these outward religious standards- that they have done well.
Jesus taught a different way- the apostles tried to follow in his way. The apostle John said ‘if you see your fellow man in need- and don’t actually help him- do what needs to be done to defend them- then how can you say Gods love is in you’ [my paraphrase].
The apostle Paul wrote the Colossians- he said ‘I’m worried about you- you are observing days and times and other outward religious rites- I’m afraid you are falling away from the true faith’.
There was always a danger that Christians would fall into this rut- this thing where they unconsciously make the least important things- the most important. When the religious leaders of Jesus day were conspiring to kill Jesus- they had a problem- if they killed him on the wrong day- it would mess up their religious festival going on at the time. If they had to deal with the dead body- on the wrong day- they would be technically unclean according to Jewish law- and it would throw off their game.
So they worked it out where they would kill Jesus- and leave the body alone on the Sabbath- and they had it all worked out. One problem- they were violating the most important commandment of all- given to them by their most important law giver [Moses] that said ‘thou shalt not kill’ but somehow- over a period of time- they saw these things as the most important- their special observances of holy days- keeping themselves ceremonially clean- not ‘unspotted from the world’ as James said- but religiously clean- so they could put on a good public show.
I just finished praying for a bunch of stuff- of course I prayed for the kids in Somalia- those dying and those killing. Yes- I also send money every month to the starving kids- but these things are not enough. I [we] need to also engage those around us- those hurting and dying and struggling in real ways. We need to make the most important things- important again.
 HARRY POTTER
This year we ‘celebrate’ the end of an era- Harry Potter. I caught an interview last night with the publisher who put out her books. He explained that he was the only one willing to take the risk- because kid’s books- at a time when computer games and high tech stuff are all the craze- that trying to get kids into books again, well that seemed like a tough sell.
Yet J.K. Rowling went after it- and the rest is history. Some [most] preachers/Christians have been against Rowling’s fables- why? Of course she is introducing ‘soft witchcraft’ into her themes. The church has traditionally been against all forms of fortune telling. Horoscopes, astrology and the like.
And I have been surprised about how many friends over the years have asked me about whether or not doing the Palm Reading thing is okay for a Christian. The fact is the bible condemns- in no uncertain terms- all of these practices. But the bible does speak about spiritual gifts- prophecy, dreams- etc. These types of gifts are different from all these other forms of sorcery and witchcraft- these gifts originate from God- and they are acceptable.
Okay- having said all this- is there any good that come from Potter? Actually- there is. Even though Rowling has used these other forbidden themes- yet you also need to look at the overall theme of the books. For instance- do they have ideas about good versus evil? Yes. Do they introduce kids back to the lost art of reading? Yes.
So overall I think its okay for kids to read her stuff- with the parental warning of ‘
Little Johnny/Suzie- you know there is really no such thing as White Magic- all good comes from God- and evil from satan [and mans sinful nature]’.
I have sitting here a bunch of new teaching series from various scholars. I’m going thru one on the origins of the church- taught by an ex Benedictine Monk [Luke Timothy Johnson] who is an accredited scholar. Has lots of degrees and teaches at Harvard. The other series is an entire overview of the bible- with all the historical and theological data mixed in.
This series is also taught by a scholar- R.C. Sproul. Why mention this? One of my homeless buddies was over a few days ago- he loves learning- he walks thru my study [we usually hang out in the yard] and he says ‘who needs a university- you have everything right here’. Well- I have lots of great stuff- but a university I’m not.
The point is- we should try and do our best to learn from people who know stuff- people who are educated. Way too much of what is produced today from the ‘church’ is really at a low level. Now- I know I have been hard on ‘preachers’ in the past- and have criticized the abundance of TV/radio stuff that is simply ‘God is the answer’ which of course is true- but must we spend billions of dollars every year- for the simple exercise of having ‘our pastor’ say the same thing- that everyone else is saying- at a charge of millions of dollars?
We need to re think this stuff.
I had a talk with a friend the other day- I was discussing some of this with him. I told him how we [Christians] have taught people ‘if you don’t give 10 % of your money into the basket on Sunday- you are cursed- you are robbing God’. This teaching comes from the Old Testament Tithe- primarily taken from a proof text in the book of Malachi.
I said ‘now- when we use this verse- this way- we are usually telling the people that this teaching is mandated by God- to support his work’. Okay- I have been taught this over the years- but the part we usually leave out- is the actual teaching- from the bible- on the Tithe.
In the Old Testament the Jewish people were required to Tithe- it was more like an income tax than an offering [like the way we think of offering]. This tax was used for 3 things. A third was used to support the Levitical priests, a third was used for banquets and feasts [and wine!] and a third was used to meet the needs of the poor [a welfare system].
Now- the part that went to the priests- none of it could be used for personal wealth growth. The priests were not permitted to have personal wealth. They were taken from the tribe of Levi [one of the 12 tribes of Israel] and they were forbidden to own their own land/inheritance.
So if we taught the ‘biblical’ tithe- it would be using a third for the poor- a third for parties, and the rest went to ‘the preachers’ who were forbidden to own real estate [have personal wealth].
Now- after all the years of people teaching the Tithe- all the many hours of telling believers ‘you are robbing God if you don’t Tithe’ how hard can it be to simply do one teaching on the actual Tithe?
I mean I just taught the whole thing- and it took a few minutes.
But the contemporary church is consumed with practical stuff- and to many- it’s not practical to say ‘oh- and by the way- the preachers/pastors- according to the Tithe system- are not permitted to own stuff’ that lifestyle just doesn’t fit the modern picture.
Okay- my point today is not to condemn giving money to churches- but it’s to nudge us towards a more ‘enlightened’ Christianity- a church that asks- and seeks for truth.
A literate people- who read!
So today I think we can commend Rowling for re introducing a lost art- the art of learning. Though we as Christians do have difficulty with ‘sorcerer’s stones’ yet the fact that kids are reading again- well that’s a good thing in my book.
 PREACH THE GOSPEL?
Let’s talk some about the role of the church in society. Many years ago I had a friend who was a preacher/pastor- at the time some people kindly told him ‘brother- I know Jesus is the answer- but you need to also teach- you can’t just say ‘Jesus is the way’ all the time’.
Were they right? In a way- yes. Let me explain. In the book of Isaiah we read about the purpose of Jesus [chapter 11]. Jesus came to preach the gospel [good news] to the poor- set captives free- to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
The book of Amos [a prophet in the Old Testament] shows Amos railing against the rich- the powerful- as he defends the poor in society. Part of ‘the gospel’ is speaking out against injustices in society- telling those in power ‘your day is coming- you have trampled down the innocent- abused the immigrant- and God hears their cry’.
Yes- a part of the ministry of the church is to address these abuses in society. Now- what happens when the church casts off this job? It gets picked up by any/all others who are willing to run with it. So you have ‘the media’ or even a comic like Jon Stewart- anyone else who is willing to speak out against injustices- uneven scales- these will fill the void if Gods people won’t.
If you read the ministry of Jesus- the things he did and said- he often came up against religious forms of holiness. Those in society who thought their purpose was to- well be ‘religious’. That is they made a special class out of religion. They often engaged in public displays of it [prayer- fasting to be seen of men].
They valued their own religious experience as the primary thing- when they perceived man getting in the way of their expression of religion- they were willing to ‘sacrifice him’ [literally] in order for their own religious cause to gain influence [they said of Jesus- if he keeps doing this we will lose our position of power and influence].
At the end of the day- these religious folk saw their own view of religion as the primary thing- it took precedence over all other things- even people themselves.
Now- when the church reduces her mission to ‘religious speech’ that is when they refuse to engage in society- to do what the prophets did in the bible- defend the poor- rail against injustice- when Gods people leave this part of ‘preaching the gospel’ out- then they unknowingly have given in to the temptation to see their practice of religion- as simply a ‘religious thing’.
In a way- they have become like the religious folk of Jesus day- so busy carrying out their religious tasks- that the voiceless of society have no one to advocate for them.
We are living in a day where many major upheavals are taking place- I think the ‘average person’ does not fully understand the seriousness of what’s going on in the world today. It is quite possible that the U.S. will default on her debt. And that we will face a credit crisis equal to that of Greece- where the politicians have pandered to the people to a point where the people are rising up in the streets because they refuse to see the reality of the situation.
There are threads of this taking place right now in this country- at the current rate we are going- our debt will equal our GDP in 10 years- that’s really bad.
As we have these debates- we must remember that the poor and impoverished of the world count to God- the cause of the illegal alien means a lot to God- these issues are not just nationalistic- they are of concern to God.
As we move down this treacherous road over these next few years- lets not forsake that part of the gospel that calls us to speak up for the poor- to speak truth to power- and to expose injustice wherever we see it- not just on the opposing team.
 IN DEFENSE OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY
I’ve been wanting to get back to some of our studies- but the news cycle has been hot these last few weeks [not just Weiner!] and I have been sidetracked somewhat. One of the other important news stories was the going away speech by defense secy. Gates.
He tore into NATO and raked them over the coals for their willingness to vote Yes on intervention- then letting the U.S. do the majority of the work. There are 28 nations that make up the alliance [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. Yet in Afghanistan there are a total of around 140 thousand troops. The media constantly report ‘NATO troops were killed- or accidently hit a civilian house’. We get desensitized- we think these are actually troops from NATO- like these other 28 nations are doing this stuff. Out of the 140,000 troops- 100 thousand are U.S. troops. I mean 28 other nations?
In Libya- once again the entire alliance voted to go in [or abstain- though ‘going in’ meant different things to different nations] and after a few weeks of ‘going in’ once again we are pulling 70 percent of the load. Gates blasted the alliance- saying with all these nations’ troops- they have a hard time standing up 25-40 thousand troops. These other 27 nations can’t even supply a regular fighting force of 25 thousand troops!
Hillary Clinton spoke out [rightfully] against a new resurgence of ‘colonialism’ taking place on the African continent. Colonialism is the abuse of 1st world nations stripping 3rd world nations of their vital natural resources and doing this with the consent of ‘paid off’ higher ups in these ‘stripped’ nations [this definition obviously doesn’t speak about plain colonialism- but in modern public speak that’s what they are talking about].
In Africa, China has been doing this now for a number of years- they have been ‘investing’ heavily in buying up the worlds natural resources- and the civilian populace living in these nations are extremely poor. If other nations want to partner in trade and investment with poorer countries- that’s fine. But don’t take the resources from these countries while the people living there are dying from poverty.
Around the turn of the 20th century you had the rise of what’s commonly called ‘the social gospel’. This Christian movement concerned itself with the broader mandate of the gospel that deals with bringing justice to the poor and hurting people of the world. Dealing not just with ‘saving souls’ but also with creating a more just society on the planet right now.
While this movement had its critics- it did not go as far as the later development of Liberation Theology. Now- once again in our ‘reductionist’ news media- we have managed to simplify our understanding of Liberation theology- and have basically presented it as some satanic movement that simply wishes to implement Marxist ideology into the American experience.
Glenn Beck got a hold of a few books [articles?] that showed the church’s criticism of Liberation theology- and it cemented in his mind that all liberation theologians were ‘the enemy’. It did no good to realize that- yes indeed- Obama’s church is a theological offshoot of Liberation theology.
Yes- the good ole Reverend Wright is a Black Liberation theologian and darn proud of it! Liberation theology took the concern of the social gospel a step further- it sought to implement social justice policies by mixing Christian teaching in with political structures. In a way it was a form of Marxism- without Marx’s penchant against religion. To the contrary the Liberation adherents saw this approach as a mandate from Jesus himself.
Liberation theology arose in the last half of the 20th century primarily as a result of what the Catholic church saw taking place in Latin American nations. Once again a type of Colonialism was taking place in this 3rd world region of the world [though they are obviously doing much better today]. And the Catholic church in the region developed a Liberating theology that would deal with these social injustices through political means.
The very influential Catholic bishop of El Salvador- Oscar Romero- would be the lead visionary of the movement at the time. Romero said some very important- and true things at the time. It would be wrong to totally reject all Liberation theologies as ‘satanic’. Romero taught that true theology- true learning and growing in our understanding of God should take place in ‘Base Christian Communities’ as opposed to the ‘institution’. This concept is actually taught in the bible [in my view].
His ideas would give birth to what is known as Feminist theology [Catholic female authors like Fiorenza of Germany or Mary Daly from America] these women were writing in what they saw as institutional oppression from the church against women- that in their view the church has historically repressed women- and they drew from the stream of Liberation theology that sought to ‘free people from oppressive regimes’ it’s just the regime they were speaking about was the church itself!
And yes- the Black liberation theologians would manage to tweak Liberation theology and make it fit their particular struggle for what they saw as a continued repression of the Black race.
All in all liberation theology was a very influential movement- that does indeed have many strains of truth within it.
Then why did the Catholic church have to officially distance itself from the movement? Bishop Romero [who would eventually become the arch Bishop of San Salvador] gained so much influence within the Latin American church- that the Vatican had to finally come out and distance itself from the movement.
Liberation theology was in fact a strange mixture of Marxist ideas- though they were taken from Jesus and the gospels. In the 20th century- right around the same time of Romero's great influence- you had another very influential Catholic leader by the name of Pope John Paul the 2nd. John Paul would eventually become one of the greatest and most influential Popes of all time [that is saying a lot].
One of John Paul’s great achievements was his vital role in the pulling down of the Soviet Union and his stance against communism- especially seen in his own resistance to communism in his home country of Poland.
Now- how could the church be lead by one of the greatest heroes of anti communism of all time- and at the same time have such an influential Arch Bishop operating out of Latin America- who was in fact espousing a form of Communism?
So this page has been written in the books and we have what we have.
Today I think we all need to take a second look at the things we deem [or have heard] are wrong- or satanic. Though I have many disagreements with our president and this current administration- yet I agree with what Hillary said in her warning about the African continent. I also do not think it right to demonize the president because he did indeed attend a Black Liberation church- many of these congregations fully embrace redemption through Christ- and their ‘zeal’ to extend that redemption through the social justice arm of political govt. is not totally wrong- the bible speaks much about human govt. being a tool for social justice in a just society!
But we in America are fixated on more important things- like when the next picture of congressman Weiner will come out- yeah who has time for all this social justice talk anyway.
 A WAKE UP CALL TO THE PROFESSOR-
There are a lot of things I want to hit on today- let me start with an article I read in the paper yesterday. It was a study that compared students who studied physics using 2 different methods. The traditional lecture room environment- taught by veteran teachers. Versus an interactive classroom environment taught by inexperienced students [no teacher] who simply shared the things they were learning with each other.
To the shock of the traditional advocates- the kids who were taught without a teacher scored twice as high on the tests as those who sat in the classroom. The study was headed up by a top rated scientist who works for the president.
This reminded me of all the teaching I did over the years on the nature of the church [the study on the blog is called ‘what in the world is the church’]. After years of studying and doing many of the ‘interactive’ principles found in the study- I do see how important it is for believers to interact with each other- not just during ‘fellowship’ times- but as a main part of worship.
It is no accident that the churches in the New Testament were structured along these lines. In the bible you simply did not have churches structured around a single figure who ‘lectured’ week after week to the people. Now- this debate has been raging for a while amongst those who debate stuff like this. And a few years back some scholars from the more traditional view really went after the more ‘organic’ type church brothers.
But overall I believe the interactive ‘church meeting’ is really the most biblical way to go. I still think there is room for the more traditional style of ‘lecture hall’ but that is a small part of being in Christian community- yet for many that seems to actually be what they refer to as ‘the local church’ very limited perspective indeed [you can also read my short book on the left of the blog site- Further Talks on Church and Ministry].
Okay- maybe I’ll hit a few more thoughts in keeping with this idea. After the fellowship lunch the other day I invited Henry [my homeless friend] back to the house for the day. These guys are on the streets most of the day and they appreciate being able to rest and catch some news on the tube.
Once again as Henry left he told me ‘John- this was one of the best days I have had in a long time’. He told me this the last time I had him over. Why? What I do with Henry is I try not to act the ‘preacher/pastor’ role. That is I share and interact with Henry as an equal. Henry just so happens to be real knowledgeable when it comes to the bible and theology.
Part of the discussion was Henry sharing how the letter to the Romans [written by the apostle Paul] was the only letter written to a church that Paul did not found himself. Now- I knew this before- and most bible students know this- but yet it started a conversation that both of us could engage in. Henry had read somewhere that the church at Rome might have been started by the Diaspora [the scattered] Jews/Christians who dispersed after the Martyrdom of Stephen in Acts chapter 7.
I told Henry that I actually taught on this before- but I referenced the dispersion that took place in Acts chapter 2. At the day of Pentecost there were Jewish worshippers who came from all parts of the known world at the time- they were gathered at Jerusalem for the big holiday.
After the Spirit came on the early church- these believers went back to their homes and some of them did indeed go back to Rome.
Either way- the point is that Paul did not start the church at Rome- and there are no records [in the bible] of who was the first founder [yes Peter also went to Rome- but he too was not the initial 'church planter’].
Okay- why even mention this? I think Henry has these ‘best days of my life’ days because the fellowships we have are based on the organic church style- that is I’m not always ‘preaching’ to him in the conventional sense.
I hope to get with the guys again this week- same place [Sirloin Stockade off of SPID in Corpus] I will let everyone know a day ahead- so if you guys want to make it a weekly thing you can join the group. But I have been meeting with these friends for 20 years now- just sharing the interactive way.
The above study was said to have been a real wake up call to the actual veteran lecturers- they couldn’t believe that the students on their own- without the ‘pro’ lecturing them- would do twice as well as the students who sat ‘in church’ [the lecture room] simply listening to the able speaker- speak.
The apostle Paul knew this trick 2 millennia ago- he wrote the church at Corinth ‘and when you meet together- let everyone of you share what you have learned- do it in order- but let everyone speak’ I like Paul’s method a lot.
 YOU SPENT 8 DAYS LOST AT SEA!
There’s a funny commercial running right now on the tube- you have this applicant walk in to a bank and the manager asks him some questions as he applies for a job. The boss says ‘so tell me about yourself a little’ and he begins by telling him his likes and all. One of the things he says is ‘O, I love my banks raise your rate C.D.’. The boss looks dumbfounded- he says ‘did you say you spent 8 days lost at sea?’ and the applicant tries to clarify- the boss says ‘did you say you wanted a raise ASAP?’ Again- the applicant tries to make himself clear. The boss says ‘did you say you love watching your neighbors watch T.V.?’ At this point the applicant realizes no matter what he says- the boss is ‘unable’ to hear the truth.
I think it was T.S. Elliot who said ‘you can’t convince a person to accept something- especially when their job depends on them not accepting it’. Recently I have mentioned the word Ecclesiology- it’s a ten dollar word that simply means ‘the doctrine of the church’- not what the church teaches- but the actual study of what church means. In the New Testament we see the church as meaning a community of people- a movement of followers if you will.
As a young kid who just started learning the bible I of course wanted to learn all I could. I joined a good Baptist church [independent] and I learned the hard and fast view of the local independent church. It was often taught that the actual church building is ‘the local church’. At first I simply accepted this- but it wasn’t too long before I had some serious doubts. At this time in history there are many, many ‘former’ pastors [and some present] who have honestly re-thought the entire system of what is commonly called ‘the local church’.
Today there are entire movements- schools- ‘church groups’ who have moved more closely to the biblical idea of ‘the church’. One of the big obstacles to ‘moving closer’ is the reality that many fine men [pastors] do depend on their jobs as ‘the pastor’ and this does create difficulty in rethinking the entire idea of church.
For instance- the New Testament teaches us that the church- at heart- is a voluntary community of people. Now, these people have elders, pastors, teachers, etc. who are part of the community. But in the New Testament these positions are not hired professionals who are ‘hired’ by ‘the church’ and put on a salary. Yet at the same time the bible does teach us to support those who labor among us in the gospel. Jesus says the laborer is worthy of his hire. Paul says no man goes to war at his own expense. These are all talking about supporting the Christian leaders among us [Priests, Pastors, etc.]
We also have Jesus teaching us that ‘freely we have received- freely give’ in context he was speaking about the spiritual gifts that God gives to us- they are not things to be sold- or charged for. So we see a balance in the bible- one side might ‘just see’ the parts they like- and so on [did you say you spent 8 days lost at sea?]
Overall God gives us leaders and teachers and pastors to help us grow and mature as believers. But many modern churches function more along the lines of ‘these people/members are here to give so much money- I carry out certain job requirements for them [weddings, funerals, etc.] and they come to hear me speak every week’. This is a very limited way to view church- it often works against the intended purpose of leadership- which is to eventually work yourself out of a job- that is the people become independent of you and they now lead others.
Overall these last 20 years many believers have seen these things in a greater way- there are lots of books and teachers who are now looking at the entire doctrine of ‘the church’ as seen in the bible- and the limited view [the building we meet at- the church as a lecture hall] is really falling away at a rapid rate.
It’s fine to ‘go to church on Sunday’ and to contribute money to the good work the churches do- it’s just we all want to learn along the way- and we don’t want to be like the bank manager who keeps hearing only what he wants to hear.
 JESUS CHRIST- SUPERSTAR?
The other night I caught the classic movie/musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber- Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember seeing it as a kid [it came out in 73] and I remember that there was some controversy over it. The intro on the Classic channel also talked about the controversy. Whenever a movie comes out depicting the life of Jesus [The Last Temptation of Christ] there usually is some type of protest about it.
As I watched Superstar I saw a few scenes that Christians might see as problematic- but overall I liked it. The things that Christians usually protest are the scenes that show Jesus as a man- tempted the same way all men are tempted- by women! That is- some of the movies depict Jesus as getting too close to Mary Magdalene and even having slept with her.
Now- believers most definitely reject the sleeping part- that did not happen. But was it possible for Jesus [and Mary] to have ever been tempted to be in love? I think so- the bible clearly says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us- yet he never sinned [Hebrews, 1st John]. So what’s the big deal if one of the temptations- which he never gave in to- was falling in love with Mary?
The point being- we seem to feel uncomfortable with the biblical doctrine of Jesus being tempted at all- we prefer to overlook the verses that show Jesus was in a great struggle. In Psalms 22- the writer prophesies of Jesus- he says ‘deliver my soul from the mouth of the lion- I call to you from the horns of the unicorns’ it shows a sense of desperation- a sense of Jesus in the garden praying- sweating great drops of blood ‘if it’s possible God- let this thing go away!’
I went to church Easter morning- I on and off attend a mega church here in the city- it’s the 15th fastest growing church in the country [they like to let people know the numbers/statistics a lot] and they average around 7 thousand attendees every weekend. I like the church- it’s a good church. Now, it just so happened that they did mention statistics this day- I felt like they wanted to show the people what they were doing with the money- kind of justify giving to the church- all okay things. As someone who has been around the block- experienced and studied church doctrine [called Ecclesiology- the word Ecclesia is the Greek word for church in our bibles] I have seen how easy it is to view church from the standpoint of getting the right amount of people to ‘join’ so you could have the right amount of money to carry out the church’s mission. Often times the well meaning pastors are influenced by the peer pressure to meet certain criteria and they unwittingly descend into a numbers game ‘gee- if I can just get so many more- who ‘join’ [which means they give 10 % of their money to the church] then I could accomplish so much’.
In the New Testament days you had what was called ‘Oral Tradition’ that is many of the early churches spread the message of Jesus by word of mouth. After a period of time [around 15-30 years- depending on whose numbers you use] these Oral Traditions were put down in writing [the gospels]. You also read how the apostle Paul sent letters to the churches he was working with- and he would say ‘have this letter read among you’. Why not say ‘pass it around and let everyone read it’? There were many early believers who were illiterate- so you had a designated ‘reader-lecturer’ handle the job.
The point being- when you had an increase of people who wanted to hear the message [from Paul or anyone else] you did not have the messenger go out and build huge buildings so everyone in the town could cram in on Sunday and hear Paul [or Jesus]. Instead you had a natural growth take place as people spread the message- that’s how the church grew.
As someone who has written and said much about this over the years [read my section ‘What in the world is the church’] I don’t want to get into the whole thing today- just wanted to say we in the west like seeing Jesus as a famous person- a ‘superstar’ if you will- we like putting him on a stage and seeing him perform. We like it so much we try and emulate this very aspect of what we see as ‘ministry’. Jesus was a real man [and really God] who was tested like all men- he never sinned- but the tests were real. Today we see him seated at the right hand of the father- in his glory- but first came the tests.
Jesus told his men ‘you are the ones who stuck with me all thru the trials- you endured. Therefore I give to you a kingdom- just like I went thru trials and my father has given me a kingdom’. Yes- Jesus has acquired superstar status in the Western world- the American churches seem to focus on that aspect much- yet the psalmist- speaking for Jesus- said ‘save me my darling from the mouth of the lion- the bulls are all around me- my skin sticks to my bones- I am in torment and my soul is at the point of death- help me’ we seem to forget this aspect of the superstar.
 EXODUS 33- The Lord tells his people that they must get up from the place they are at- Mount Sinai- and move on to the new place he has promised to them- Canaan [the Promised Land]. Okay- symbolically what does this mean? Sinai represents law, promised land= the Cross, the ‘new land’ of grace and freedom found in Christ. In the New testament- this is the way all the apostles dealt with these promises [Hebrews, Galatians, Peter’s sermons in Acts]. It is vital for Christians [especially T.V. preachers!] to get this right. The message to the Muslim/Arab world is not ‘God is taking sides in a land war in Israel/Palestine’ but the message is ‘in Jesus, all nations/ethnic groups are welcome- leave Sinai [the old law mentality of seeing God thru the lens of a strict judge who wants to get you] and come to the ‘new land’ this land of grace where Jesus took upon him the sins of the whole world and bore the punishment for us’ this is really the message of Christianity- many people see Christianity/Christendom thru a 2 thousand year history [okay to do- I too am a historian] but they look at the mistakes- the Crusades- the Christian hatred of Jews that existed- the Muslim/Christian battles- many people do not really see the true message of the Cross- the new land of grace and acceptance thru Jesus- they are stuck at Sinai [a mountain that we already saw was fearful, people trembled- were scared- strict judgment] and can’t seem to get to the next mountain.
Also the Lord tells the people ‘take off your costume jewelry’ they wore the celebratory stuff- sort of like Mardi Gra stuff- when they sinned while worshipping their idols. God says ‘it’s not a performance- your service to me, your worship- take the fake stuff off’. In Matthews gospel- chapters 6-7, Jesus says ‘this thing is not theatre- how to perform and gain an audience’ I mean you can’t get stronger than that. Jesus also says ‘prayer is not mastering some type of formula to get what you want- create lots of wealth’ I mean he really takes to task the majority of American Christianity- a huge percentage of it is really performance- seeing ‘church’ as a place where we go once a week and actually watch a stage/theatre performance- ouch! God told the people ‘get rid of the costume jewelry- I have more important stuff for you’. Right now there is a lot of stuff happening in the world- the voice of the church needs to be a voice for justice in the earth. I watched an interview on Fox news this weekend- the host described our wars as just- and the Muslim/Arab side as terrorism. I had just read a news article describing the accidental killings of the 9 Afghan boys who were gathering fire wood while our attack helicopters killed them. The boys were between 5 and 11 years old. One boy- the only survivor, named Hamed- said as they were in the field they heard the chopper coming. Of course it’s a scary sight for little boys. Then as the chopper left- it came back again- like stalking them. They stood still- until the first boy was mowed down. They ran in all different directions- the chopper methodically hunted the boys down- one by one. This boy survived because a tree fell on him and hid him. I know our side thought the boys were enemy combatants- I know we did not intend for this to happen. But to excuse our actions- to say ‘we are just’ and the other side- some who are simply fighting for the Taliban because they need the job- to say they are immoral- and we are moral- seems like a joke after hearing about the deaths of these boys. May God have mercy on all of us.