Sunday, April 25, 2010


(1015)‘THE LOCATABLE LOCAL CHURCH’? I remember how we were taught in the Baptist church that the local church is ‘locatable’ that it is a real ‘place’ that you could find when visiting a city. This tended to confuse the matter somewhat. In church history you can find teachings on the visible church versus the invisible church. Saint Augustine is famous for this distinction, as a matter of fact Augustine taught that it was possible [not probable] that a person who is a member of the visible church might not really be a believer, and that it was possible for someone to be a believer and not be a member of the visible church, though he did see this dynamic as a rare thing. Even some of today’s organic church teachings seem a little confused at times on this. They seem to indicate that a ‘locatable church’ means a home type meeting that you can find if you visit a particular city. While it is true that in the New Testament you most certainly could locate a home meeting [or temple one or one at the synagogue while Paul was teaching the local Jewish community- evangelistically] yet I prefer to see it like this. If I were to tell you that a wonderful community of people exist, let’s say in Houston. And I described these ‘Houstonians’ as being bright, progressive go getters. I explained to you that they are all real people who live and function as citizens of Houston. If you then studied the history of Houston a thousand years from now, how would you describe them? Were they ‘locatable’? Well yes, of course. If you went to Houston you would be able to most certainly ‘locate’ them. How? Well you would run into them at the store, see them shopping. Possibly playing ball at one of the parks. There are hundreds of ways to ‘locate them’. You would even be able to locate them at some home meeting [or church building]. But you certainly would not describe their ‘locate-ability’ [if this is even a word!] as being the home or building. They were/are locatable because they really exist as citizens from another place! So likewise I think it would be better to describe the ‘locatable, visible church’ as being the actual communities of people who reside in your area and are believers in Christ. Now, you should be able to locate a place where they meet and celebrate the Lords Table and stuff like that, but don’t confuse locating a meeting with the actual people themselves.

(1011)CORINTHIANS 15:20-28 here we see the guarantee of mans resurrection based on Christ's resurrection. ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive’. Is Paul teaching a form of universalism [all being saved]? He is showing us that all men will someday be raised from the dead. Now, does Paul leave room here for a type of Pre-millennial resurrection? A ‘raising’ of the dead prior to a thousand year literal reign of Jesus. Then another resurrection at the end? Yes he does. If you read Revelation you will see this type of scenario play out. Also Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Historically the church has held 3 basic views on this. Pre-millennialism says Jesus returns first [pre] before the literal thousand year rule occurs. ‘Post’ says the thousand year rule is literal, and after that Jesus comes back. Those who held to this view were excited at the turn of the first millennium [1000 ad] they thought it possible for Jesus to have returned after the first thousand years since his death and resurrection. And then you have A-millennial, they spiritualize the thousand year reign spoken of in the book of Revelation as being a symbol of Christ’s present rule and kingdom. Now, today’s most popular form of Pre-millennialism is not historic, it dates back to the 19th century. Today’s form is called ‘Pre-tribulational, Pre-millennial’ this teaching [dispensationalism] says Jesus comes back 2 more times. One is called ‘the rapture’ the other is the second coming [revealing]. The proponents of this form find little [or no] early Christians who believed this. There is one early writing by a Syrian brother who speaks very clearly about a rapture type event. Some think he speaks a little too clearly! The writing is believed to have been a fake. Either way we do have Paul teaching stages involved with the coming of the Lord and the kingdom. It is possible to have 2 future resurrections, this would not mean you need two future ‘second comings’. The first resurrection takes place at Christ’s return. He rules a literal thousand years and ‘the dead are raised again’ at the end of the literal rule on earth [ a literal reading of Revelation]. Also Paul does use the language of Jesus submitting to the Father at the end so ‘God will be all in all’. I feel believers have been confused and at times contradictory while trying to explain the nature of God and the Trinity. I recently read a teaching on the Trinity that tried to compare the Trinity to the nature of the organic church. It seemed confusing to me, they tried to say that just like in the Trinity you have no one ‘being’ having authority over the other, but instead you see all three persons equally submitting to one another [Father, Son and Spirit] so in the church you have equality. Now, I do believe that there is equality in the church, but I felt the example was way off. The New Testament clearly teaches the willful ‘submission’ of the Son to the Father. God [the father] is clearly the one ‘in charge’. Now, I admit it’s difficult and brothers have spent years trying to explain all the ins and outs of this. Here Paul shows us that the Son has willingly submitted to the Father so the father can put all things under him. Then once again at the culmination of the kingdom the Son submits to the father and God receives the glory. We will praise and worship Jesus thru out all eternity, it is his willful submission to the father’s plan that makes this happen. NOTE- Some believers spiritualize the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation, they relate it to those who have been ‘born again’ spiritually. Modern ‘Preterism’ holds to this view.

(1007)CORINTHIANS 14:20-33 Paul instructs the church that when they are gathered together they should do things ‘decently and in order’. God is not the author of confusion. Notice the ‘order’ of the early church meeting. It is participatory in nature, those who give a word should take turns, those who give ‘a tongue’ need to let someone interpret. But there is no sense of ‘a pastoral speaking gift’ in this mix. Some teach that here Paul was giving directions to ‘the home group’ but they still had a regular ‘church service at the building’. This of course has no support at all from scripture or 1st century church history. Paul was simply telling ‘the church’ how to act when they met. I don’t see any hard and fast rules in which Paul is dictating some type of mandatory liturgy to the people. He is giving them some basic guidelines that are in keeping with the idea that God’s people are ‘a body’. He encourages open participation in the group. He shows how someone could be sharing and another who is ‘sitting by’ can also have a revelation. The idea is people grow and mature when they function. People become co-dependant when they simply observe. The modern church service for the most part has believers as spectators while one person speaks. While there are times where one person speaking/teaching is fine, what we have done is exalted this very limited format of ‘church’ and made it the criteria of what church is supposed to be. Note how Paul does allow for the gift of tongues to be used in the gathering, but only when there is an interpreter. He even ‘lifts’ an obscure verse from Isaiah that says God used ‘the languages of foreigners’ as a sign of judgment against unbelief. This verse has been used by the strong anti charismatic crowd to kind of say that the whole tongues thing is ‘of the devil’. Basically Paul was applying this Old Testament verse to show that when languages are spoken that people don’t understand, then unbelievers and judgment can be present. In Acts 2 there were those who said ‘what is this strange thing [tongues] are they drunk or what’. Yet others heard the ‘wonderful works of God’ in their native tongue. The lack of spiritual discernment among those who thought they were drunk was a sign showing their ignorance of Gods Spirit at work. Grant it, you could hardly blame them for thinking this, but the point Paul is making is that unknown languages being used in a setting where unbelievers can walk in does act as a sign of judgment. Paul wasn’t teaching that the gift of tongues was itself a false gift. I think this chapter is important for the present day because very few places in scripture actually deal with the way believers should meet. This chapter gives some of the basic guidelines of what our meetings should look like. I think we could all learn from the Corinthian experience.

(1004)CORINTHIANS 13:11-13 WHEN I WAS A CHILD I UNDERSTOOD AND THOUGHT AND SPOKE LIKE A CHILD, BUT WHEN I GREW UP I PUT THOSE THINGS BEHIND ME- Paul shows us that we presently see and understand things thru ‘a glass’. God gives us insight and glimpses into Divine truth, but we need mercy because we all have limited sight. Over the years I know I have ruffled some feathers. Whether it be our teaching on what the church is, tithing, end times stuff. How New Testament believers should view the nationalistic promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant. I have found that the problem usually isn’t solved by simply proving something from scripture. For instance someone might become convinced by an ‘avalanche’ of information, they might actually see what I am saying. They can even articulate it to a degree [sometimes better than me!] but at the end of the day the answer to the problem is we all need to ‘grow up’. We need an overall change in the way we view things thru a legalistic lens. For instance, the tithe issue. Over the years I have taught the concept that believers are not under this law. Those of you who have read this site for any length of time know this. But I have also taught that it is fine to put 10% of your money into the offering on Sunday. It’s okay to support those who ‘labor among us’. But there are also many examples in the New Testament warning Gods leaders to not be in it for the money. Now, if we took seriously the mandate in Malachi to tithe. If we want to actually bind the believer’s conscience in this way ‘how are you robbing God? By not bringing in the tithes!’ Then we need to also look at the context. Israel as a nation was mandated to ‘tithe’ of their goods [not money] in three ways. They gave to support the Levites, also for the poor, and then they gave a tithe for religious feasts. In essence this ‘tithe’ was a total of around 30 % of their annual income, not 10%! [This by the way is right around what I spend on a monthly basis for the ministry stuff I do]. So, if we were telling people ‘you are going to be cursed if you don’t pay 10%’ we are actually misreading this verse. Also, how many believers think they are going to be cursed if they don’t ‘tithe to the poor’? Most modern preaching on the tithe simply puts it in the category of the Sunday offering. Most of this type of giving goes to support salaries, building upkeep, light bills, insurance for staff. I could go on and on. A very minute portion of this money [in general] goes to the poor. Certainly not a third! Also the portion that went to the Levites could not be used to purchase anything that would be owned by the Levite. They were forbidden to own any type of personal inheritance as Levitical priests. How often does the modern concept of tithing include this? The whole point is if we are going to bind peoples consciences in this way [which we shouldn’t] then we need to make sure we are at least teaching it right! Why bring this up? This is simply a good example of what Paul is saying. ‘When I understood in a limited way, I spoke and acted in a limited way’. The answer to the problem is simply ‘becoming mature in our thinking and speaking’. Recently I read an article from a U.S. congressman, he was speaking about the situation between Israel and Palestine. He sided with a military interpretation of the Old Testament promise to Abraham to ‘posses the land’ and used that to influence his political activism for war. How ‘mature’ is this type of thinking? Did any of the JEWISH apostles do this? No. So instead of trying to ‘crisis manage’ every single doctrinal problem, we really need to mature on an overall basis and view these doctrines thru the paradigm of Jesus and his life and work. Are we imitating his ethos when we do these things? Was this the primary message and life of Jesus when he walked the earth? How did he respond to Roman oppression and unjust govt.? Did he advocate military action in defense of the promises of God made to the nation of Israel? If we as the 21st century church do not ‘rightly divide’ these things, then we are of all men ‘most miserable’ [1st Corinthians 15].

(999)1ST CORINTHIANS 13:1 ‘THOUGH I SPEAK WITH THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS, AND HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM BECOME AS SOUNDING BRASS OR A TINKLING SYMBOL’ Over the years I have seen how the church can ‘have a voice-make noise’ without actually effecting change. Last night I watched some Martin Luther King stuff. Without ‘sucking up for political purposes’ I must admit that Martin is at the top of my list of personal heroes. Martin spoke with a revolutionary purpose in mind, he was not ‘delivering sermons’. One time I spoke at a friends church, I only spoke for around 15 minutes [much like my radio show] and the pastor said ‘no wonder John doesn’t have a church/ preach regularly, you have to at least speak for 45 minutes’ [something like that]. Though after the message I had good comments from the people, the sincere pastor felt like we didn’t ‘put the time in’ in order to fulfill the Sunday morning practice of ‘church’. Were did we get our modern sermon from? [The actual format]. If you go to Bible College you can take a course called ‘homiletics’ this course will teach you the structure of speaking and putting a message together. If you study Greek rhetoric you will find that this science existed in the Greek intellectual world before Christians embraced it [the actual format and structure taught in homiletics comes right out of the Greek system of rhetoric, to the tee!]. I find it funny how many modern pastors seem to measure a persons degree of ‘being scriptural’ by this measuring rod. ‘Well brother, didn’t they preach in scripture’ you bet they did. We see Jesus reading from the scroll in the synagogue. Paul and Peter were master ‘preachers’ if you will [though Paul himself was no ‘golden tongue’] basically the biblical concept of preaching/teaching was more of a spontaneous thing. It’s certainly not wrong to borrow the sermon from the Greeks [which we did do] but we don’t want to fall into some mindset that sees modern ministry [pastoral] as being a professional speaker. Here Paul says there is a danger of believers becoming like ‘sounding brass and tinkling symbols’ we can lose the reality of simple communication. We also can lose the prophetic edge of speaking into society over issues of justice. If we become too mundane and ‘professional’ then the world simply views as another program to simply pass over when clicking the remote. Both Martin Luther King and Charles Finney were known for their social activism. One of the charges [actually true] made against them was that they held to liberal theological positions. Finney was effected by the higher criticism of his day [the trend in the universities to deny the supernatural elements of scripture] he embraced certain doctrines that could be viewed as heretical [things on the atonement and mans sinful nature]. King’s critics make note of the fact that he also accepted certain types of bible interpretation that viewed some of the miraculous stories as ‘myth’ [not fake, but simple allegorical stories that were not literal but simply meant to convey a spiritual theme]. Things like Jonah and the whale, or Ballams talking donkey [or the talking snake in the garden!] Some intellectual brothers view these stories this way. Is there any validity to these views? Actually yes. I personally hold the ‘literal’ view with stuff like this, but ‘literal’ does not mean the bible does not contain different styles of writing. You do have poetry, allegory, symbol and other types or forms of grammar in scripture. Even the strong literal brothers will contradict themselves when they fully accept the ‘Lamb on the throne’ as not being a literal Lamb! [or when they interpret the scorpion like demons in Revelation as Black Hawk helicopters] So scripture does use allegory and symbol. But why did Luther and Finney associate with the more liberal trends in theology? I feel it was because of the strong anti social gospel that the fundamentalists embraced. The more conservative thinkers who rejected the liberal trends in teaching, would also reject social activism. Luther and Finney simply gravitated towards those who were like minded in their concern to speak into society. Basically they didn’t just want to be theologically correct [though they might have been in some of there views] but they wanted to be able to effect change in society. They wanted to be more than just a tinkling symbol that could tickle your ears.

(996)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:27-31 Lets talk about ‘the fivefold ministry’ [some say four]. In the 90’s there was a real interest in this subject. It comes from this portion of scripture [and Ephesians 4]. The basic teaching is/was that God was restoring all these ministries [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers- some see this as one combined gift] and that this restoration was one of the final things to happen before Christ’s return. I read and bought lots of books on church planting and how Apostles are gifted to ‘plant churches’. This teaching really wasn’t a new thing. Back in the 1800’s you had Edward Irving head up an apostolic movement called ‘the apostolic catholic church’ [Irvingites]. You had interesting folk like John Alexander Dowie who would start a modern city of God called ‘Zion’ in Illinois. Brother Dowie saw himself as an apostle and felt the Lord lead him to start an apostolic city. You can still visit the city today. It was also common for many ‘up and coming’ preachers to begin seeing themselves as ‘apostles/prophets’ and actually advertise their callings in this way. Well of course the old time brothers who reject the gifts all together, saw this as another sign of the end time apostasy. You also had a strange phenomenon take place. It was common for ‘apostolic/prophetic’ people to be taught ‘the missing ingredient is covering and authority’- the churches are weak because they are under pastoral authority, they don’t have apostles ‘covering them’ [ouch!]. So it was not uncommon to have respected men kind of stepping over the normal boundaries of relating to churches and to say things like ‘you need to do this’ ‘you over there, be quiet. I don’t give you permission to speak’ and stuff like this. These sincere men thought it their responsibility to act this way. They felt this was a part of the restoration of apostles. Now, do apostles exist today [and prophets]? To be honest with you, yes. If you read this section along with Ephesians chapter 4, it is next to impossible to teach that they passed away in the first century. These scriptures make it clear that after Jesus ascended he gave ‘some apostles, others prophets’ they are included in the list of evangelists, pastors and teachers. If you lose one gift, then you lose them all. Also the timing of their ministries is given ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith unto a perfect man’. These gifts are all given to build Gods people up until we come to fall maturity. We aint there yet! So it’s pretty obvious that these gifts exist. Those who believe they don’t exist usually refer to the fact that the apostles of the Lamb [a category unto itself] did pass away. They will show you the truth of these apostles having to have been witnesses of Jesus actual resurrection. But these are a different category of apostles. The ones in this chapter were not even ‘made’ until after Jesus ascended on high. The same for the prophets. So, what do these strange fellows do? In all the books and stuff I have read on these movements, I feel some have been too limited in their definitions. Some taught that they were primarily itinerant men [traveling church planters]. Of course Paul was the master at this. But you find James as a stable pillar of the church at Jerusalem. Peter did travel, but he was no Gentile church planter like Paul! And Timothy in the New Testament had an apostolic type gifting, yet he was a protégée under Paul. So for the most part apostles do carry a special ability to ground Gods people in truth. Those who are called to ‘plant churches’ need to be more in tune with the example of Paul. Many modern day ‘apostles’ see church planting as going to a region and organizing Christians to meet in certain ways. I have heard it said ‘I have planted an organic church’ ‘I have planted a home group’ or of course the standard ‘I have planted a building based church’. The main ‘church planting’ of Paul was bringing the gospel to UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS and evangelizing those groups. Now of course he did give instructions to them on ‘how to meet’ [like in this book we are reading!] But don’t confuse ‘church planting’ with organizing believers around a new way to meet. All in all God gave us these gifts to build each other up and bring us to maturity, a place where we are no longer dependent on these gifts to function. I feel one of the greatest dangers was the strong authoritarian mindset that some of the apostolic brothers had, they meant well, but they stepped over their boundaries at times.

(994)1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 12-26 Paul uses the analogy of a body to describe the church. Keep in mind that the ‘church’ in Paul’s writings mean ‘all Gods people in the region/city’. Not just the gathered assembly! It’s important to make this distinction because much of the talk on the restoration of the organic church versus the institutional church focuses too much on the way believers meet. Here Paul is saying ‘you are all individual distinct members in the local community, you express Christ in various ways, though you have unique gifts you also are part of one corporate expression of Christ in your city’. The distinct gifts function in your community, not just in the meeting! [Whether it be the Sunday building type thing or the living room!] Paul also tells them to be on the guard for the ‘one member dominating the group’ expression of church. If everyone is centered on one particular gift then the corporate expression of the Body of Christ is diminished. Or if everyone saw ‘full time ministry’ as being a modern Pastor then you would have too many sincere believers all seeking to serve God in a limited way ‘if all were an eye, ear, mouth [speaking gift]’ then where would the Body be? I find this chapter to be a key chapter in the current reformation of modern church practices. As Gods people strive for a more scriptural expression of ‘being the church’ we need to keep this chapter in mind. Now, a word for the strong organic church brothers. The fact that Paul encourages a corporate expression in the church does not mean the gatherings of Gods people must be leaderless. Paul includes the concept of Elders in his writings. To be sure these men were not to dominate the meetings, or be the weekly speaker on an ongoing basis. But some hold to a type of idea that the way the church is supposed to testify of the ‘headship of Christ’ is by demonstrating a human leaderless church. That is God ordained the local bodies of believers to have no functioning human leaders in order to show forth Christ’s headship. To be honest I don’t see this in scripture. I see leaders in plurality [never a one man show] and Paul was not afraid to tell Titus and Timothy to ‘ordain’ [recognize!] Elders in the church. But the overall instruction in this chapter is God wants all of his people to function on a regular basis in the Body of Christ. This of course includes the gatherings, but it is not limited to them. The primary way we ‘show’ the world the Lordship of Jesus is by the selfless love we have one for another. When we daily live charitable, sacrificial lives, this demonstrates the ‘headship of Jesus’ over the church. The way believers meet has some effect on this, but most of Jesus instructions to the disciples was on how they would go out into the world and bring the great message of the kingdom to society. The primary ‘battlefield’ of the church militant is the world, not the meeting place!

(987) SPOT THE TREND LINES- One of the themes of proverbs is reproof, correction. Proverbs teaches us that correction/reformation are noble things. Fools despise it, wise men take it to heart. Over the years of dealing with controversial issues in the church, I have found different responses from good men. Most leaders do not initially appreciate correction, they [we] have a tendency to want to use our knowledge and experience as an excuse to not receive correction. We often defend our positions by thinking ‘look how many other men/leaders are doing it [it being whatever area you feel threatened in] so I am at least in good company’. While there is some truth to this [being in the majority] this doesn’t work well when there is a groundswell of reformation on the horizon. For instance, during the 16th century Reformation, I am sure the new reformers looked and acted like contrarians at the time. There were many good catholic priests doing their best to serve the Lord in the limited understanding of the ancient church. I am sure many of these men simply steered clear of Luther and his ‘rebels’ but ultimately God was wanting change! So today we have certain undercurrents of reformation, sure not all the current trends fall into this category, but some do. So leaders should be open to correction or reproof coming from a broad range of influential men. Over the years I have spotted ‘trend lines’, certain changes that I see/hear from a wide range of Christian expressions. When I see them coming ‘from afar off’ I try and make the adjustment before the trend ‘hits the fan’. This is another wisdom nugget from Proverbs, a wise man sees the change coming and prepares himself, the simple pass on and make no adjustments. Another important characteristic is the ability to ‘not change’ too fast or too much! ‘Meddle not with those who are given to change’ reformation takes time and is a process. If I learn or see some knew area of truth that most of my contemporaries don’t see yet, then it would be foolish to think that God has called me to ‘straighten them all out’. God often shows you ‘the trend lines’ so you in wisdom can plant certain seeds that will keep the other leaders on track as the train moves along. In essence your job isn’t to say ‘see, I know more than so and so’. Your job is to be open to avenues of influence that eventually bring ‘correction/course change’ to the rest of the body. I felt like the word for today was for us to re examine the reproofs that we might have heard over the years. Does it seem like we keep hearing the same reproof from different voices thru out our lives? Maybe there’s more to it than just a bunch of disgruntled believers. Wise men take note and seek God for his timing in the course change, foolish men make no adjustment.

(985)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:7 ‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EVERY MAN to profit EVERY BODY’. I want to share a criticism that sometimes gets made against me. I know ‘the critics’ mean well, and are actually sincere men. It’s just they have been ‘shaped’ by the present system of ‘church’. The criticism goes like this ‘sure John has an effective teaching ministry [blog/radio] but if you need someone to come pray for you, lets see if he will come’. The idea is that the true legitimate ‘elders’ are those you can ‘call for’. James says ‘if any one is sick among you, let him call for the elders of ‘the church’. They see ‘the church’ as the actual 501c3, building, Sunday meeting [storehouse] type thing - they are simply seeing thru their ‘lens’. What James is simply saying is ‘if someone is sick in your community/local body of believers, call for the elders [more spiritually mature ones] and let them pray for you and anoint you with oil’. Now, I have personally spent many thousands [yes thousands!] of actual man hours on the streets helping people. I have helped and given to some of the local homeless population who attend some of these ‘churches’, out of my own pocket. Yet these same homeless brothers are encouraged to give ten percent of their money to ‘their church’. What am I saying here? I know the men who level this type of accusation are often intimidated by peer pressure and stuff. But the verse above says ‘the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every believer to profit every one around them’. The biblical view of ‘church’ would simply require all believers to ‘administer the gift’ in a way that would profit all those around them. There is no need to make these types of distinctions between ‘the elders of our church’ or ‘the spiritual leaders in our region’. They mean the same thing. So see your gift as a freely received charism that should be used unselfishly for the benefit of others. Also some Pastors do seem to come around to ‘my view’ after many years of hearing us. They might then try and do some city wide ministry, open to all the body. Then if the results are not good, they can become discouraged also. Understand, many of these men took many years before they could really see what we were saying, don’t expect a majority of local believers to see things that took you years to see! The paradigms don’t come down that easily.

(984)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:1-6 ‘There are different gifts, ministries and out workings of the Spirit’ [my paraphrase]. In this section we see an idea that I feel gets lost in the current paradigm of ‘doing church’. When Paul addresses a church [community of believers] he is speaking to all the believers in the city. When we think ‘church’ we assume it means ‘church’ as ‘going to the church [building] on Sunday’. Therefore we tend to read these types of verses as ‘there are different gifts and functions in ‘the church’- the Sunday school teacher, nursery worker, door greeter’ well you get it. The better reading would be ‘there are various expressions and ways the Spirit works and administers thru/in the community’. For instance, those who labor in ‘Para-church’ ministries are often considered noble, but not ‘a church’. But according to this passage, they would be just as much ‘church’, a legitimate part of the local body, as the home meeting [of course we know in Paul’s day there were no church buildings]. So the broader view of church as community would see these verses saying ‘where you live there are a variety of gifted ones whom the Spirit of God lives and operates thru. These saints all express the community of the Spirit in various ways. All these expressions are just as legitimate as the other, it is one Spirit manifesting himself in diverse ways for the overall benefit of all the believers in your city’. When we label what the Spirit is doing thru other ‘administrations’ as ‘Para-church’ we violate this passage of scripture. When we limit the various expressions and gifts to ‘the Sunday church meeting’ we actually are violating the intent of these verses. In your city you have doctors, lawyers, and all types of trades. While it is fine for them to operate out of a building and to keep regular business hours. Yet you wouldn’t describe them as separate, individual little ‘cities’ who all operate out of your town. You would see all of them as various gifted people who ‘operate out of your city’. So this is the broader view of what I think Paul is saying. Now he will also give directions on how these various gifts work in the meeting, this of course is part of it. But we need to see the broader view of what the Spirit is saying. Jesus expected his disciples to go out into the highways and hedges and ‘compel them to come in’ [not into the church building for heavens sake! But into the Kingdom] Paul taught that the Spirit accomplishes this in many different ways thru ‘the church’ [people of God].

(983)1ST CORINTHIANS 11:16-34 ‘When you come together IN THE CHURCH’ [king James version] ‘when you come together AS THE CHURCH’ [new king James version]. In this section of scripture we see a real good definition of ‘church’ and also a bad one. The word for church is found over 100 times in the New Testament [114? - if I remember right] in every occasion, bar none, it refers to the people of God. Sometimes it refers to them as ‘coming together’ or simply as ‘the called out people of God’ [that is they are all spiritually gathered as a community in Christ]. The word never refers to a ‘church building’ [there is one reference in James that can seem to indicate a place to meet. James is speaking to Jews, the synagogue [or Jerusalem temple] as a building is different from the term for church in Paul’s letters!]. In the example I just gave you from the king James versions, it shows you how Gods people viewed this term for church [Ecclesia/Ekklesia] as time rolled along. The original translators of the King James saw it as ‘a place you meet in’ the new version saw it ‘as when Gods people come together’. You say ‘what’s the big difference’? Well I am sure the original translators meant well, but in actuality there is a big difference between ‘being an organic family’ or ‘being a building’! As Paul addresses the Corinthians he says ‘your coming together is not for the better, but for the worse’. They were using the gathering as a means of self gratification. ‘What can I get out of this’ type thing. I do see a parallel in much of today’s ‘church meeting’. Do we see Christianity thru the lens of ‘what am I going to hear this Sunday that I can implement in my own personal life for self improvement’? This mindset prevails in today’s church environment. The ethos of Jesus was contrary to this. He challenged his followers to lay down their rights and desires and seek another kingdom, one that was not measured by the standards of this world. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for seeking ‘their own wealth [benefit] and not the other’s’. He also told them to examine their hearts before coming together so they would not be judged. I have heard the new generation of church thinkers [which I am one myself!] kind of mock the old time churches by saying ‘Oh they tell you communion is some dangerous thing that you must approach with a holier than thou attitude’. Most mean well when they level this charge, but the ‘old time churches’ are not without scriptural support for this approach. Paul did say ‘you guys are too flippant in your attitude towards the Lords table, you need to straighten up and take more seriously your corporate call to those around you’. Understand, the celebration of this ‘love feast’ was to ‘show the Lords death till he come’. Who were they ‘showing it to’? The entire ‘unchurched’ community around them! Their selfless lives of being the community of God, loving and sharing of themselves as a spiritual family, was for the intent of having an effective community wide witness. They reminded not only themselves, but those around them ‘of the Lords death’. It was truly a corporate witness! Our Catholic brothers might not be as wrong as most Protestants seem to think. The Catholic Church sees the Eucharist as the central witness and part of their meetings. The Protestants see the preaching of the word from the pulpit. Though the Protestants are sincere in their efforts to teach the word of God, there is a tendency to become ‘pastor/pulpit’ centered, as opposed to being ‘Christ centered’. All in all Paul rebukes and corrects them based on their self centered actions when meeting together. He also sees ‘the gathering’ as ‘the church’. Not the place their meeting at! It’s easy to confuse this when reading ‘when you come together in the church- in one place’ it sure seems like he can be referring to a church building. Take my word for it, he’s not.

(980)1ST CORINTHIANS 11: 1-16 at first I was just going to skip this section and say ‘I know you didn’t get your moneys worth, but wait, you guys didn’t give me any money!’ But this would be a cheap shot. So what do we do with portions of scripture that are difficult? I have heard this taught in a way that says ‘Christ is the head of the church [both men and women- true] and any distinction between a man being ‘the head’ of the woman only applies to natural families’. The problem is Paul mixes the analogies ‘Christ is the head of a man, a man [husband] is the head of the woman [wife], and God is the head of Christ’. To dissect these verses into a ‘secular/religious’ division is next to impossible! So what do they mean? I believe the New Testament does teach a type of functional difference between men and woman. Now, Paul teaches that women ‘can prophesy’ in ‘the church’. He says so in these verses! In Romans 16 Paul refers to Junia as an apostle and Phoebe as a deaconess. In the Old Testament Deborah was a mighty judge. Peter says that both sons and daughters will prophesy [Acts 2, quoting Joel]. I could go on. Then why make a distinction? Paul gives his rationale in this section. Believers show the order and submission of the Godhead when they willingly take their God ordained positions in society. When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, God is glorified. When wives submit [oh no, I can’t believe I said it!] to their ‘loving’ husbands they show the role of Christ’s willful submission to the Father. And yes, Paul also teaches we all submit to each other in love as well. Those who see all of Paul’s teaching on women as a cultural thing will have a problem with the inspiration of scripture. But on the other hand the strong fundamentalist/literalist also has a problem here. Should we mandate the wearing of ‘coverings’ [hats] when women prophesy? I don't think so [some do think so!]. But most fundamentalists have no problem chalking up the ‘hat wearing’ portion to culture. Also in this debate, one of the obvious questions is ‘can a woman be a Pastor over a church’? Or Bishop or whatever. Remember, no one was a ‘Pastor over a church’ like we think until around the 4th century. So before we judge whether or not it is fair to restrict women from certain roles ‘in the church’ we need to understand what roles there are ‘in the church’. Did you ever wonder who was marrying and burying the people for the first few hundred years of Christian history? It is quite obvious that Paul and the first century Apostles/Elders were not doing it. So when did the ‘clergy’ pick the practice up? During Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, the church took over the rites and ceremonies from Rome. The Roman ‘philosopher/speakers’ could be hired to speak a eulogy when someone died, they could conduct wedding ceremonies. They for the most part were ‘the Pastors’ of the day! Now we simply took the job from them. Does this mean all Pastors are pagan funeral directors? No. It simply shows us that when we ask the question ‘why can’t women be pastors like men’. Maybe the question should be ‘were men ever supposed to be pastors either?’ [in the contemporary use of the term] So in this little excursion into history I think we all have some lessons to learn. The people of God are made up of men and women and Jew and Gentile, scripture says in Christ there are no more distinctions like this. We are all considered the Body of Christ equally. Yet this does not mean [in my view] that everyone does the same job as everyone else. The New Testament clearly says ‘are all Apostles, all Prophets’. God has distinctions in this Body. Do these distinctions carry over to the woman/man issue in functionality? It seems so to me to a degree. Those who are striving for more equality in function for women, I think the best way to approach it is not to by- pass all these difficult portions of scripture. But to take the approach that as the church grows she allows the greater overriding truths of scripture to over shadow any personal advice given by Paul to a specific church in the first century. Now I don’t fully take this approach myself, but to a degree many of us do accept this approach when dealing with the ‘hat/covering issue’. So instead of just showing you my view, I wanted to paint a little broader picture. Ultimately how you come down on this is between you and God. Women most certainly can and do function in Christ’s church today, they always have and always will.

(977)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:15-17 ‘The cup that we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of Christ's Body? We are all one bread, we all partake equally of Christ’s Body and Blood. We exist as a community because of him’ [my paraphrase]. Here in my study I have various volumes on church history. I own catholic volumes, protestant ones, and even some from ‘the out of the institutional church’ perspective. Over the years I have learned that most believers tell their story from their perspective. This is not a wrong thing, nor is it a purposeful act to distort history. It’s just natural to see ‘your world’ thru your lens of past experiences. Around the 17th century the Jesuit priests were some of the first Christians to write systematic church histories. Though you had many scholars who were informed on the subject, the Jesuits were the first to try and bring all the previous centuries together and present them in an orderly way that could be understood and read by the average student. There is some debate on how accurate some of these first ‘tellings’ of history were. For instance, some classic church histories [both catholic and protestant] show an early 2nd century development of belief in the Eucharist as being the literal Body and Blood of Jesus. Also most volumes focus on church figures such as Iraneus , Tertullian, Augustine [4th-5th centuries] and many other good men [I know I spelled these names wrong!]. There seems to have been a basic belief that this history is the only ‘history’ of the first few centuries. The problem with this approach is we now have archealogical evidence from the first few centuries that would support the idea that the early church might not have been as ‘institutional’ as previously thought. For instance, most histories say the development of the monarchial episcopacy [single bishop over ‘a church/region’] was early. But the evidence discovered shows that as late as the 2nd, possibly early 3rd centuries you had bishops who were simply elders/overseers in the early church. Burial places were uncovered that showed multiple ‘bishops’ all buried in one spot. The evidence seems to indicate that these were all men who served at the same time. Not one bishop dieing off while others took his place. This would mean that some practicing Christians never fully accepted the institutional idea of the single bishop. But you really couldn’t find this out from a wide reading of all the different church histories. Why? Were the Jesuits who put together the first cohesive history trying to deceive people? Of course not! They were seeing church history thru ‘their lens’. Now, what in the world does this have to do with the verse on communion? The word for communion here is a translation from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which simply means ‘fellowship’. The church at Corinth practiced ‘communion’ as a love feast. The early believers had their ‘communion service’ as a type of buffet type fellowship where they all shared and came together in real friendship. Now in the next chapter we will deal with some of the problems that arose out of this practice, but the point today is I want you to see that when Paul says ‘we are all one bread who are partaking from one loaf’ he is simply saying ‘just like when we all get together and share in the communal meal, this is the same way we all spiritually live off of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are ‘one bread’ [people/communion] because we all derive our life from Jesus, the true bread that came down from heaven’ [John 6]. I simply want to give you the flavor of what Paul is saying. It’s easy to read these verse’s from the sacramental perspective. To see the focus being on the actual bread and wine of the meal. I think it’s better understood from the broader communal idea that I just espoused. Our entire New Testament is the most verifiable collection of first century documents ever to be found. Though we as believers take them as Gods word, they also show us the most accurate historical picture of what the early church believed and practiced. I think the reformers of the 16th century were right in stating that the final authority should be the word of God. They did not reject church tradition, but they said the final arbiter in controversial issues was Gods word. Even the great Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was known for his desire to ‘get back to the original sources’. He was helpful in urging the Catholic Church towards reform by going back to the Greek New Testament [most scholars were using the vulgate version, which was the Latin translation. The Latin did not do justice to the Greek!] Well today’s point is our New Testaments are accurate first century documents on early church belief and practice. I think Erasmus cry to ‘get back to the sources’ would do us all some good.

(970) CORINTHIANS ‘woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel’ ‘they which preach the gospel should live by the gospel’. Let me do a quick review before we jump into chapter 10. Over the years of re-learning the style and function of the New Testament church, it took time to read these scriptures without superimposing my preconceived ideas upon the text. For instance, you could easily read these verses and simply fit them into the ‘church building’ [as the church!] mindset. I know of, and have partaken of, the excitement that preachers experience when they ‘preach the gospel’. It’s a fulfilling thing. But the problem is much of the present day church follows a program where one main person becomes the attraction of the community. We live and hear and vicariously learn thru the growth experiences of a single individual. Now, we don’t realize that this is not the main intent of meeting together as a community. God originally intended for his people to share as a community of grace. There are specific warnings in the New Testament to avoid the Christian community’s penchant to identify around an individuals giftings [we actually just covered some of these in this study]. But when we simply read ‘they which preach the gospel should live of it’ we think this is justifying the present day context. It really simply meant that those in the community with the ability to read and teach should be taken care of while they are giving themselves for the benefit of others. The first century believer’s could not all read, the majority probably were illiterate. This created a need for those who were literate to actually read Paul's letters out loud in the assembly. These sincere men were not modern day full time Pastors! This is why it’s important to read the scripture with historical context in mind. When I meet with the brothers, or travel to another town. I usually simply ask the guys ‘what’s the Lord been saying, do you have a word to share’? And sure enough, by the time our fellowship is over most everyone feels edified because they gave of themselves for others. One of my homeless friends is an excellent teacher. Believe me, he knows more scripture than many Pastors. He excels in this environment. There is really no need for one person [like myself!] to dominate the conversation, or to think that my calling entails me being the primary voice of the community. Sometimes when I find myself at some Christian function, I can tell that when people find out that you speak on the radio, that they kinda want you to preach. I always [yes always!] avoid it. Not because it would be wrong to teach, but the modern church has made such a profession out of it, that the average saint never really expresses himself on a regular basis. God never intended the church to be a place where people learn and grow and experience most of their Christian lives thru the experiences and gifts of one person. I just wanted to challenge you today with these few verses. When you just read them did you see them thru the old mindset? Don’t feel bad about it, just allow the Lord to ‘re-wire’ your brain as we continue to teach thru the New Testament. We finds stuff like this all the way thru.

(969)1ST CORINTHIANS 9:15-27 I have a letter sitting here from some northern radio station. I guess these guys hear us some how? It’s a great offer to be on 140 stations for next to nothing [$140.00 a month]. I have had radio stations write us before. I choose to stay small so I can be consistent in not taking offerings. I am sure if I took offerings I could easily expand like this, but I think I need to set the example for others. This fits in with the following.
Now Paul will say ‘I would rather die than take money from you’ [and you guys think I’m an over reactor!] and also ‘I don’t take money from you because I want to make the gospel free of charge’. Remember, this is in the same chapter where he says it’s okay to support leaders financially. But yet he also makes these strong statements. Does Paul contradict himself? Some have tried to harmonize these statements by either saying Paul wasn’t really teaching the financial support of elders, or by saying Paul only restricted taking money from the Corinthians. Both of these are not true [Read my Acts 20 study]. Paul was hard on whatever group he was addressing. If he is speaking directly to the local saints, he says ‘you should make sacrifice and support those who labor among you’ but to the elders/leaders he says ‘I worked with my own hands while among you [elders!] to give you an example not to expect the people to support you’ [Acts 20]. He appeals to both sides to lay down their rights and give themselves away freely! He also says he adapts to every type of situation, he ‘becomes all things to all men, that he might save them’. He also brings his body under discipline so that after preaching to others, he himself will not be ‘cast away’. In my Proverbs reading I just came across ‘he that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls’. God wants you to succeed and accomplish things, the enemy wants to sidetrack you. Allow God to have the upper hand, let the fruit of ‘self control’ [one of the fruits of the Spirit] abide in you. Now remember, Paul says ‘they do it to obtain a corruptible crown’ [material, temporary stuff. Money included] but we do it [discipline ourselves] for an ‘incorruptible crown’. The scripture is filled with examples that contrast money [material rewards] with true spiritual riches. In these examples the scripture teaches us to expend our time and efforts in building a spiritual heritage as opposed to a financial one. Yet some will even use this scripture ‘running the race’ and apply it to stuff! Ahh, when we do stuff like this we are ‘reading/quoting scripture’ without truly knowing it. Jesus told the religious leaders ‘you search the scriptures because by doing this you think you have eternal life, but you will not come to me that you might have life’. It’s possible to spend your whole life searching scripture [for what you want] and still miss the chief cornerstone! [the main point]

(966)1ST CORINTHIANS 9:1-14 Paul defends his apostleship and gives a strong defense for the New Testament doctrine of financially supporting Christian leaders. Now, I never want to be one of those types of teachers who skews or bypasses scriptures that seem to contradict previous teachings. It’s common for good men to do this, all leaders need to avoid doing it. Recently I added my comments to a debate that raged in the blogasphere. You had Frank Viola put out the book ‘Pagan Christianity’ [good book, I read and do recommend it] and another good theologian, Ben Witherington, gave a good critique [I also recommend Bens site, you can find both Frank and Ben’s sites on my blog roll]. Part of the debate hinged on the financial support of elders/ministers. I must admit I fell on Ben’s side in this argument, though I probably would agree with Frank around 90 % of the time on all the other stuff. Ben argued for the biblical mandate to support elders, frank seems to teach the support of apostles [itinerant workers] is okay, but does not leave room for the support of elders who live in the community. Now, you really need to read all I have written under the ‘what in the world is the church’ section of this blog to get my full view on all of this stuff, but this section of Corinthians makes this stuff pretty clear. Paul says ‘I have the right not to work and only live off of the offerings of the people’. So Paul defends this practice, but he also says ‘I choose not to use it’. He also uses two interesting examples from ‘the law’ [Old Testament] to defend the financial support of leaders. ‘The Ox who is treading out the corn shouldn’t be muzzled’ and ‘the priests who serve at the altar get to eat the meat from the sacrifices’. What is the most obvious example that he does not use? The tithe! I would say this is one of the best proofs for the tithe not being a normative practice of the early church. But Paul does use the other examples to say its right to financially support those who labor among you. But Paul has also given examples to elders [read my Acts 20 commentary] to show them that they are not in this for the money! Paul will actually defend the practice of working and not taking money from the believers. So we see a wide range of freedom in this area. I feel the biblical example is it is fine to financially support Christian leadership who are dedicating their lives to teaching and ministering the word. It is also fine to not use these ‘rights’ as a Christian leader. But nowhere are we taught a type of Levitical tithe system for the support of Christian leaders. Why? Paul’s main message was one of grace and coming out from the requirements of the law. To have used the tithe as an example to give financially would have been counterproductive to his whole message. Eventually believers would come to view ‘the church’ and ‘the priest/pastor’ as the single head of ‘the church building’ who would be supported like a Levite who served as a priest under the old covenant [bring all the tithes into the storehouse type concept]. This legalistic view of ‘the church’ is prevalent today in much of Christendom, both Catholics and Protestants seem to cling to this limited view of the church. The modern house church movement is giving the old view quite a run for its money! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Paul said its okay to financially support Christian leadership among you, just don't see it as a tithe that is supporting some type of Christian New Testament Levitical priest!

(953)Yesterday I managed to catch a few TV shows that were good. National geographic did a special called ‘the first Christians’. It was excellent. They covered more historic truth in one hour than you would get from years of sermons. They basically taught the New Testament word for ‘church’ [Ecclesia] and showed how because the early Christians did not believe the ‘church’ was a building, that therefore they spread rapidly without lots of money. They then covered the historic development of the ‘church building’ and the effect this had on them. They also got into the ‘end times’ scenarios that are played out over and over again by today’s prophecy teachers. They interviewed true theologians who put Johns Revelation in historical context. Just an excellent job overall. I also caught the show ‘Journey Home’ on E.W.T.N. [the Catholic channel]. I do like the show, it often gives good historical stuff. Last night they were a little ‘too Catholic’ [I know, what should I expect]. They had a good brother on who left ‘non-denominational Christianity’ and became Catholic. Now, most of these brothers are very intelligent believers who make this choice out of sincerity. They usually study the early church fathers and realize the ‘Catholic tone’ of these early believers. I simply felt the brother who spoke last night was a little too critical of his former church experience [Willow Creek]. I then caught Scott Hahn [an excellent Catholic scholar and apologist], he always has stuff that interests me. He brought up an argument I have heard before on how the early church saw the ‘real presence of Christ’ as being in the Eucharist. Others have made this argument before from the Catholic perspective of Jesus being with us, as opposed to the detractors arguments that he misled the early followers to think that he would soon return and set up a literal earthly kingdom. I have heard and do understand this reasoning. In essence it defends Jesus and his followers by saying ‘Jesus didn’t let down the early church by not returning and ‘being with them’ he was with them all along thru the Eucharist’ good intentions. I would prefer to argue the same point thru the fulfilling of the Fathers promise and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus says in John’s gospel ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you’ it is understood by most theologians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually refers to the Spirit as ‘One just like unto myself’. The new testament very Cleary speaks of the Holy Spirit as Gods presence tabernacling among us in a real way. So in my thinking I would prefer to argue the real presence of Christ as being among the early believers as fulfilled thru the Comforter. Overall it was a good night of viewing some good teachers. I also couldn't help but notice how I have been skipping over the ‘more popular’ preaching shows of the day. I did click on one of the prophecy guys, he was defending ‘the rapture’ and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the good theological discussions from the earlier shows, and the ‘silliness’ of what this brother was teaching. I don’t want to demean you if you hold to the rapture theory, it was just such an obvious ‘step down’ from the level of theologian to the level of popular prophecy preaching. In our current study of Corinthians we just went thru the verse ‘though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have only one father’ [Paul referring to himself]. I couldn’t help but get this sense of the modern seen. You could flip thru all the religious broadcasting of our day and get every possible conceivable viewpoint on some subject, ten thousand of them! But there is a consistent voice of truth and wisdom that comes to us from both scripture and church history/tradition. I think we would be better off sticking with ‘the father[s]’.

(950)1ST CORINTHIANS 4: 8-20 Paul tells them he’s glad they have an abundance of material things, though he as an apostle is lacking. He’s happy about their sterling reputation [among the elite, though a bad reputation as believers- see chapter 5!] though he is mocked and treated badly. He even says ‘till this hour I labor, working with my own hands trying to make ends meet’. I don’t want to harp on this too much, but I am trying to show you one of the themes that we overlook in today’s pastoral ministry mindset. When we taught the book of Acts [chapter 20] I showed you how Paul purposely worked to leave an example TO THE ELDERS at Ephesus. He called them over to Mellitus and gave them these instructions as he was about to depart. Here we see Paul telling the Corinthians, in a letter [he is not with them at this time] that he is STILL working with his own hands. We often think Paul only worked while at Corinth, in order to not take offerings from them. But a careful reading of the New Testament will show you that Paul made a habit of working all thru out his life. He never became ‘a fulltime apostle’ who was supported thru his apostolic gift. Now we also see Paul send Timothy to them as a ‘carrier’ of doctrine and order. Paul wrote 3 pastoral [I prefer to call them apostolic] epistles. Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy. These brothers were Paul's apostolic co-workers. They deposited the faith [basic Christian truth] into the communities they were overseeing. Paul knew he could trust them to ‘set things in order’ [an apostolic characteristic]. Some teach that in today’s ‘church world’ you can’t ‘have a church’ without the interplay of an apostle. That basically you need an apostle [in person] to interact with your community to keep things in order. Now, I think apostolic men are needed and helpful, but we also need to realize that we live in a day of mass communication like never before. The web, telecommunications. All sorts of stuff that Paul didn’t have. So let’s not be too dogmatic on stuff like this. I am sure Paul would have used these things if he had them. The basic thrust of Paul having a Timothy who could be sent to a community was for the purpose of seeing and impacting them in a ‘real time’ way. Paul was hearing rumors about their conduct, he is writing these letters to them. But he really needs to have ‘boots on the ground’, he needs to know firsthand what’s going on. Today this real time knowledge could be gained with a simple phone call, or e-mail. Paul also says Timothy will bring them into remembrance of his ways/teachings that Paul teaches ‘every where in every church’. Paul was depositing a consistent message of ‘faith and rule’ with all the churches he was planting. This of course didn’t mean the gentile churches had no individual expression of church life, but it did mean there were some consistent ‘rituals’ they were to follow. Things like we read in Acts ‘continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’ simple instructions on living as a community of people. The historic church has a tendency to use these verses to say ‘Paul taught high church liturgy’ well, not really. The ‘radical house church brothers’ [they describe themselves this way!] tend to teach that any consistent rule, or way ‘to act’ violates the ‘no leader rule’ [no pastor] and prohibits the free expression of the ecclesia. Well, this sounds noble, but Paul told the Corinthians ‘Timothy will show you my ways that I teach in all the churches’. It’s not wrong to have some basic order and instructions on ‘how to act, function as the New Testament ecclesia’.

(947) 1ST CORINTHIANS 3:11-23 Paul teaches that once the foundation of Jesus is laid, that no other foundation can come in and replace it. Remember, Paul is speaking about a spiritual foundation. He is not building ‘a literal building’! I know we know this, but for some reason modern church planters can’t seem to break the mindset of having a building ‘to do church’. Now we begin to get into some doctrine. I believe Paul begins a New Testament doctrine here that could be called ‘the sin unto natural death’ or the judgment of a believer when he falls into open sin and rebellion and refuses to repent. Now, I have looked at this doctrine from different views over the years. I try not to allow my own leaning towards reformed theology to effect me. But I have come down on the side of ‘eternal security’ in viewing these verses. Paul teaches that even though the foundation of Jesus is laid, it’s still possible to build a life of worthless things upon it. He says ‘if any man defiles Gods temple, him will God destroy’. This same language will be used in chapter 5 ‘deliver the sinning brother to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Paul also uses the term again here in chapter 3 ‘yet he will be saved as by fire’. Also in chapter 11 ‘for this cause many sleep [physical death] and are sick among you’ he uses this as a judgment that came upon them for their abuse of the Lords table. So reading this in context it sure seems that Paul is saying ‘if you, as a believer, allow yourself to fall into sin in such a way that you are doing permanent harm to the temple [which he describes as their bodies, both individually and corporately] than God will destroy you’. This seems to fit all these other verses. The apostle John also speaks on the ‘sin unto death’ [which I see as physical death] in his letter. He says ‘if any one sees his brother sin a sin unto death, I do not say you should pray for them’. Now, the Arminian brothers [those who do not believe in eternal security] obviously see these a different way. They would apply some of these verses as meaning the loss of salvation. Though I personally do not see it this way, yet they have some of their own scriptures to back up their belief. They are certainly not out of line with historic Christian belief to hold to this view. So Paul introduces [in my mind] the concept of the possibility of the rebellious believer falling into such a sin that he can ‘be destroyed’ [lose his life] while at the same time saying ‘yet his spirit will be saved’. This ‘in house’ instruction [in house meaning Paul’s dealing with them as believers who fall into sin] should not taint the overriding view of Paul in his entire corpus of teaching. His main teaching on ‘those who live in constant sin’ is they will not inherit the kingdom of God. John also teaches this doctrine in his epistle. So we begin to see the ‘minefield’ we can get into as we tread thru the New Testament. It will be important to make these distinctions with much grace as we continue our journey thru the New Testament. Many well meaning believers view the ‘other camps’ as heretics over these issues. I see it more as a matter of believers being influenced to see these verses from a sincere standpoint of their upbringing. If you were raised Baptist, you more than likely view them from a Calvinistic lens. If you were raised Pentecostal [or Methodist], from an Arminian lens. Both good camps, with their own ‘slant’ affecting their view. I don’t think we should call each other heretics over stuff like this.

(942)1st CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is ‘the most verified’ as being his. Of course we know this because Paul says so in the letter! But for all those intellectual higher critics, this helps. Corinth was a city of great influence and trade, many land and sea routes converged at Corinth and her port. The city was also known for her philosophers and ‘preachers of wisdom’ [Rhetoric]. They actually had a custom at Corinth in which you could ‘hire’ your own ‘preacher of wisdom’. These were the traveling teachers who made a living at speaking. This also might be why Paul specifically said ‘when I was with you I did not take money from you’. The custom of the traveling preachers was you could pay a one time honorarium for a single speech, or you could actually hire a regular speaker and have him ‘on salary’. Paul did not want the Corinthians to think that he was their hired preacher! How much influence this type of trade would have on the later development of the ‘hired clergy’ is unknown, but the similarities are striking. The famous 5th century bishop of Hippo, North Africa, Saint Augustine, made his living as one of these traveling teachers of philosophy before becoming a Christian. It’s believed that Paul wrote a 3rd letter to the church at Corinth, so what we know as 1st, 2nd Corinthians might actually be letters 2 and 3. I personally think Corinthians holds special value for the church today. The 21st century believer is being challenged on her Ecclesiology, the whole idea of what the church is. In Corinthians we see a specific picture of what the church is and on how she should meet. Paul will not address ‘the Pastor’ [there was none in the modern sense of the office] but he will speak directly to the brothers at Corinth and give them some heavy responsibilities to carry out [like committing a brother to satan for the destruction of his flesh! Ouch]. Paul went to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey and spent 18 months with them [Acts 18] one of the longest stays at any church. Because of the pagan background of the city Paul will address specific issues related to believers and certain practices of idol worship. Eating meat offered to idols and stuff like that. Corinth also practiced a form of idolatry that included prostitution, so he will deal severely with the loose sexual morals of the people at Corinth. Well we have a lot to cover in the next few weeks, try and read Corinthians on your own as we plunge into this study, it will help a lot.

(939)2ND SAMUEL 22- David exalts the Lord and mentions many themes that are found thru out scripture. He also says ‘the Lord has rewarded me according to the cleanness of my hands… he has recompensed me according to my righteousness’. Though David is renown for his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband, yet we must see that David’s repentance was real. Ultimately David turned from his sin and God did bless him. We don’t want people to get the impression that repentance did not matter, in David’s case it made all the difference in the world. David also says ‘the Lord is merciful to those who are merciful…and hard with those who are hard’ Jesus says this in Matthew 5. David says ‘God took me and placed me in a large place’. One of the most frustrating things is to be operating from the wrong paradigm. Too often we leave the impression with young Pastors that their ‘job’ is to preach to 30 people a week for 30 years, marry them, bury them, perform the job of the ‘hired clergyman’ and this is what it means to be faithful. While I recognize that many well meaning men are functioning out of this mind set, yet God puts in people [all of his people, not just ‘full time ministers’!] a ‘large place’ to function out of. Now, when I say ‘large place’ don’t think building, think ‘the area, groups of people that I will influence thru out my life’. Scripture says God took David from ‘following the sheep’ [small pastoral mindset] to being king over the nation. God simply gave David great influence and stature for the sake of his people. Jesus said ‘you have been faithful over a little, I will now give you authority over 10 cities’. Are you frustrated because you are supposed to be ‘over 10 cities’ and are still dealing with ‘the little’? Be faithful to the day of small things right now, promotion comes from God alone. ‘You have made me the head of the heathen…strangers shall serve me. As soon as they hear me they will submit’. These are Messianic themes found elsewhere in scripture ‘ask of me and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, the ends of the earth for your possession’. Jesus became the ‘head of the heathen’ he is Lord over the gentile nations, John calls this ‘the other flock’ in his gospel. God gave both David and Jesus authority for the benefit of people. What kind of people? The lost, down and out. Those who society rejected. God gives us authority for the ‘sake of the heathen’. Don’t see your ‘ministry’ as a gift to the ‘upper class’ only, spend some time ‘with the heathen’.

(935)2ND SAMUEL 18- David and his men regroup and mount a counter attack against Absalom. They divide into 3 groups and go for it. David tells his men ‘take it easy on Absalom’. Why? Understand that David is seeing the prophetic judgment upon his family that was a result of his own sin. I wonder how many times David saw the fulfillment of this former word [the sword will never depart from your house] thru the seeming insignificant acts of Absalom along the way. David felt guilt over this whole rebellion mounted by his son. Now the battle rages and David and his men kill around 20 thousand troops of Absalom. Word gets back to Joab that Absalom got his hair caught in some tree and is hanging in the tree. Joab says ‘why didn’t you kill him!’ the messenger says ‘God forbid that I should kill the king’s son! I heard the strict orders from the king for no one to take his life’. My King James Version says Joab responded with ‘I may not tarry thus with thee’ in today’s terms ‘I can’t waste time listening to your reasoning’. Joab goes and kills the king’s son. When I read thru this chapter earlier this morning I saw 2 possible things here. First, Joab and his history with David are one of Joab being a ‘bloody man’. He killed Abner against the king’s wishes, and now Absalom. Why in the world did David not remove Joab from this position earlier? One reason, Joab knew how to war. The boy was capable; he knew how to get the job done. In ministry [or business] loyalty is important; people need to be able to carry out the decisions of leadership. But loyalty in and of itself doesn’t cut it, you need skills and abilities as well. You say ‘that’s not fair’ well if you don’t have the skills go get them for heavens sake! Proverbs says knowledge is in the street corners calling out to the simple and saying ‘come, receive of my learning’. The resources are there, laziness prevents people from accessing them effectively. Now Joab also acted responsibly to some degree. He realized that Absalom would be a permanent threat to David’s rule, he killed him and saved many. Right after his death Joab blows the trumpet and the battle is called off. 2 Messengers run to bring the word to David. Ephesians says ‘blessed are the feet of those who bring the gospel’ Gospel simply means ‘good news’. In the New Testament this good news was the reality of Jesus death, burial and resurrection [1st Corinthians 15] but in the Old Testament it was simply the news from ‘the runner’. You could tell from the way the runner was running whether the news was good or bad. How? Say if your wife took a lotto ticket that said ‘you one a million dollars’ and said ‘I am going to ask the store clerk if it’s real’. As you are waiting in the parking lot you see her coming out of the store. Do you think you would be able to tell if the news was good or bad by watching the way she approaches the car? So this was what the king looked for as the messengers came running. If they bore good news their feet had this special pep to them. News gets back to David and he is broken over the death of his son ‘O Absalom, my son Absalom. Would God I had died in your place’ I always stop and meditate this verse every time I read it thru my yearly reading thru the bible. This contains the heart of the Father in redemption. A few more things; in this chapter it said that Absalom raised up a monument/pillar after ‘his own name’. Because he didn’t have any sons to carry on his legacy, he left ‘a thing’ that would honor his name after he died. Absalom didn’t simply have a rebellion issue against his father, he really wanted to build for himself a legacy. His motivations were self serving. Jesus warns the leaders of his movement not to approach ‘church and ministry’ with the same ‘gentile’ [worldly] concepts of leadership. The world often succeeds thru the motivation of greed and lust and power. It’s very easy to fall into the Absalom mindset and take it out on Gods people when the ‘pillar’ [the thing of ministry] doesn’t ‘go up right’. Many well meaning sincere men have been side tracked into seeking fame and acceptance by seeing ministry thru the lens of ‘I want to leave some institution that will bear witness to my name after I am gone’. Ministry, according to Jesus, does not operate along these lines. In Absalom’s obsession to become famous in the eyes of men, he went down a path that did leave a memorial to his name for generations to come. We just read it.

(934)2ND SAMUEL 17- Absalom is strengthening his position as the new king. Ahithophel, his chief counselor, advises to strike while the irons hot. He tells Absalom ‘let me gather a 12 thousand man army and quickly pursue David. I will come upon him and his men while they are tired and fearful, then I will kill David only and bring the people back to you’. Now, this advice was the best, but Absalom asks for the advice of Hushai also. He was the secret spy that was really on David’s side. He advises Absalom to wait and gather all the people and mount a broad attack. God put it in the heart of Absalom to believe the bad advice [bad for Absalom, good for David!]. So Ahithophel sees that his counsel is rejected, he goes and hangs himself! Once again we see the ‘sword of David’s enemies enter into their own heart’. Remember what we said earlier about this? So Hushai sends word to David about the plan and David responds accordingly. Leaders, understand the strategy of our mortal enemy [satan]. He wants to target you when you and your people are weary and tired. He wants to take you down more than any other thing. The bible teaches ‘smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’. Now this is a Messianic prophecy with a lot of meaning, but one of the points is the lead ‘point man’ is usually the main target of the opposing side. How can we mitigate this factor? Practice plural leadership as much as possible. The new testament churches were not ‘run by a Pastor’ in the way we do it today. So adjust your leadership paradigm and bring it more into alignment with scripture. Also, spread ‘the wealth around’ [a recent key issue with the newly elected president, Barack Obama]. If you can get the wisdom and truth that God has communicated to you into the hands of many others, then you have accomplished a lot. Paul told Timothy ‘the things that you have learned and been assured of, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’. This is true apostolic ministry. David will survive this rebellion against his kingdom, but if Absalom listened to the best counsel David would have been finished for sure.

(924)2ND SAMUEL 8- As David extends his rule he allows the defeated territories to maintain a level of self governing. The military principle is defeat [demoralize] your enemy, but don’t totally wipe him out. Either put a puppet king over them [Israel’s enemies will do this to her down the road!] or allow the ruling leaders to stay under tribute. Why do this? Some feel our country violated this principle in the present war with Iraq [2008]. The pundits say ‘why did Bush dismantle the Iraqi army, they should have simply allowed them to remain under U.S. rule’. First, the talking heads would have never been satisfied. I could hear Chris Matthews now ‘why in the world did Bush leave the army in place! Doesn’t he know that they were infiltrated with terrorists?’ But David allowed the defeated areas to exist under his rule. He wiped out some of their men, but not all. I think the modern concept of ‘extending Christ’s rule’ thru church planting can learn some lessons here. In the first century ‘church planting’ was the simple process of preaching the gospel to regions of people. Those who believed were baptized and continued in the apostle’s doctrine and the ways of Jesus. The first century ‘church planters’ were not trying to provide buildings and weekly ‘preaching services’ and long term dependence upon the Pastoral ministry. For the most part these new converts were to ‘self maintain’ under the direction of more grounded brothers in the Lord [elders]. This allowed for the ‘conquered territories’ [conquered by the sword of the Spirit, not the sword of man!] to function relatively easily on their own with out a lot of heavy financing and building programs and all sorts of stuff that the modern concept of ‘church planting’ has brought along for the ride. David simply put troops in these conquered cities [Jesus sent them out 2 by 2] and these areas of people understood that they were servants to the king! They paid tribute [I would associate this with the New Testament doctrine of giving as a community, not the Levitical tithe] and the Davidic kingdom [gospel] could spread rapidly in a short period of time. David had men working along side him; priests and scribes and stuff. He did ‘justly’ and ruled with integrity. He exemplified the character of a true leader, but did not back down from his God given authority. God established him as a leader in Israel. The boy did his job!

(923)2ND SAMUEL 7- As David’s house is becoming established, he says to himself ‘I live in this great cedar house, and God is dwelling openly in this tent. I know what I will do; I will build a house/building for God also’. Good intent, bad imagery! David tells the plan to Nathan the prophet and Nathan says ‘go, do all that is in your heart’ and everything seems fine. That very night the Lord appears to Nathan in a vision and rebukes the whole scheme ‘Have I ever asked for someone to build me a house? All the years of journeying with my people, don’t you think if I wanted to dwell in some temple that I would have already done it!’. Basically Nathan and David get reproved big time. Why? Up until now God ‘dwelt’ in 2 separate tabernacle/systems. The Mosaic one was a type of law and separation between God and men. You had the classic veil separating God from the people. The ‘holy of holies’ [back room] was a type of mans separation from God because of mans sin. Now, after David retrieved the ark and brought it to Jerusalem. He set it up under an open tent called ‘the tent/tabernacle of David’. From this vantage point you had a beautiful picture of the future Messianic reign under Christ [of whom David is a symbol] where the people would all have open access to God. In essence ‘no more veil’. So even though David’s intentions are good, he is messing up the image. God still confirms his calling on David and his family/dynasty and we see one of those dual messianic prophecies that speak of Solomon and Jesus at the same time. God says he will raise up a permanent throne thru the loins of David and David will have a never ending rule. For this to happen someone obviously needs to be born from the lineage of David who will ‘have the power of an endless life’ [Hebrews]. Gee, I wonder who that could be? God’s intricate plan of salvation that is contained in these Old Testament books, written many years before Christ, couldn’t have been some made up 1st century story. It would have been impossible to have coordinated all the prophetic portions of scripture that tie together in Christ. Even the original writers and readers of Israel’s history could not have seen the unfolding of prophetic events that were to be fulfilled in Christ. We finish the chapter with David praising God and recognizing in humility that God has spoken about his family and purpose for ages to come. David sees that God is calling him to something greater than just being a human king, having a brief political history. God has plans for David even after David’s death! God spoke of David’s ongoing effect thru his seed [kids] that would continue for many generations to come. God wants all of us to live with a kingdom [not human!] legacy in mind. Paul the apostle built a gentile church that has lasted for 2 thousand years, he was a man of humble means. He left behind no edifice or bulky institution. But his ‘seed’ [spiritual kids] have outlasted him for many generations to come.

(918)2ND SAMUEL 3- Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, king of Israel. He accuses Abner of sleeping with one of his fathers concubines [second wife type thing]. And Abner, the military leader who for the most part propped up Ishbosheth as a puppet king for his own sake, gets irate and says ‘who do you think I am that you accuse me like this? I am not some dog that you can mistreat! I will now turn over the kingdom to David. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be a king!’ and Ishbosheth remains stunned and silent. What happened here? When men join a ‘team’ [church-organization] out of jealousy and competition, they see themselves as helping the leader as a by-product of there own selfish motivations. We often see churches/organizations compete with one another like professional ball teams ‘how many games did your team with this season/ what was your average attendance this year?’ and stuff like that. When ministry leaders/staff see their ‘church’ from this type of perspective, then as soon as the leader offends you, you respond like Abner ‘how dare this guy speak to me like that! Doesn’t he know if it weren’t for my support he wouldn’t even be here!’ Now, I am not defending either side in this scenario, I feel for the most part that both of these responses/attitudes are not found in the churches of the New Testament. Because the churches in scripture were communities of believers who lived in your city. They weren’t established along these corporate ideas at all. Now Abner goes to David and tells him ‘I am now with you [people can be fickle!] and will do my best to bring all Israel to you’ David makes the deal and Joab, David’s military man says ‘what did you do? Abner was here simply to spy on you, his motives are wrong!’ Joabs brother was killed earlier by Abner himself, Joab was not willing to make peace with Abner. After all there is only room for one military commander, and Joab is not about to accept a demotion for this late comer to the party. Joab calls Abner back and kills him. David hears what happened and washes his hands from the whole matter. In this chapter we see how the motivations and selfish intentions of people cause strife. I feel the whole scenario of ‘whose side are you on, which ‘local team’ [church] is your team?’ leads us into these types of positioning and intrigue. In the New Testament you did not see Paul interacting this way between the local churches [communities of believers] he was establishing. For the most part he was teaching them to be faithful to the gospel and would only exercise apostolic authority when things got out of hand. He would appeal to his proof of who he was by saying ‘I am the one who brought you the gospel in the first place, don’t listen to these false teachers who are drawing you away from the truth’. But you did not see a dynamic of ‘are you supporting my apostolic ministry or not? If you are not faithful to my ministry then I no longer have time for you’. These limited ideas cause us to compete with one another. Abner and Joab were men who wanted self advancement and recognition, they aligned themselves with various leaders for their own purposes, this is not the family mindset that Jesus will instill in his future leaders.

(917)2nd SAMUEL 2- David inquires of the Lord if he should go up into the cities of Judah. The Lord tells him to go to Hebron. David becomes the king of Judah and rules from Hebron for 7.5 years. From this point on the southern portion of Israel will be referred to as ‘Judah’ and the northern tribes are called ‘Israel’. Abner, king Saul’s commander, anoints another son of Saul as the king of the other tribes. So you have Joab, David’s commander and Abner, the military leader of the opposing king. Joab and Abner meet up on the field. Abner suggests a sort of competition between the men. A fight ensues and good men die needlessly. Joab pursues Abner and his men and Abner winds up killing a brother of Joab. He did not want things to escalate to this degree! He tried to spare the brother, but in self defense he killed him. Abner tells Joab 'stop chasing us, why should there be more bloodshed between us, we are all brothers’? I see here the ‘innocent’ spirit of competition that got out of hand. When God’s leaders begin comparing the skills of their people against the skills of others, then people become pawns on a ministry chess board. Competition is a deadly thing that exists in the church, the lines between successful corporate ideas and Gods communal church have been blurred for a long time, this causes us to be vulnerable to this type of thing. Joab and Abner retreat and go home. David becomes king of Judah in Hebron. He will eventually consolidate the kingdom under his rule [he will reign for 33 years out of Jerusalem. A type of Jesus, who walked the holy land for 33 years until the Cross] and the kingdom will split again under Solomon’s sons rule. The divided history of the northern [Israel] and southern [Judah] tribes are seen as a judgment from God for various reasons thru out Israel’s history. For the most part the kings of Judah are better than the kings of Israel, but they will both have good and bad kings over time. I see a picture of the historic divisions of Christianity thru this history. Eventually you will have some who feel they have a ‘more pure religion and priesthood’ under the Orthodox and Protestant expressions of Christianity [I too hold to this to some degree] but yet God will eventually rebuke Judah as being worse than her northern ‘sister’! As we teach the Old Testament in the years to come I will try and trace these developments as we get to them.

(916)2ND SAMUEL 1- David returns to Ziklag after recovering everything and a messenger from the battle with Saul comes thru. David asks ‘what happened at the battle’? David hears for the first time that Saul and Jonathan died. He asks for details and the Amalekite tells the story of Saul’s death. This story is a little different from the one previously recorded. In the previous chapters Saul is said to have fallen on his sword. Here the Amalekite says ‘I saw Saul wounded and he asked me to slay him. He was at the point of death so I killed him to take him out of his misery’. Some feel this is a lie, that the brother was trying to make himself look good by fudging. I think he might be telling the truth. After all if he were trying to make himself look good, you probably wouldn’t say ‘I killed a wounded guy’. Either way he tells the story. David responds in anger ‘why do you think your bragging about this is noble! You killed a leader who God used mightily’ and David instructs his men to kill him. David finishes the chapter with a song of praise and remembrance for Saul and Jonathan. He extols their virtues in battle ‘swift like eagles, strong like lions’ and he invokes Israel to mourn for the great loss. I see a noble thing here. Even though Saul was rejected and his leadership style was being removed, yet the ‘new order’ [David] refused to despise the reality of the good times that were initiated under Saul. He still showed respect for ‘the old order’. Many times in studying church history you read of ‘the dark ages’. The centuries that are between the intuitional period of Christendom and the renaissance/reformation era. Often times this period is looked at as a period of ‘no value’. But in reality there were some spiritual things that came forth from the ‘old order’ that were of great value. The desert fathers and other great Christian mystics. The reality that the church became the sole arbiter in many international disputes of the times. Yes there were some bad things, but good stuff too! David was smart enough to begin his dynastic rule with crediting his former enemy with the respect and honor he deserved.

(915)SAMUEL 31- The Philistines pursue Israel and Saul and his sons are killed. Saul tells his armor bearer to kill him, the armor bearer is afraid to do it. So Saul falls on his own sword. The enemy takes Saul’s body and cuts off his head and they pin him and his sons up on a wall for public humiliation. The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead hear of it and they get his body and give him a proper burial. David will soon become the king. It’s kind of a sad way to end 1st Samuel. Saul and his sons really die, Jonathan was killed. A true warrior with a pure heart. I think we need to recognize the danger involved with the kingdom. There are times where men and woman of God have come under attack and have fallen. A few years back there were a few public scandals of believers who fell. Some just go away, others try and get back into the ministry. Often times there is no real facing up to the issues and an honest appraisal of what happened. I think many of these believers would be helpful if they wrote a book or shared openly about their struggles and difficulties. But the church has a tendency to cover up the real dangers involved in the ministry. Also Saul commits suicide. There are few suicides in scripture. We know Judas killed himself as well. If I remember right there is a Psalm that speaks of the sword of your enemies entering into them! A basic reality of a curse that comes upon those who fight believers [Gods anointed ones] that they will die at their own hands [or you don’t have to ‘get them’ yourself!]. Jesus taught us to not resist and take out vengeance on our enemies. It seems as if in both of these cases [Saul and Judas] that they fell victim to this judgment from God. How should we view this? Jesus and David were Gods ‘anointed ones’. Can we say that those who challenge present authority structures are rebelling against ‘Gods anointed’? This challenge has been made many times over the years. The two great divisions of western Christianity, the ‘Great Schism’ of 1054 [where the Eastern church- Orthodox, split from the Western branch] and the 16th century Reformation. Both had to do with believers resisting what they felt to be unscriptural authority as seen in the doctrine of apostolic succession thru Peter to the Popes. In both of these cases the ‘rebels’ were considered to be resisting ‘Gods authority’. I see it a little different. In Saul’s case he actually was the old order authority who was resisting change to the ‘old way’. God was bringing in a new anointed one thru David, and Saul was fighting the change. And of course Judas was coming against Jesus, who would institute the most radical change to mans approach to God that would ever come on the scene [in essence Jesus was eliminating the old order priesthood and making all believers priests!] I feel that these truths can apply to the current of change in our day. As the people of God transition from an ‘old order’ idea of leadership, to a more communal concept, both sides need to have respect and appreciation for each other. The new order [organic ecclesia] needs to appreciate all that the old order accomplished, and the old authority structures need to see the writing on the wall.

(909)SAMUEL 25- THERE ARE MANY SERVANTS THESE DAYS WHO BREAK AWAY FROM THEIR MASTER! We see the death of Samuel and the story of David and Nabal. When David was on the run with his small army, he had provided shelter for Nabal's men while in the fields. So David figures it’s time to cash in on the goodwill that he showed to Nabal’s men. He sends some servants to Nabal’s house to remind him of the favor that was done, and to humbly ask ‘can you in return show us some favor and provide us with some supply’? Nabal is considered a fool and replies ‘Who is this David, another one of the many rebels of this day?’ and Nabal refuses to help. Now David hears of the response and decides ‘I have had it! Let’s strap it on’. On the way to wipe out Nabal the servants of Nabal tell his wife Abigail what happened. They speak well of David and Abigail quickly puts together a supply and sends it to David. She averts the disaster that was imminent. The next day Nabal hears what happened and falls into a stroke type condition and dies within a few days. David takes Abigail to be his wife. I sort of see in Nabal a type of response to the new authority structures that God is raising up in the kingdom. David of course is a type of Jesus, but we also see all leadership types in David. In the present system of ‘local church’ there is a legitimate challenge to the ‘old type pastoral model’. Now, some in the past have challenged leadership out of rebellion. But there are very scriptural questions to the development of the one man leadership model that prevails in today’s idea of church. It is easy to mistake these challenges as ‘another rebellious movement like the others of days gone by’. During the reformation of the 16th century you also had this response. But there actually are real times of change and upheaval that come from God. Nabal stuck David in a category of ‘another one of those rebellious types’ but his judgment was way off. Nabal did not act righteously in this challenge to Godly authority. He used ‘rebellion’ as a false defense of his unwillingness to give David and his men their due. There are good men who are seeing the legitimacy of the present challenges to the old authority structures. But then there are others who are not even willing to give a fair hearing to the ‘David’s’ and just assume all new ideas are acts of rebellion. This can breed dangerous responses from both sides. Out of frustration David, who was right in this case, almost committed an act of retaliation that would have forever scarred his ministry. Nabal realized what a foolish judgment he had made and lost his life over it. It would have been better if the old guard recognized the legitimacy of the new guard and tried to hammer out an amicable solution.

(908)SAMUEL 24- Saul heard that David is at Engedi, he pursues him. When they get in the area Saul goes into a random cave to ‘use the restroom’. Lo and behold, this just happens to be the one cave that David and his men are hiding in! David’s men tell him ‘see, the lord has delivered your enemy into your hand’. David secretly cuts a piece of Saul’s robe off. As Saul leaves the cave David reveals himself and bows to the ground and tells Saul ‘see my father, today I had the chance to kill you, but instead I spared your life. Why are you listening to all the rumors that people are saying about me?’ Notice, Saul was being fed gossip about David, and this was affecting David! We need to overcome the reality that part of the cost of ministry is people are going to lie about you and other people will believe it. Yes, Jesus did say this was part of the cost ‘if they spoke falsely about me, then they will about you. But when this happens rejoice! For this is also what happened to the prophets’. Hey, if you want to run with the big boys, then this is part of the price. Now David’s men also were affecting his thinking ‘Look, now’s the chance to get your enemy. After all if God didn’t want you to get even he would have never brought Saul into the cave’. Leaders have to be worried about their own men’s advice as well! It’s hard to walk this fine line at times, but true leadership listens to council and should err on the side of mercy. This is a good rule of thumb. Saul tells David ‘forgive me son, this day you have proven me wrong. Surely you will eventually become the king’. Saul goes home and David goes back to the stronghold in the wilderness. David realized that no matter how many times the lord would defend him against Saul, that Saul would be a permanent obstacle. Why? It’s in mans nature to want to retaliate against change. Especially change that involves a removal of authority that was at one time used by God! Saul was not the original intent of God [or David!] but once God’s people traveled down the road of kingship, God did use this mode of authority. Now Saul did become addicted to power. Even though leaders have good hearts and mean well, when there comes a change of authority [like the movement of communal church where there no longer is the role of ‘the pastor’] this challenges leadership at its core. Even if leaders become convinced that a change is coming [like Saul recognizing David’s destiny] still the sinful nature of man will come back and rears it ugly head. David knew that Saul would be back on his trail soon.

(904)SAMUEL 20- David is on the run, he tells Jonathan ‘why is your dad trying to kill me? I have done nothing wrong!’ Jonathan tells David that he knows nothing about it, it must be a rumor. David says ‘no, your dad knows you like me, he isn’t telling you because he thinks you will reveal it to me’. Jonathan says ‘my dad does nothing unless he reveals it to me’. A type of Jesus in John’s gospel. David says ‘I’ll prove it. Tomorrow is a feast day, I am supposed to sit at the kings table. Instead I will hide in the field for 3 days [a type of Jesus in the grave] and when you are eating with Saul, if he says ‘where’s David’ and gets irate, then the cat is out of the bag’. So the plan is launched and Saul holds the dinner. On day two he asks Jonathan ‘where’s’ old David today, I noticed he has been missing’. Jonathan says ‘Oh, I let him go to his home town for a special family thing’. Saul says ‘thou son of that rebellious women’! You think he went for the bait? Sure enough Jonathan confirms to David that he was right and they make a covenant to always respect and protect each other and their future kids. This will come back to David down the road when he spares a relative of Jonathan. Saul confronted Jonathan and said ‘why are you protecting David? As long as he lives you will never be established’. Saul knew that Jonathan’s success was dependent on David’s downfall. Jonathan was very noble, he didn’t see the success of another Israelite as something to compete with. Leaders often fall into this trap of comparing their ‘ministries’ with so and so. I feel the wrong idea’s of local church breed this attitude. When we see ‘local church’ as the various independent Christian businesses that are all trying to accomplish tasks, then this breeds this competitive spirit. When we see ‘local church’ as the entire family of believers in our city [Jonathans family mindset] then we will overcome the spirit of competition.

(898)SAMUEL 15- Samuel instructs Saul to go and wipe out the Amalekites. He goes and conquers the city but saves the sheep and oxen and other valuables. Samuel confronts Saul and says ‘you disobeyed the Lord by not totally destroying everything’. Saul says ‘Well, we saved the good stuff so we could sacrifice it to the lord’. Samuel tells him ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’. God wanted obedience more than religious worship. The writer of Hebrews quotes David in the Psalms ‘sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a Body hast thou prepared me’. Jesus obedience to the father by dying on a Cross trumped the sacrificial system of the law. Saul messed up the picture! Samuel calls for king Agag, the Amalekite king who Saul captured. Agag thinks ‘great, they aren’t going to harm me now. After all the Pastor wants me’! Well surprise, Samuel takes out his sword and hacks old Agag in pieces! Saul must of thought ‘Gee, I really messed up this time. I never even knew the Pastor carried a blade’. A few things. Over the next century or so [if the Lord tarries] I believe the church is going to go thru a type of modern reformation. Today we see many well meaning believers ‘sacrificing’ their time and money and lives into a system of church that is fundamentally disconnected from the picture and nature of church as described in the New Testament. Now, I am not calling for an iconoclastic tearing down of all church buildings! But if the American church stopped all new building programs [finish the ones that are in transit, but no more!] and if we all began actually, daily giving of our time and resources to helping the poor and reaching out to the lost. We would need a hundred years at least in order to bring the balance back to the New Testament [where over 90 % of all giving was charitable]. Jesus and the disciples practiced a lifestyle where all were responsible to lay their lives down for the gospel. There are actual commands in scripture that say ‘you who are not working, get a job so you can have something to give away to those who are in need’. These are real commands that should be ‘obeyed’. But what we have taught Gods people is if they work real hard and sacrifice [as compared to obeying !] then they can put lots of money in towards the next project or building or whatever. Now some of the resources being gathered in this way are used for good things, but the underlying problem is we have given the average saint the impression that this way of sacrificing is more important than actually obeying. I cant tell you the number of believers who simply do not see it as their personal responsibility to ‘give to him that asks of you’ ‘how does Gods love dwell in you if you see a brother in need and don’t help’ ‘if you do it to the least of these my brethren you do it to me’. But there is not a single command in all of the New Testament to bring a tithe for the purpose of building a church facility. Now, it’s okay to build them to a degree, but are we teaching people that this type of sacrificial giving [towards the machinery of modern ministry] releases them from the primary command to obey? The church will go thru a rethinking of what church means, as we travel along this road we need to obey more than to sacrifice.

(897)SAMUEL 14- Saul and the people are hiding in fear, Jonathan tells his armor bearer ‘Lets go up to the enemy and show ourselves. If they tell us ‘come here’ we will take it as a sign from the Lord and fight. God can save by many or by few’. They go up and defeat around 20 men in half an acre of land. The scripture says the enemy trembled and the earth as well! It seems like the Lord shook things up, literally! [Another reminder of the book of Acts]. Saul and his people see the enemy fleeing and can’t figure out what’s happened. He takes a quick roll call and realizes Jonathan is gone. They figure out what has happened and enter the fray. The people pursue the enemy and have great victory. Saul says ‘let no man eat today until the sun goes down’. He begins making community wide decisions that are harmful to the people. Jonathan doesn’t hear this rash decision and eats some honey. The people are shocked. They know the curse of Saul. They finally win the battle and they seek the Lord for further instructions. God is silent. Saul figures it’s because there is sin in the camp and they find out that Jonathan was the one who ate the honey. Jonathan says ‘yea, I did eat it, and now I must die’? Sort of like ‘what a stupid and rash thing for you to have said! The people were all tired and drained because of following your singular ideas that were pronounced to the whole community. They would have gained strength if they simply did what was natural and ate when they were hungry’. Saul honors his stupid agenda over his own son and says ‘that’s right, you must die’. He was more willing to kill his son then to admit he was wrong. The people stand up with one voice and say ‘no way Saul, Jonathan has won a great victory. You will not get away with this’! What happened here? Was Saul so inherently evil that he couldn’t help himself? I think what we see here is the result of the mistake for Israel to have wanted a king like the other nations. When the church historically began to be centered around singular authority figures [monarchial episcopacy] you began to loose the freedom and health of the people of God to ‘feed themselves when hungry’. They began to become dependant upon the institutional church to tell them about God and his truth. Eventually you would have the modern expression of highly entrepreneurial ministries that would find well meaning Pastors trying to make corporate wide decisions in ways that were absent from the local churches in scripture. When the people of God lean too heavily on the gifts and leadings of one man, there is a tendency for the leader to come up with goals and decrees that are contrary to the full purpose of God. It is inherent in man to set goals and make broad decisions. That’s not wrong in itself. But the people of God in scripture are formed along the lines of a community of people, not a 501c3 corporation. So the well meaning Pastors have a natural tendency to say ‘what decisions should I make for the church this year? What goals and dreams should we put before the people’ and this inevitably leads to entire communities of believers being too focused on the singular directions of well meaning men. I think Saul simply came up with things to say because he felt he needed to exert leadership. God’s people really didn’t need Saul from the start! As far as I can see from reading the New Testament, the only corporate ‘goal’ or project that Paul would put before the people was his collecting of money for the poor. Now of course there were many spiritual goals of growth and becoming mature believers who praise and glorify God. But I don’t see any other ‘project’ that Paul was regularly laying before the people to join. No structure in the churches of scripture where Paul would say ‘Now Corinth, when I come back next year lets see 50 house churches, reaching 48 % of this region. And oh yes, lets raise this much money for this project’. Much of the modern church is too centered around these types of pleas. The many well meaning men who are operating out of good intentions for the most part are ‘just doing what kings [leaders- C.E.O.'s] are supposed to do’. The fundamental flaw is God never originally intended for his people to be structured along these lines. Many up and coming believers are seeing this and coming out of these limited structures. They are telling Saul with one corporate voice ‘you wont get away with this anymore’. [‘Saul’ in this scenario is not your individual Pastor, who for the most part is probably a good man who loves God. But ‘Saul’ is speaking to the whole concept of modern pastoral ministry that is absent from the churches in scripture].

(893)SAMUEL 10- Samuel anoints Saul with oil. He gives him very specific prophetic direction ‘you will meet 2 men, then 3. They will be carrying 3 loaves of bread and give you 2’. Very particular information. Saul will meet a company of prophets and prophesy with them. The scripture says the Lord changed Saul into another man thru this prophetic experience. Once again we see not only the significance of Israel being under the divine direction of the prophetic [thru Samuel]. But his prophetic office also opened the door for a ‘whole company of prophets’ having freedom to function in their gifts. Over the years I have found it interesting to see how easy it is to live your entire Christian experience in different camps. Some of the more refined brothers [Reformed, Orthodox] have a great advantage in the field of intellectual pursuit [which is a good thing!] but might not be aware of the sector in the church that deals with the prophetic. The prophetic ministry has grown and even produced some fine intellectual material [some bad stuff too!] The point is we need to try and be aware [at least have a working knowledge] of the many streams that operate in the Body of Christ. You might not agree with a lot of the doctrinal positions that these various groups hold to, but as members of Christ’s church they do represent a certain sector of the church. Saul will follow thru and see all the prophetic signs come to pass in one day. Samuel instructs him to wait for him to come and publicly recognize him as king. After 7 days Samuel comes to town and Saul is hiding. He feared all the things that were coming upon him. Samuel finds him and publicly recognizes him. Also Samuel told the people that their choice of a human king was rejection of God. Some of the people are glad about Saul, others despise him from the start. There is a strange dynamic that I have seen at work over the years. When individual personalities and goals pit themselves against other people’s visions, there seems to be a division that is not healthy. I have had good friends who wanted to publicly join and be identified with ‘my ministry’. I would simply tell them ‘there really is nothing to join, we are simply believers trying to live out the Kingdom of God’. Then other pastors would see that some of the homeless people that they are working with have become ‘joined’ to us in a strong relational way. Then I would sense a kind of mindset that would say to the homeless person ‘well, if brother John has such good influence with you, maybe you should be with him instead of us’. They would not say this in a bad way, just in a way that is prevalent in the present mindset of ‘doing church’. I see all these divisions as silly, they come from an idea of local church that has many various ‘local churches’ [Christian ministries] as seeing themselves as independent entities who are trying to instill loyalty in people. ‘Are you with us or against us’ type attitudes. In Saul’s case he had friends and enemies right from the start. When individual personalities and agendas [which God warned them about!] become preeminent in the minds of the people [contrary to the corporate comminutes as seen in the local churches in scripture] then there is a natural tendency to take sides.

(891)SAMUEL 8- Samuel’s sons are appointed as judges over Israel [leaders]. They are wicked, just like the sons of Eli. I find this interesting, Samuel was a product to some degree of his ‘spiritual elder’. Even though Samuel himself was a righteous man, yet he passed on to his kids the same leadership style that he tutored under. The children of Israel come to him and request a king ‘like the other nations’. It is important to see that God states clearly that this is not part of ‘the original plan’. God will tell Samuel that this desire for human leadership, along the lines of other ‘gentile nations’ is rebellion. Jesus will tell the disciples ‘the gentiles exercise lordship over one another, it shall not be like this with you’. Israel wanted to be dominated by a king! God tells Samuel to show them what they are asking for. And then goes thru a long list of things ‘he will take the best of your people and use them for self advancement. He will require a tenth of all you have. He will build a legacy for himself and his name by using you as resources to attain a personal goal of achievement’. In essence the lord is warning them that when you raise up human leadership in a singular way [one king] that violates the plural mindset of scripture, then you inevitably will become a servant to human institutions and purposes. I find it interesting that the Lord mentions the tithe and how this will arise as a result of wrong ideas on what leadership should be. Historically the early church did not practice tithing. As the centuries rolled along tithing was originally instituted as a ‘tax’ from the church/state on the people to support the institutional purposes of the church/state. In essence the tithe/tenth did become a means whereby human government would obtain power and prestige among the gentile nations. The word of the Lord was true! [It’s okay for believers to give 10 % to the church on Sunday, the curse of the law on those who do not do this should not be invoked from Malachi. The appeal should be based on grace giving]. Israel will get her king, God will eventually use the Kings of Israel for his prophetic purposes. David and Solomon will be pictures of Jesus and his future rule. Just like the temple, God will initially tell David ‘who do you think you are trying to build a house for me’? [Thru the prophet Nathan] but will still use the temple as a prophetic type of the people of God being a ‘holy temple’. So the Lord will allow sinful man to obtain things contrary to his original purpose, and yet still be glorified thru these requests. Also the sons of Samuel went astray ‘after lucre’ [verse 3]. Just like Paul and Peters warnings in the New Testament ‘taking the oversight, not for filthy lucre’ ‘some have strayed from the faith while coveting money’ so Samuels boys fell to this temptation. I know it’s popular in today’s circles to simply overlook all these verses from scripture. Many sincere men do not see them because their ‘grid’ of interpretation won’t allow it. I just wanted to note how this theme of covetousness is a scarlet thread that runs thru out the entire body of scripture.

(888)SAMUEL 5- The Philistines take the Ark back to their cities and every city the Ark is taken to experiences judgment. They get ‘tumors’ [hemorrhoids!] and rats. At one point they put the Ark in the ‘house of Dagon’ [a false idol. A fish head type thing with a human body] and the next morning their idol is found lying at the feet of the Ark. They set him up again and low and behold, the next morning the fish god is found at the foot of the Ark with his head and hands chopped off! Hey, if your god started as a fish and turned into a stump, then it’s time for a new god! Eventually they decide to send the Ark back to Israel. Let’s do a little history at this point. The Ark of God is the box that contained the 10 commandments. God had Moses make a box to put the tablets in [the 2 tablets that the commandments were written on]. The reason destruction will happen to those who ‘peak in the Ark’ is because the cover of the Ark was called ‘the Mercy seat’. This was the place where the high priest would make a yearly atonement [the Day of Atonement] for the sins of the people. The sacrificial blood was placed on the cover to be for a covering of sin. The Ten Commandments represented Gods Holy character, and the only way he could dwell with the people was on the basis of this atoning blood [a type of Christ]. When you remove the cover [the mercy seat] in essence you are causing the absolute righteousness of God to come into contact with the absolute sinfulness of man. That’s why those who peak in it are destroyed. Now the Ark was originally carried around with the tabernacle system in the wilderness. A sort of movable tent that was set up and taken down as God willed. A mobile piece of furniture. When the children of Israel came into the Promised Land it was placed in Shiloh. After it’s capture and return [which we will read about in the coming chapters] it will eventually be placed in the city of Jerusalem under King David’s rule. This tent that David puts it in is referred to as ‘David’s tabernacle/tent’. It will be a type of the new covenant ministry of Jesus. The tent of David will have no tabernacle structure like Moses tabernacle in Shiloh. There will be no veil or holy of holies or any other impediment to God’s presence. All you have is the Ark and the mercy seat. This showing us that in Jesus priesthood [typified by David’s kingly/priestly ministry] all you need is Jesus atonement and Gods glory. All have equal access to God, not just the priestly class [or another way to put it is all are priests!]. So as we progress thru these books keep your eyes open to the prophetic pictures that are being painted by the Spirit. All scripture testifies of Christ. He is the underlying figure that the Spirit is continually pointing to.

(876)ROMANS 16- CONCLUSION Okay, lets try and finish up Romans. We do see some good stuff in this last chapter. We see Paul addressing women as functional ministers in the church. Phoebe is a deaconess, Junia an apostle! I still believe that Elders were only men, but women did function in the first century Ecclesia’s. Paul also says ‘mark those which cause divisions contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them’. Now, I have heard the strict Baptists use this against the Pentecostals, and it did put the fear of God in you! But then I heard the Pentecostals use it against the strict Baptists, and it also put the fear of God in you! [maybe another fear?] The point being you could use this to defend any doctrine you ‘have been taught’ by well meaning men. Here Paul is warning against those who were early on departing from the faith [the basic elements of the gospel and Gods grace]. The apostle John addresses those who ‘went out from us, but were not of us’ ‘whoever rejects Christ as come in the flesh is anti christ’ [1st John]. You did have those who rejected the basic elements of the gospel and the incarnation of Jesus. Paul warned the Corinthians not to depart from the reality of Christ's resurrection [1st Corinthians 15]. And of course Paul openly rebuked the Judiazers for trying to put the gentile believers under the restrictions of the Mosaic law. So even though these types of verses seem to fit in to our present day controversies and differences among various denominational groups, yet in context they refer to those who were rejecting the basic tenets of the faith. Paul also encourages ‘God will crush satan under our feet shortly’ ‘God is able to establish us thru the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ’. Let me defend the concept of ‘old fashioned preaching’ a little. While I and many others have publicly taught a type of new testament ecclesiology that is absent the ‘weekly pulpit Pastoral office’. Yet there is biblical precedent for the preaching of the Word. Paul taught in chapter 10 ‘how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they preach unless they are sent’? God strengthens believers thru the preaching of Gods Word. While it is wrong for the average believer to depend solely on this preaching to become educated in the things of God, yet there is a strengthening that God gives to the believer when he comes under the pure preaching of Christ. As we end Romans, I want to re emphasize the major doctrine of justification by faith. The reformation of the 16th century did not happen in a vacuum. God restored a very vital truth back to the people of God. All Christians should be grounded and well versed in the reality of God freely accepting us based on simple faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I realize that many are returning to a more 'sermon on the mount’ orientation of the Christian lifestyle. As I have taught before I think this is a good thing. A ‘re-focusing’ on the teachings and instruction of Jesus. But I think we also need to emphasize the many statements from Jesus himself on those who believe having everlasting life [John’s gospel]. Romans is a masterpiece letter from Paul, one of his main points was justification by faith. God wants believers to be grounded in this truth.

(874)ROMANS 15: 20-33 ‘Now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints’ ‘my service to them’. Paul tells the Romans that he is going to ‘minister’ and have ‘service’ towards the Jerusalem saints. How would you take it if I said ‘I am going to New York to minister, hold a ‘service’ in the church’. You would see me as saying I was going to preach in a building, do my best to encourage the people. And before I left I was going to receive an offering. Paul is saying nothing of the sort! His ‘ministry and service’ are speaking of his charitable work among the poor. He received gifts from the churches for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of the poor. He even says ‘if you Gentiles have been made partakers of their blessings, you should help them out financially’. We are familiar with this terminology when Paul uses it to speak of meeting the needs of Elders, but we very rarely apply it to the meeting of the needs of the poor. Paul had a ‘service’ for the saints, and he was not speaking in terms of going to some town and preaching a message and taking an offering. Service in the first century context was giving of your time and resources for the benefit of others. Doing things at your own expense, not always receiving a recompense yourself. I wonder where they got such an ‘unbiblical idea’. It reminds me of the time when Jesus put on a towel and washed the disciples feet. Another one of those strange passages that seem to teach that leadership is here to serve, not be served. These kingdom precepts do not fit in with the modern idea of ‘ministry/service’.

(872)ROMANS 15: 8-14 Paul freely quotes from Psalms and Isaiah [the 2 most quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament] and shows how God always had a future plan to include the Gentiles. In the first century mindset, ‘salvation’ was seen more in a nationalistic sense than an individual ‘me and Jesus’ type thing. The messianic promises were for the ‘commonwealth’ of Israel. As the gospel would expand into the Gentile nations, Peter would call us ‘a holy nation’. Still couching the purposes of God and his kingdom in a nationalistic way [not human ‘nations’ but Gods people]. So for Paul it is significant to show how King David [the greatest king Israel ever had] actually prophesied [Psalms] of the future inclusion of the Gentiles into the corporate ‘nation of God’. Also Paul says ‘you are able to admonish one another’. A theme in Paul's writings is the ability of the ‘local believers/church’ to have within them a corporate ability for self edification. He teaches an idea that says ‘you are all able members of Christ’s Body, therefore build each other up’. Notice how Paul is not speaking into the modern day concept of ‘the Pastor’ who is usually seen as the main ‘builder’. In all of Paul’s letters he addresses the entire body to carry out the function of the church. He tells the Corinthians ‘when you are all gathered together, commit the unrepentant believer over to satan for the destruction of the flesh’. He gave this very heavy charge to the church. He did not see it as something that was to be carried out by a singular office [Bishop or Pastor]. So here we see Paul admonish the local believers to build each other up.

(868)ROMANS 13:7-14 ‘For this cause pay your taxes also, for they are Gods ministers’ I noted earlier how Paul taught ‘give to those around you that are in need’ [chapter 12] and here he teaches the importance of ‘paying taxes’. Where is the exhortation to ‘pay tithes’? In the ecclesiology of Paul, the ‘corporate community of people’ are the ‘new testament temple of God’. Therefore you see the need to ‘pay tribute’ to only two ‘institutions’. One being the ‘local church’ [as seen in simple giving to the needs of the community around you] and the other being ‘the government’. Paul sees no 3rd ‘institution’ that is called ‘the local church’ to which the tribute of the tithe belongs. To correctly apply the verse in Malachi [if you were going to use it at all. It is obvious that the prophet is directing the rebuke towards natural Israel] you would simply see the ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’ as ‘give to meet the needs of the community [Gods new testament storehouse] around you’. Now Paul teaches the primacy of the law of love for the believer. If we walk in Jesus command to love, we fulfill the law. And again Paul uses the language of ‘fluent soteriology’ [salvation]. He says ‘now is our salvation nearer than when we believed’. Paul comfortably jumps in and out of ‘being saved’ and ‘will be saved’. It is this free use of the term that we need to become familiar with. The New Testament clearly teaches a future salvation. And it is not as simple as ‘My spirit is saved, my mind [soul- which is really a very weak translation for soul. The soul is much more than the mind, emotions and intellect!] is ‘being saved’ and my body will be saved’. It is not his cut and dry. Your spirit is saved, your spirit will be saved and is being saved [he ever lives to make intercession to God for us- this ongoing intercession deals with all aspects of the humans salvation. Not just the body!]. All 3 modes of salvation [past, present and future] can apply to ‘all of you’ [spirit, soul and body]. Don’t think future salvation only deals with the ‘salvation of the body’.

(865)ROMANS 12: 13 Paul continues to give some basic guidelines on practical Christian living. Notice his teaching on financial giving ‘distribute to the necessity of the saints’. This basic Christian doctrine from Jesus teachings has become the premier act of giving for the New Testament saint. The reason I have stressed this teaching as opposed to the more popular view of tithing, is because the scriptures place such a high priority on Christian charity. As I have mentioned before, Jesus even uses this basic description to describe those who ‘are righteous’ or ‘unrighteous’. He teaches the final judgment will be based on this outward identifier of ‘what we did to the least of these’. If you read carefully the New Testament epistles you will see a picture of ‘local church’ as a caring community of people who show their love for one another thru these acts of kindness and compassion. None of the New Testament letters teach a type of financial giving that focuses on ‘support the ministry/institution’ as being ‘the new testament church’ that replaced the ‘old testament temple’. For example a tithe system that supports the ‘pastor/priest’ in the same way the Levitical priests were supported under the law. It’s so vital for us to see and understand this. Because the average believer is taught thru out his life that his primary expression of giving is to ‘bring the tithe into the storehouse’ in such a way that it violates the actual primacy of giving as taught in the New Testament. Which is to regularly give to meet the needs of those around you. The fact that there were instances in the book of Acts or the letter to the Corinthians where believers gave an offering in a corporate way [the collection for the poor saints- 1st Cor. 15, or the laying of the money at the apostles feet in Acts] does not excuse the believer from the teaching that we should all regularly give to meet the needs of those around us. This is flatly taught as a regular part of the Christian experience. The other fact that Paul never once teaches the tithe as a function of giving for the Gentile churches should cause us all to take another look at the way we teach giving in the church today.

(861)Romans 11:13- ‘For I speak to you Gentiles, in as much as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office’. Let me just make a few comments today. How is Paul 'exercising’ his apostolic authority over the Gentiles in Rome? We know he hasn’t been there yet [since becoming a follower of Jesus]. He did not have some type of relationship with them where they contributed to him. He was holding no ‘church services’. He exercised it by speaking into their lives and caring for their welfare. He did this by WRITING THIS LETTER! Recently there has been some discussion on ‘Gods government’ and the apostles ‘bringing things into alignment’ [dealing with the mistakes at Lakeland]. Lots of talk that I am familiar with. What is Gods government? In the world we have 2 competing ‘world views’- systems or modes of operation. You have God’s kingdom, and then the worlds system. When the apostle John said ‘love not the world, neither the things that are in the world’ he was referring to this system of lies and pride and sin. In Gods kingdom you operate under his laws ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart… and your neighbor as yourself’. In this family [children of God] you have different types of ‘gifts’. Some are apostles, others prophets, etc. All these gifted ones are given for the singular purpose of building you up so you can have a mature faith grounded in Christ and be the ‘glorious temple’ of God in the earth. Paul was playing his part by communicating Jesus to these Roman Gentiles. He did not have some type of a corporate relationship with them where he said ‘commit to my authority over you. Either I will be your ‘covering’ or someone else!’ These are mans ideas. Now, we often say ‘Paul didn’t receive money from the Corinthians, but he did from the other churches’. I have said this myself. Paul did receive support from the Philippians, but that was support for his traveling ministry. To get him to the next place. If you read carefully you will see Paul telling the Thessalonians ‘when I was with you I did not eat, or take stuff for free. My hands ministered to both me and those that were with me’ I think he even said he worked night and day. When he spoke to the Ephesians elders in the book of Acts, he also said ‘I labored when I was with you, I did not take support from you when I was there. I did this to leave you ELDERS an example’. Now, the point I want to make is it seems as if Paul did not take money when he was actually living among the saints. It seems he took it only for traveling expenses [and of course for his ministry to the poor saints at Jerusalem]. Now, I believe and teach that it is scriptural to meet the needs, financially, of laboring elders. The reason I mention this is to show you that being an ‘apostle’ or any other gifted minister in the church simply means you bear extra responsibility to bring Gods people to maturity. It was not some type of office where you were a ‘professional minister’. When I hear all the talk of ‘Gods apostles are bringing Gods government back into alignment’ for the most part these are men’s ideas being applied to an American corporate 501c3 ministry. Gods ‘government’ operates along different lines. So in this example Paul said ‘I magnify my office’ he was simply imparting some truth to them for the purpose of their own edification. Paul did not see them coming under ‘his covering’,

(850)PROPHETIC UPDATE! As of today [8-08] enough has happened in the last few years to kind of encapsulate the state of the church [Gods people] and where we are heading. Whenever you have ‘prophetic people’ and movements make some real obvious mistakes, I always feel tempted to go thru this site and delete everything that deals with ‘prophecies, dreams and visions’. This has happened to me on more than a few occasions. But the Lord kind of stops me. Now, why do I mention this? Because these last few years the charismatic/prosperity churches have gone thru some turmoil. The ‘Emergent’ movement has also struck a nerve with the Reformed defenders of the faith, and they have also had some battles. In the midst of it all you also had a resurgence of Catholic apologists [Scott Hahn] and ‘the defend the fullness of truth’ conferences. First, I felt the Lord was going to deal with the more obvious abuses of the prosperity movement a few years back. I even ‘prophesied’ that this would happen [on this site!]. So this is a legitimate ‘correction’ that is taking place as of this year. Some of the main leaders of the movement have come under some serious ‘judging’. Also, the more theological/mature Emergent movement has come under fire by the Reformed preachers because of some real problems. Some in the Emergent church have espoused ultra liberal ideas on the Atonement, Hell and other basic Christian doctrines. The problem is the older reform minded ‘correctors’ are for the most part absolutely ignorant of their own ‘blind spot’ in the area of Ecclesiology. They seem to think ‘defending the historic faith’ includes defending a ‘limited’ Ecclesiology. It’s too easy to just believe that Edwards, Luther, Calvin and all the other great minds of their eras must have been right on Church government and structure. For the most part they were not. So this part of the ‘emergent church’ have it right [those who challenge limited ideas of ‘church’]. Now, the recent ‘fiasco’ of the Lakeland revival. I believe the whole ‘group’ of Apostles and Prophets [?] that initially gave their approval are very questionable. Some of the men I do like [Rick Joyner], but the whole ‘apostolic network’ that some of these brothers belong to is very questionable [when I say ‘questionable’, I do not mean they are frauds or fakes. I mean the whole idea of having an ‘apostolic network’ seems to be missing the target]. I believe most of Gods true Apostles and Prophets today are men of great humility, they suffer persecution [like Watchmen Nee] and for the most part are serious students of the Word and ‘followers of the way’ [Christ’s example of a servant]. So today [2008] we need to be open to correction in the areas that are off base. We also need to be careful not to reject all ‘prophetic things’ out of a feeling of being embarrassed to even use the same terminology as some of these guys. And we need to recognize that some of the old time defenders of the faith [Sproul, Macarthur, Colson] do have very good points they are making when the emergent brothers reject the very basis of ‘knowable truth’, but they also have a huge blind spot in their ecclesiology [thinking defending the truth includes ‘Sunday Church’]. Also, the Catholic resurgence is important not to discount, some Evangelicals are becoming so frustrated with the Protestant ‘craziness’ and divisions, that they seem to find refuge in joining this ancient expression of Christianity. Let’s have a good vigorous debate, let’s strive for unity. The prophetic movement needs to receive correction. The prosperity movements more extreme elements need to be rejected outright. At the end of the day God is still going to do a great work in the earth. His people will show forth his glory and truly be the glorious temple that he desires.

(818)The recent discussion over ‘pagan church practices’ and the organic versus the ‘church building’ model have been good. It might have surprised some of you to see me ‘defend’ to a degree the ‘church building’- let me explain. Some teach a type of ecclesiology [church govt.] that says ‘you have the institutional church’ [church building, denominational, organized] and the ‘organic’ church. The distinction they seem to be making is ‘although there are Christians in the institutional model, the ‘out of church’ brothers are really the ‘truest form of church’. Sort of like trying to trace ‘your roots’ thru out church history. I covered this concept in the study we did on the book of Acts [read the intro and conclusion]. The problem I have with this is it seems to trace the ‘truer church’ as to a specific historical group of believers, who thru out the centuries resisted the ‘intuitional church’ and these ‘out of church’ believers have really carried the torch for the Gospel. I see this idea fundamentally flawed. It seems to not take into account that many of these groups were outright heretics! It also seems to miss the fact that many believers who were in the ‘organized church’ were actually part of the ‘organic church’ in the sense that they were a living, breathing functioning part of Christ’s church! So you might very well have had a true believer in the ‘organized church’ and an unbeliever in the ‘unorganized church’! That is you really can’t trace ‘the true church’ along these lines. Now, I believe there is a fundamental fault line that does run thru the collective mind of many Christians. Too many of us seem to not make the functional distinction between ‘Ecclesia’ versus ‘church’. We do need to be challenged in the way we read the New Testament and apply current miss-concepts of ‘the local church’ to the text. It is a fact that as far as we [we being those who try their best at studying the history of the 1st century church] can tell, the idea of the modern Pastoral office, along with the strong ‘go to church’ idea was absent in the 1st century church. Some scholars have made a noble effort to present the other side [institutional] but the weight of historical evidence falls on the ‘organic church’ model. As we struggle to become ‘the church’ in a more biblical way in the 21st century, we need to be careful that we don’t give Christians the idea that all ‘church building’ churches are outright pagan! The fact that many true believers worship according to this model shows us that the ‘organic Body of Christ’ is truly being represented in them. I thank God for all the recent discussion over these issues. It was a much needed ongoing conversation. We need to have this conversation with much grace!

(817)ARE CHURCH BUILDINGS, PAID LEADERS AND PUBLIC SCRIPTURE READING PAGAN PRACTICES? There are a few reasons why I avoid ‘going too deep’ on this site. The obvious one being I can’t do it very well! Plus it has its ups and downs. I turned 46 the other day. I like taking the kids to the beach and all, growing up in Jersey it was cool to ‘show off’ and ‘go deep’. I have this inner temptation to ‘go deep’ in the Gulf. But there is also a restraining factor; It works like this- I can risk looking cool at the age of 46 and swim out real far, it might be over my head, but heck the kids will think ‘wow, he is really deep’! Then this nagging fear pops up in my mind. I see my self being pulled to shore by some 18 year old lifeguard. I am strung out on the beach with a group of spring breakers hovering over me with Budweiser cans. The local news channel has their cameras in my face as the lifeguard explains how they ‘brought me back with C.P.R.’ and the college kids are saying ‘are you all right old man’? As you can see ‘going deep’ has its risks! Now, what does the bible teach about ‘church [sacred] buildings’ ‘paid clergy [leaders]’ ‘the public reading of scripture’ ‘meeting on Sunday’ and all the other practices associated with ‘the institutional church’? Well actually these things are not as ‘Pagan’ as you might think! In fact the public reading of scripture is commanded in scripture. The ‘paying money’ to Elders is taught. Christians meeting in ‘sacred buildings’ actually did happen to a degree in scripture! Both the Temple and the Synagogue continued to be places where early Jewish [and some Gentile- ‘God- fearers’] believers ‘met’. The point is these actual practices are not necessarily ‘Pagan in origin’. Am I defending the later development of ‘the church being the church building’ along with the clergy system and all that it entails? No. I believe Christians have been confused on what the ‘church is’ and how we as the people of God should function in society. But I also believe that a strong case could be made that the present ‘ideas’ about church that are unbiblical could be traced to ‘Judaism’ instead of ‘Paganism’. The development of the church [sacred] building along with the Altar and officiating Priest can be seen as Legalistic [law mentality] as opposed to Pagan. Now I see both of these developments as bad, but the basic idea of believers having recognized leaders [Elders] who are supported financially [free will –no tithe or ‘salary’] is in scripture. The fact that Paul rented a building in the book of Acts [hall of Tyrannus- Acts 19:9] to teach in a public forum is not pagan! The whole point being we as the Ecclesia are the actual dwelling place of God. As we learn and grow as believers we have tremendous freedom to have public places dedicated to God, scenarios where leaders speak to us in a public forum. Actual ways of supporting leaders who are dedicating their time to teaching and preaching. These things are permitted and at times commanded in scripture! Where we need to re examine our beliefs is when we see the ‘church building’ and the ‘Sunday message’ and all of the things associated with ‘Sunday church’ as actually being ‘the local church’. It is the limited mindset that hinders us. Now, to simply replace the ‘Sunday church building mindset’ with ‘the house church mindset’ doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. Some teach the idea that the ‘natural habitat’ of the believer is the ‘open meeting’. That when you remove the believer from the open meeting format, that in essence you have taken him out of his natural setting and therefore he cant develop right. If you read the teachings of Jesus on how the believer is to ‘act’ and function in society. If you follow the ministry of Jesus and imitate as much as possible his life and precepts. If you do the things Jesus said to do, then you are ‘living in the designed natural habitat’ of the believer! The idea that the ‘open house meeting’ versus the ‘Sunday public meeting’ is the answer for the modern believer is very limited. The problem with most for us is not how or where we are meeting, it is our natural instinct to not want to carry our cross. To live an unselfish life. To give ourselves away for a higher purpose. The main body of the New Testament has very little to say about ‘how to meet’. Sure we have a few well-known scriptures that we are all familiar with ‘forsake not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some’ [Hebrews]. In context this is speaking of the ‘open meeting’ idea. It speaks of exhorting one another. More like Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. But the point I want to make [without the risk of getting pulled to shore!] is that the answer to the present day dilemma of ‘non functioning’ believers is not going to be found in changing the way we meet. Our natural habitat is not sitting in someone’s living room! It is going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. It is being an example of living a sacrificial life as much as possible. Trying to follow the admonition of James on pure religion ‘to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping yourself unspotted from the world’ [not how you meet!]. In a nutshell the problem is most of us are falling short in actually living the life! So I don’t want to contradict all the writings that I have done on this site about the need to change our mindset on ‘what is Local church’. But I feel some have tried to replace the way believers meet, thinking that this in itself is the main problem with modern Christianity. I see it a little differently.

(816)Okay, I lied! Just to clarify, these last few entries are dealing with years of studying and dealing with ‘organic church’. Many fine authors; Austin Sparks, Gene Edwards, Watchman Nee, Robert Banks, etc. There are varying themes and ideas that arose out of the ‘Rethinking the Wineskin’ mentality. One of the other areas of concern has to do with the understanding of ‘Apostles’ [itinerant workers] as it relates to the ‘Ecclesia’. I am grateful over the amount of believers in general who have recently come to grips with the fact that Apostles do exist today according to the plain reading of the New Testament. The ‘older idea’ of dividing up the portions of scripture that say ‘after Jesus ascended he gave gifts to men, Apostles, Prophets, etc.’ it is fairly obvious that these ‘Apostles’ were made after Christ’s ascension [Ephesians] and that they exist alongside the other gifts. Now, with all the recent dialogue on Apostles and ‘church planting’, do you know how many times the command is given in the New Testament to ‘start churches’? Zero! That’s right, no where in the New Testament are we [or Apostles] commanded to ‘go and plant a church’ Huh? All Christians [Apostles too!] are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It is obvious that in the New Testament the Apostles did have a strong gifting to present the gospel and the gospel taking root in the people [which is what ‘church planting’ is!] But there is no reason to believe that as we challenge the idea of ‘hired clergy’ and the average believer’s dependence on them, that at the same time we should teach a concept that says ‘it is impossible to have a true ecclesia without the extra local worker’. This has been taught many times over the years as I have studied this movement. I feel the mistake is in seeing the power of ‘church planting’ residing in a specific role, and ONLY that role, while at the same time trying to free Gods people from the un biblical role of ‘full time Pastor’. As far as I can tell the church at Rome was ‘started’ by the Diaspora who were scattered sometime after Pentecost. Paul wrote them a letter [Romans] but did not arrive there until later. The point I want to make is this, as we challenge the present ideas and limitations that the ‘institutional church’ has put on the people of God, we don’t want to make the mistake of telling them that ‘the Apostle’ is now the ‘office’ that is indispensable to your healthy existence! The power of the gospel is what makes ‘healthy churches’ [communities]. Sure Apostles are important, but it is the power of the Spirit in the work of regeneration that ‘plants churches’. Now, someone does have to get the message to them! But whether that’s an Evangelist, Prophet or little old grandma! Once the gospel is proclaimed to a group of people, all the essential elements of life are present.

(815)It seems as if every time I take an excursion from a ‘study’ I do 3 or so posts. So let’s see if I can close here. There are obviously major hurdles and feelings at stake when any body says ‘look, I have found some great stuff in the bible. Lots of it has to do with the fact that what you thought was ‘church’ is not ‘church’. What you thought was a fulltime position of ‘Pastor’ is no where in scripture. And what you have been doing for the past 20 years is off track’. Any job description [Prophet!] that carries this type of function is not going to be well received! [I am not talking about me]. So as we examine and learn about the church and the role of leadership, we must realize that feelings are going to get hurt ‘who does he think he is! Man that guy is threatening my livelihood!’ Well, yes it is possible that the fact that there were no 1st century ‘Pastors’ in the context of what that word means today, can be threatening. So do we never address the issue because it is threatening? But do we go around and teach all the believers that they should abandon all present structures? I appreciate all the good teachers I have learned from over the years. Real insights into things that I would have never seen without their help. Some of these teachers have been excellent on revealing the fact that the 1st century church did not have the office of Pastor as the weekly speaker to the ‘local church’. This was not the normal way believers met. The 1st century gatherings were corporate ‘body life’ experiences. People learn and grow in a conversation with others. They stagnate by sitting in an audience [both the pastors and the spectators]. Now, some have argued that Elders, Pastors and Overseers in general had a very limited, if not non existent, role in the first century churches. This can be debated somewhat. I don’t want to argue the point, but simply say that there is enough evidence in scripture to believe that Elders [basic oversight] existed as a regular part of the communities of Jesus in the first century. These leaders were simply more mature men who gave direction and oversight to the flock as God ordained. They were not ‘Pastors’ in the sense of today’s Pastoral office. But they did exist in scripture. So in all of the well meaning efforts of returning back to a more biblical form of church life, I think we need to leave room for leadership to exist and function to some degree. Some of the brothers seem to have gone a little too ideological in the area of ‘no human headship’. They teach that the 1st century churches declared the headship of Jesus by having no human ‘control’ at all in the meetings [communities]. I kind of see their effort as noble, but a little too impractical. Some of this teaching goes along the line of ‘the biggest hindrance to the Body of Christ are the Pastors/Elders’. While I do see a negative result from believers overly depending on the present pastoral office. Yet I do not see a type of New Testament ecclesiology that was absent all human leadership. Leadership is there, it is plural [obey THEM that have the ‘rule’ over you- by the way ‘rule’ here is different than ‘rule’ when referring to human govt. and kings. Jesus did teach that Kingdom leadership would be thru care and oversight] and it is communal. It exercises itself thru leaders [Apostles, Prophets, Elders, etc.] as they live together as a community of people. So the basic reason I am bringing this up is I feel some have drawn a little too idealistic picture of ‘the local meetings’ in the first century. Sort of like the meetings were very spiritual because of a total lack of oversight. I don’t see this description at all. I see Paul writing the Corinthians and rebuking them strongly for having terrible meetings! Now his solution isn’t ‘have everyone one shut up and listen to the Pastor’ [there was no ‘Pastor’!] but there certainly wasn’t some type of purposeful ‘leaderless’ church that had no recognized leaders. To the contrary Paul will give specific instructions in his pastoral epistles [Timothy, Titus] to make sure the local saints knew who were recognized Elders. Paul was not afraid of saying ‘these guys are leaders, if you have problems and situations that arise in my absence, don’t be afraid to go to them. They are stable in the faith’. So while it is true that the first century churches did not have the office of Pastor as we have come to define it today. Yet they weren’t a bunch of ‘leaderless’ people. Elders existed and Paul seemed to have no problem with everyone knowing who the Elders were.

(814)OUR WE A BUFFET OR A PARK? I guess we need to do some more on ‘the house church movement’. First, the New Testament addresses ‘the church’ as the corporate people of God. The great mystery is that Christ is dwelling in our hearts by faith. That all believers are walking around as ‘the mobile dwelling place of God, THE HOUSE OF GOD!’ Now, from this standpoint we live and function as the people of God. As we learn and grow we realize that ‘along the way’ we have grasped on to limited ideas about who we are and what the church is. Many of these concepts are shared by both Catholic and Protestant believers. Some who have been helpful in showing us the limited perspective of ‘church at/as the building’ as being silly, seem to have grasped on to the idea that ‘church at the house’ is the basic organic nature of ‘church’. I disagree. In society today you have all sorts of family units. Kids are being born and leaving home and going out into this ‘brave new world’ and imprinting their name on the world. All over the earth you have parents who are writing and keeping in touch with their offspring as they learn and grow as people. These kids are doing all sorts of things [shopping, eating, going to movies, going to the buffet on Sunday]. Now say if you as a parent changed the way you wrote your letters; ‘Dear Johnnie and family’ turned into ‘dear kids who meet and eat every Sunday at the buffet’. The kids would be wondering ‘what’s up with dad, why does he see us only thru the lens of us eating on Sunday’ [or whatever day you eat]. The basic mistake that dad is making is he is seeing one of the functions of his kids [meeting for the purpose of eating] and mistaking that function for ‘the kids’. That is he is beginning to identify his kids in a limited way by viewing them only thru this lens. Now say if dad does some research and finds out that the first century ‘kids’ were having their meals in the park. It was only as time progressed that they built ‘buffets’ and places to go on Sunday to eat. And as time progressed all the kids from future generations starting viewing themselves thru the lens of ‘we are families, we are people who eat at buffets on Sunday’. Now say if the researcher who has discovered that the early families really never ate at buffets [met in buildings!] begins to teach that ‘true family’ are those who meet at parks. The fundamental mistake, in my mind, would be defining ‘the people’ [church] as the kids who eat/meet at the park. While in reality, these first century ‘kids’ were defined as being ‘real kids, who were living and ‘eating’ and functioning as real people as a result of really being born by real parents’. That is the real definition of ‘being kids’ is neither ‘meeting at the 4th century church building’ [or calling the actual building ‘the kids’!] nor is it ‘meeting at the first century park’ [home meetings]. The researcher, as helpful as he’s has been in showing us the limited model of 4th century ‘buffet eating’ has also been limited in his replacing of ‘the church’ as building based versus home based. Would you address your kids as ‘buffet based’ or ‘park based’? That is would you define them by using the measuring rod of ‘where they met to eat’? Of course not! They are ‘kids’ [children of God] because they have been born into human [spiritual] families. Their fundamental nature as ‘children of humans’ [of God] is what makes them ‘kids’. So today I wanted to re focus our attention on what the ‘church’ actually is. The church are all the people of God [both those in buildings, parks and any where else they happen to be] who are alive because they have been actually born from God the father. Our identity is not based on 4th or 1st century ‘ways of meeting’. Our identity is based on being ‘born from above’.

(813)I was going to do the parable [some say story! - I explain it later] of the rich man and Lazarus, but felt we should go another way. Yesterday I was reading some stuff on line and learned of the book Frank Viola wrote ‘Pagan Christianity’. I have not read it, but I have read other books from Frank and I think he is an excellent teacher. As I was ‘perusing’ the comments from Pastors and others who read the book, I realized that it stirred up a controversy in many circles. I thought it interesting that a big part of our teaching has been debated recently and I wasn’t even aware of it. Let me make some comments about ‘the comments’. The title might be a little strong, I understand the actual fact of many modern Christian practices arising form ‘pagan’ sources. But this in itself was no secret to the believers who willingly did this at the time! I remember reading one of my ‘history of Christianity’ books and hearing a Catholic author explain why the 4th century church did embrace, to a degree, certain pagan things. Some Protestants seem to think that the fact that Christmas and Easter have obviously pagan histories is a secret known only to them [them being protestants]. But the Catholic author explained that ‘changing’ pagan holidays into ‘Christian ones’ was done on purpose. The intent was to allow the pagans to keep their special days, though the institutional purpose of those days was changed, as the Emperor Constantine was legitimizing Christianity [his brand of it]. Now was this ‘compromising’? Sure. But was this a secret pagan take over of Christianity? Probably not. So when we see ‘pagan’ things [cultural changes] being mixed in with Christianity, sometimes it doesn’t mean what we think. Paul teaches in Timothy to give honor to Elders and respect those in authority. Paul says ‘I am writing these things so believers will know how to behave in the House of God’. In context, the elders and the ‘House of God’ are simply speaking about the mature saints who were living and dedicating their lives for the propagation of the gospel and spending extra time ‘building Gods House’ [the actual community of believers in their midst]. But later on as Christianity developed the ‘House of God’ would be seen as the ‘church building’. The hired positions of clergy were seen as ‘Bishops, Pastors, and Priests’. So when you would have a reformer rise up [Luther] it was easy to initially brand him as a heretic who was ‘going against Gods House’. Who was ‘not honoring’ the Elders [Pope and Bishop]. The mistake was reading the New Testament and simply applying the names [House of God- church building. Bishop [of Rome] - Catholic apostolic succession from Peter] of things to the present understanding. So the Protestants would have their Reformation and only go so far. For all practical purposes the ‘House of God’ was still seen as ‘the church building’. And the Protestant Pastor was still seen as the office of someone who ‘oversees the church’. There really was no reformation of ‘church practices’ or the way ‘we do church’. Now, are all of these practices inherently wicked? No. Do they hinder growth and maturity among believers? To a degree, yes. Paul's words to Timothy on honoring Elders, giving them ‘double honor’. This speaks about actually sharing your material goods with those in the community who were dedicating themselves to learning and teaching this ‘new way’. All believers did not have access to scripture like we have today. The scrolls of the Old Testament and the letters of Paul were circulating, but some of the new believers couldn’t even read! So in these communities of people, which Paul describes as ‘The House of God’ you had ‘spiritual parents’. More mature Elders who had a stable grasp of doctrine. They would help keep the believers on course in a day where there was no internet, libraries [available to the general public at large] no radio or T.V. [this one could be a blessing!]. In essence these Elders, Bishops [overseers] were simple believers who were worthy of ‘double honor’ [feed them, help them out materially, they are meeting a real need and for all practical purposes they are needed!]. But as Constantine would ‘marry’ the Empire and institutionalize the church, the ‘double honor’ portions of scripture were used to justify a ‘tithe system’ that would support ‘the church’. Priests and Bishops took on a different meaning than the way Paul would use the term. The development of hired clergy and the overall institutionalizing of the church used common New Testament terms, but for the most part these terms were taken out of context. The Protestant Reformation dealt with important doctrinal issues, but this basic ‘way of seeing church’ did not change. While I haven’t read Franks book yet, I plan on reading it in the future. Understand I am not commenting on what frank Viola means when he says ‘Pagan Christianity’. I am simply sharing my thoughts on the development of Christianity.

(812)NEW WINE NEEDS NEW BOTTLES- Jesus said no man takes a piece of new cloth and sews it onto old clothes. Or no one takes new wine and puts in into old wineskins. If you do the wineskins will break and the wine is lost. Jesus was a radical revolutionary, his message and Kingdom were one of tremendous change and transition. The New Testament calls this ‘the time of reformation’. In John chapter 3 he told Nicodemus ‘unless a man is born again he cant even see or begin to perceive this new thing’. We often seek for new understanding, trying to improve our lives and callings. Sincere people who are looking for innovation and trying to be on the ‘cutting edge’. One of the common mistakes we as believers make is we often approach ‘new ideas’ with ‘old structures’ in mind. Much of the stuff I have written on ‘local church’ fits into this category. Jesus is primarily teaching the reality of his New Covenant being one of complete transition and change. He knew that the old mindset of law and legalism would not be able to contain the New Covenant. The Spirit of God needs ‘new’ [born again] vessels to be poured into. Jesus also said those who have been ‘drinking the old wine’ have a natural tendency to resist change. They are comfortable with the traditions and form that have surrounded them for most of their lives. There is ‘special value’ on ‘wine that is old’. Jesus told the disciples ‘I have many things to teach you, but you are not able to hear them right now’ in essence ‘their old wine skin mentality’ couldn’t handle the new things. In all growth and maturing there also needs to be a basic understanding that it does no good whatsoever to change or introduce reformation to the degree that both the wine and the wineskins are lost. Jesus realized there were certain things that the disciples just couldn’t handle, and it would have been pointless to have ‘cast the pearls’ at that time. I want to challenge you, God often holds back the answer to a question or problem because he realizes we need to be re-positioned before we can receive it. He doesn’t simply communicate ‘new and deep revelation’ for the sake of making us smarter! He wants the people of God to come to maturity so he can be glorified in all the nations. New wine is good, in fact it is a necessity! But it does absolutely no good if it’s spilled all over the ground.

(800)PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN- I guess we need to do a little more ‘teaching’ than I planned on. I am using the parables from Matthew’s gospel. Matthew uses ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ instead of ‘Kingdom of God’. I have heard different ideas on why Matthew said ‘heaven’ instead of ‘God’. The idea that I need to correct is that Matthew was speaking of something totally different than ‘The Kingdom of God’. This belief rose up among the 19th century Dispensationalists, it basically says ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ means the world of Christendom [all religions that make up Christianity] and the Kingdom of God is that future thing that happens some day. Well, both of these are not real good. Most of all you should reject the first idea. The simple reason is that the other Gospels have these same parables with the term ‘God’ in place of ‘Heaven’. For this interpretation to be true [the Christendom one] you would have to believe that Jesus spoke about an entirely different thing, at an entirely different time and setting in Matthews gospel. When believers interpret stuff like this, it is simply not in keeping with ANY of the previous ways believers saw these verses in 1800 years. Plus it seems odd that Matthew would be the only writer who recorded the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ parables while the other writers recorded the Kingdom of God ones. So for whatever reason you think Matthew said ‘Heaven’ and not ‘God’ you should at least understand that he was not speaking of different parables. Now ‘the Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened’. Most of the brothers who believe the ‘heaven-Christendom’ idea teach that Jesus was speaking of sin and wickedness invading the world of Christendom. They get this idea from the fact that leaven does describe sin in most [if not all?] of the other pictures of leaven in scripture. First, leaven [yeast] is something that God created. In and of itself it isn’t ‘wicked’. Second, Jesus can use any physical thing he wants to use in any way he wills to use it in his teachings, he is God after all! And third, I think it fitting that Jesus would take a term used to describe sin and turn it around and ‘redeem’ its use to describe righteousness. After all ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’. Now to the meaning. Jesus values ‘least ness’ in his teachings. He absolutely challenges the present idea of Christianity in many of the American churches. He time and again lets his followers know that they must die to their own agendas and ideas. They must put priority on eternal versus material riches. They must seek to become small and last in order to be first. In all of these teachings he also rewards those who follow his ideals with great influence. The things they do ‘will go far’. Their children will impact society [Genesis 12 and 15- Abrahams seed touching nations]. Jesus calls for carrying our cross daily, dying to our own desires and dreams so his purpose thru us can reach all nations. The ‘hiddeness’ of the yeast speaks of this aspect of kingdom living. You don’t take yeast and ‘spread it all over the outside of everything’ [modern ideas of ministry- ‘get our name out, have everyone know about us’. Hire an image consultant!] Jesus says ‘hide the yeast inside of stuff’ package the gift and talents in such a way that they will ‘secretly’ be in many places. You will hardly even know its there, it’s hidden! Than after a while the effect of the yeast will be so hard to stop you will have a revolution on your hands! ‘Who in the heck started this ball rolling?’ The effect will be great, the fame and recognition will be minimal. Now Jesus taught in all of the parables that his kingdom would be like this. It would be silly to apply the yeast here as wickedness taking over Christendom, he doesn’t use these explosive images to describe sin in his other parables. They speak of small things becoming large in righteous ways [note- the tares are an exception, they are the full harvest of unbelievers along with believers. But the kingdom images [seed and stuff] speak of the radical explosive nature of the kingdom of God in the earth]. So lets look for ways to ‘hide the leaven’ in stuff. Is the most effective way to either write a book? Start a blog? What do you think it is for you? I feel many talented Pastors limit their voice by spending the majority of their teaching efforts on preaching to a room full of people and never even recording [in writing or by voice] the teaching. Make it available in various forms. If you saw some great insights from your study time, why have it taught in a forum where only a limited amount of people will hear it one time? We read of Jesus and Paul and think that they taught a form of ‘local church’ that says ‘give priority to the Sunday pulpit’. Now Paul did say ‘how can they hear without a preacher’ [Romans]. But this applies to hearing Paul’s letters as they were ‘re read’ in the churches. We are right now reading the recorded parables of Jesus that millions upon millions of people read every year! Be wise in putting leaven [good leaven!] in places where it can multiply good things. NOTE- leaven represented sin during the Passover feast. That’s why they couldn’t have it their meals. But it was permitted during Pentecost. Why? Pentecost would come to represent the outpouring of the Spirit and the intended growth of Christianity, at Pentecost God wanted a massive explosion. Leaven was allowed!

(791)JUDGES 18- The tribe of Dan sends 5 spies to check out the land of Laish, it was supposed to be part of their inheritance. On the way they pass Mount Ephraim, where Micah and the ‘hired priest’ live. They enquire in the house of Micah about their journey. They are assured God is with them. They see Laish and return with the good report. Laish is a land where the people are ‘isolated’ they do no business with any other tribes. Too sectarian in their little community [ouch!]. So the tribe of Dan hears the report and arms 600 men for battle. As they go to get their land, they once again stop at the idolatrous house of Micah. They make a ‘job offer’ to the ‘hired priest’ and appeal to success and status among clergy ‘do you want to come and be our hired priest? Wouldn’t you rather be priest of a whole tribe instead of one household’? He takes the job promotion and on their way out Micah tries to stop them from taking his priest but doesn’t have the manpower to do it. Dan introduces this false priesthood on a large scale to the people of God. Scripture says while they were involving themselves in this false worship, the House of God was still in Shiloh. Now we have covered a lot of ground here. I want to be careful but truthful about wrong worship in the church. First, I do find it amazing that the Lord did not cut Micah off originally when he got into his stuff! The history of Israel includes a time period where they thought the high places in their land were a sign of true religion. When some of the kings institute a return to the Lord, they leave the high places alone. Although these high places were idolatrous, yet in their ignorance they really thought they were honoring God. I see a degree of this here. Now the hired priest continues to represent the mentality of the hired offices of the clergy. All good people, but often operating in systems that lend themselves to the co dependency of Gods people. It is easy to see the idea of false worship and simply use this to bash Catholics. I prefer to see the false worship of Dan as a mark of all wrong tradition and teaching that come to us from the mind of man. Jesus rebuked the traditions that made void the Word of God, but Paul will tell his spiritual sons ‘hold to the traditions you have been taught by me’. Some traditions are needful. Things that our spiritual fathers have passed down to us. Don’t despise all tradition! Don’t see ‘the ministry’ as a way to gain status and climb the ladder in the corporate world. This priest of Micah took a position based on gentile authority. Something Jesus forbid for the leaders of his church. This priest saw self advancement in moving ‘his ministry’ to oversee the tribe of Dan. This root of pride will cause the limited idolatry at Micah’s house to leaven an entire tribe. Often times well meaning people become part of ‘extending wrong ideas’ thru out the church as they seek fame and recognition. Jesus taught us that true servants will not make decisions based on ‘how will this move promote me, how will I gain a name for myself’ these motivations blind us to the idolatry that exists in the church in our day. The New Testament equivalent of idolatry is covetousness. Leadership often overlooks the blatant abuse in this area as they pursue a name and advancement for ‘their ministries’. It’s easy to not want to hear Paul’s strong words in 1st Timothy 6 concerning leaders. We want to be able to ‘seek fame and fortune’ because it does feel good to be famous! Hebrews says ‘sin does have pleasure for a season’. So I see the whole scenario of Micah’s hired priest in all of us. I see the idolatry of Dan and false worship as leaven that affects all of Gods people [Protestants and Catholics alike]. I see the fact that God still used Micah to be a voice and instrument to the people of God even though he thru ignorance allowed idolatry to be entrenched in Israel. God is merciful and he will put up with our ignorance for a season, but I think that season has already passed. [Though his mercy endures forever!]

(790)JUDGES 17- This is quite an interesting chapter. Micah steals money from his ‘mother’. He tells her ‘I took it’ [managed to gain precious riches from you] and she commends him. He then says he took it from her to give it back to her. Let’s spiritualize a little. The ‘sons of the church’ [the New Jerusalem is the corporate church, the ‘mother of us all’] some times take by violence the hidden riches that were contained ‘in the church’ [which possesses the mind of Christ!] so they can ‘give the riches back to the mother’ [feed my sheep!] and receive commendation from her. Now, all analogies eventually break down. Micah’s mom says she was going to build an idol [institution?] with the money. Micah becomes the overseer of this ‘false system of worship’. He actually ‘hires’ [hireling mentality- seeing ministry as a profession] a legitimate priest from the tribe of Levi to call ‘father- priest’ [ouch!] Micah pays him a salary [double ouch!] and says ‘now I know the Lord [God of the Christians] will bless me seeing I have a priest under my authority’. [Rome and her emperors?] Lots of imagery here. First, Micah felt like he would gain Gods blessing if he ‘hired’ and institutionalized the real priesthood. We must see that what happened during the first 4 centuries of Christianity was a type of ‘hiring’ and legitimizing the ‘priests of God’ for the purpose of favor and unity within the Roman Empire. It is no secret that the emperor Constantine looked for unity in his empire by embracing and professionalizing the ‘priest hood’. They will actually be called ‘fathers, priests’. Also, this priest that Micah hired was a real representative of God! He did come from a true tribe. It is difficult for Protestants to see that although the institutional church ‘married’ Rome, yet she still contained part of the real people of God. This is not to say all that happened in the first millennium [thousand years of Christianity] was of God, but it also means we need to understand that there are some ‘precious riches’ [1100 pieces of silver!] that are hidden within her for the purpose of ‘true sons’ to go and take these riches and re distribute them back to her for her own benefit. You would be surprised by the amount of spiritual truths contained in the writings of the Catholic [Orthodox] fathers. Many of these truths are being ‘re found’ by protestants! And some of these Protestants have given them back to the church and shown her ‘look, even your own church fathers saw such and such’. I see the whole concept of Micah hiring the Priest as a type of ‘hired clergy’ mentality that all the people of God wrongfully took hold of. We need to recognize that just because this Levite went down this road, this does not mean he was not a true Levite [person of God]. It just meant he allowed his gift/office to be used in a wrong way to bring legitimacy to a form of worship that had vestiges of idolatry contained within.

(777)JUDGES 9- Gideon died in the last chapter and his 70 sons were to rule as a plurality of elders. The same picture we see from Moses and the 70 elders. In Judges we see the dynamic of a plurality of leadership, along with the input of strong Apostolic/Prophetic voices. The same idea we saw in the book of Acts. Now Gideon previously refused the role of singular kingship over the people. It took both courage and humility to say ‘I will not be a king over you’. In the struggle to return back to a more biblical example of Christian leadership functioning in the ‘local church’ you need both humility and courage to resist the impulse in man to want a ‘famous leader’ to ‘rule over them’. Now Abimelech, Gideon’s son, was born from one of Gideon’s mistresses from the town of Shechem. Do you remember when we studied this town in the past? It was the town where the son of the prince raped Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. Jacobs’s boys had the towns men circumcise themselves and they went in and slew the city. Well, the boy who raped Dinah was Shechem. The town is named after him. So the history of this city is one of humiliation. Like Germany after WW1, they felt humiliated as a people. The maniac Hitler used a false ethnic nationalism to mobilize the people under him. This is what Abimelech does. He tells the men of Shechem ‘do you want the 70 sons of Gideon to rule over you [plurality] or one king?’ Here you have the temptation of power and authority seen in Abimelech. He does contrary to his father’s rejection of singular headship and thru deception takes a position that was never originally intended [he falls into the trap of singular authority over the people. A trend that the Christian church will also develop over many centuries] so the men of Shechem agree and Abimelech goes and kills the 70 sons of Gideon. But the youngest one escapes. His name is Jotham. He gives this prophetic speech from a hill [God ordained forum] and tells a parable. The parable has these trees asking the olive tree ‘come and reign over us’ and the tree says ‘should I leave my God ordained place and be promoted over other trees’. The same thing happens with the fig tree and the vine. They recognize the futility of leaving their God ordained position and trying to become a ‘ruler of other trees’. Finally the bramble [weed] rules over them. Jotham sees the rule of Abimelech as a twisted distortion of Gods authority. For three years Abimelech rules Israel and a local guy says ‘why should we have him rule over us? I can do a better job’ notice, just because Abimelech is ruling outside of Gods order, does not mean that any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ can come along and mount a successful over throw! This local stirs up the men of Shechem and turns the city against Abimelech. Another local resents this and sends word secretly to Abimelech ‘Hey, some guy is telling everybody he can do a better job than you. Come and put him in his place’. Sure enough a few days go by and Abimelech descends the hill with his troops. The rebel who is trying to displace Abimelech says ‘what’s that? I see men coming down’ the other local says ‘you must be seeing things’. Finally the rebel says ‘no, I see an army’. The secret confidant of Abimelech says ‘It’s Abimelech. Where’s you big mouth now! You talk a tough talk, let’s see some action’. Sure enough he realizes that this guy set him up. So Abimelech, even though he is operating unlawfully [outside of Gods original purpose] mounts a strong attack. He has resources and ‘supporters’ who took pride in his ruthless rule. Much like the mafia guys who would help their neighborhoods and gain the support of others, even though they were ruthless murderers! Abimelech defeats this challenge to his rule, but chases the enemy into a city and this lady from a tower drops a stone on his head from the tower and kills him. God did avenge the ruthless slaughter of Gideon’s 70 sons [Gods relational/plural plan of ruler ship] but the immature challenge to Abimelechs rule from an inexperienced local was not going to cut it. I see a lot of pictures from this story. The parable of Jotham really has some spiritual meaning to it. The idea of the trees rejecting false promotion has elements of Jesus teaching in it ‘the gentiles exercise authority by being promoted over people, this shall not be so with you’. The power struggles between those who resent all authority! Some simply challenge the present authority structures in Christianity out of an immature spirit [like the local guy in Shechem]. Over all we see the rebellion in Abimelechs rule and taking a position that his father had previously rejected. Just because someone might be in a position of promotion that God doesn’t want, this does not mean that all challenges to this authority are God ordained. As the Body of Christ struggles to get back to a more biblical idea of Christian leadership, getting away from the strong ‘I am your Pastor’ mentality and returning to a respect and honoring of spiritual elders in your midst [the term pastor is fine by the way] we need to recognize both sides of the coin. Don’t simply follow anyone who says ‘why should so and so think he can tell us what to do’. Some of these voices speak out of immaturity and rebellion. But in Gods timing the mature ‘trees’ will be wise enough to say ‘why should I go and be promoted over other trees’. Leaders will learn to blossom and produce fruit while not taking positions of promotion contrary to their nature.

(776)JUDGES 8- As Gideon routes the enemy, the children of Ephraim got in on it. Were they thankful that Gideon gave them a shot? No. They were mad that he didn’t let them in on it from the start! Gideon appeases their jealousy and says ‘you guys have done more than me. I take no personal glory from this’. Gideon saw his calling as one that would benefit the other ‘tribes’ [denominations]. He knew his purpose was not to start his own tribe! Now as Gideon is pursuing the 2 kings of Midian [Zeba, Zalmunna? In keeping myself honest, I did not just check the spelling] he comes thru 2 cities [Succoth, Penuel?] and asks the men ‘can you help us out? We are pursuing the kings of Midian and the troops need some food’. The men of Succoth say ‘why should we help? We don’t see them in your hands yet’. In essence, they were not sure if Gideon and his personal little ‘vendetta’ was going to prevail. We need to be careful that we don’t judge a prophetic act of God and take things personal. These cities needed to get on board when it counted. Gideon is not going to need their help after the job is done! So he tells them ‘fine, but when I’m done with the job, I will come back and whip your Elders with thorn bushes’. Gideon is treading dangerous territory. He actually is setting his judgment up against the God ordained elders of this city [Romans]. But like the Apostle Paul, his unique calling was unstoppable. They would go against elders or whoever they needed to, in order to complete the mission. So Gideon catches the 2 kings and tells his son ‘fall upon them with the sword’. His son hesitates out of fear. The 2 kings actually rebuke Gideon’s boy and tell him to have courage. Gideon takes the sword and kills the kings. A few interesting notes. The people are so overjoyed with Gideon’s authority that they say ‘Be our king, rule over us as a dynasty’. Gideon refuses and says this would be a rejection of Gods authority. Eventually Saul will become the king that fills this role. Even though God raised up strong authority figures, yet there was a distinction between over doing mans rule and recognizing Gods authority. Paul will teach the concept of God recognized elders in the New Testament church. But will also warn of men wanting to draw away disciples after themselves. Some will fall into the snare of ‘becoming kings’. Also Gideon took all the gold jewelry from the Midianites and made an Ephod [a priestly object] and it became an idol to the people. They fell into the snare of covetousness/idolatry that would become a hallmark of Israel’s rebellion.

(772)JUDGES 4- Deborah judges Israel. Let’s get into the role of women in the ‘church’. Wow, talk about being a glutton for punishment! First, the New Testament clearly teaches that in Christ there is neither male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free. Paul also lays down some guidelines in Corinthians and his pastoral epistles [Timothy, Titus] on the role of women and leaders in the church. We taught the book of Acts and saw that Phillip had 4 ‘virgins’ who prophesied. Peter quotes the famous Joel prophecy and says ‘in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy’. So we see two themes in the New Testament on women. One, they most certainly can be used in spiritual gifts, even ‘speaking ones’. While at the same time Paul tells the Corinthians to not allow the women to have authority over the men. He even says ‘let them keep silent in the ‘church’. [note- as you read all my teaching on this blog on what the church is, this will answer many questions on this subject. I also am aware of those who make a distinction here between ‘women’ and ‘married women’, the idea that the wives were asking their husbands questions during the meetings and how this could be seen as disorderly and out of custom for the time. The same idea on the subject of women and ‘hats’ in church. Were these instructions dealing with certain customs at Corinth that were peculiar to that city? Corinth was a wild place, the ‘women’ on the streets had customs that went along with ‘their trade’. Some think this played a role in Paul’s guidelines in this letter]. So obviously Paul did not see the reality of all being equal as meaning all have the same roles and responsibilities. Would it be wrong for God to not make everyone an Apostle or Prophet? Of course not. Does this mean that all cant prophesy? No. But God given roles and being equal [in value] in Gods eyes are different things. Would a father be fair if he let 2 of his boys join the football team [or boxing] and discouraged his daughter from doing the same? Just because people have different roles does not mean they do not share equal value. Now, we could go on forever with this. Some used arguments like this to justify slavery, I certainly disagree with that! But I also believe we have gone overboard [certain church ideas] in introducing Pastors as ‘Pastor Bob and Pastor Betty’ to the degree where we feel it would be bigoted to not see them as having the same role. Now, as you understand that the church is the corporate people of God, you will see that God is not ‘restricting’ the function of women as much as it might seem. The fact that the New testament did not have the singular role of ‘The Pastor’ as the primary functioning gift in the Local churches, would show you that even if women were not seen as Elders or Pastors [they were not by the way] would not mean they couldn’t function in spiritual gifts. But because we practice Local church in a way that has a few main leaders doing most of the functioning, this does seem to tell the women ‘you cant be one of us, you cant function’. While in reality this limited view of Local church not only restricts the function of women, but of most of the men as well! So here we see the Lord use Deborah in a leadership position, but even she seems to think that Barak is shrinking back from the role of leadership. She tells him ‘the Lord wants you to go up and defeat the Canaanites’. He is fearful and says ‘I will go if you go too!’ She agrees and also gives a prophetic statement ‘this journey will not be for your glory’. I think the present mindset of church and modern ministry needs to get back to this principle. Jesus told us we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow him. We often approach Christianity with the mindset of ‘I will achieve great goals and dreams by using God and scripture to attain all that I want out of life’. While it is true that God loves us and has good plans for us, we also need to see the virtue of actually denying ourselves for Christ. There are [and should be] real things that you desired to do or be at one point in your life, that you consciously laid down for Christ. This is a very real practice that most believers in today’s church environment don’t hear about. What have you given up for Jesus? Even saying it like this sounds strange to our ears! So ‘this journey is not for our glory’. Deborah tells Barak to go and defeat Sisera, the leader of Jabins army [geez, I am quoting all these names as I write, double check the spelling for yourselves]. He goes and defeats the mighty 900 steel chariot army of Jabin. Sisera escapes and hides in Jaels tent [the wife of Heber, descendants of Moses in laws]. He asks her to hide him, she covers him with a blanket. She gives him some milk, as he is sleeping she drives a tent stake thru his head! [Ouch] She then shows Barak that he is dead. God used women to help with the cause. He always has and always will. Jesus broke the etiquette of his day by allowing women to be ‘on his team’. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, a huge no no! He allowed Mary Magdalene to be part of the group. Prostitutes received mercy and wiped his feet with their hair! Jesus broke barriers and used women, but staying within the basic guidelines of ones calling [like women not being elders in the new testament churches] should not be seen as chauvinistic, but as simply submitting [both men and women!] to Gods basic order laid down in the new testament. NOTE- A few years back the southern baptist convention reaffirmed the basic truth that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church. Boy did you have a firestorm in the liberal media over this. Both sides [even in the church] have a tendency to use the verses that seem to present their side the most. Paul actually referred to a woman [Junia- Romans 16:7] as a possible Apostle ‘who are of note among the Apostles’[depending on how you read the text]. So I believe the scriptures give us much leeway way in God using women in the church, but we should not think it ‘progressive thinking’ to simply by pass all the other portions of scripture that teach the different roles of men and women.

(771)JUDGES 3- The Lord allows the enemies to remain partly in the land to ‘prove [test] the children who saw not the wars of Canaan’. God allowed the younger generation to learn what it meant to overcome some stuff. We live in a day where many believers are used to sitting in ‘church’ and being passive listeners their whole lives. They are all good people, it’s just they have never really learned how to war. To go out on their own and experience the kingdom. God taught the younger generation how to war. They cried unto the Lord during their oppression and the lord raised up Othniel. [Just a note, the way I do all our teaching (radio/blog) is I read the stuff ahead of time and when I teach I do it from memory. So sometimes you will see a misspelled name!] He is the younger brother of Caleb and he delivers the people. They soon back slide after his death and Eglon, the ‘fat king’ of Moab oppresses them. The Lord raises up Ehud. Notice the Lord is raising these judges up from the community! [Like the elders in Acts]. These judges experienced the same oppression as all the people around them. They lived with the complaints and bitterness of a people oppressed ‘geez, what does Eglon want now!’ The deliverers also didn’t carry all the weight, they simply showed the people that it’s possible to stand up for yourself and fight! Ehud goes to Eglon with ‘a present’ [tribute, the payment for being under him. But Ehud’s present doesn’t end there!] Ehud enters the king’s chamber. He says ‘I have a secret message from God for you’ and Eglon thinks he is going to get a little something extra. He does. Ehud takes his dagger out and shoves it all the way into Eglons fat belly! The handle and all. He escapes thru the porch and locks the doors behind him. He runs back to Israel and blows a trumpet and all the people descend upon Moab and slaughter 10 thousand mighty warriors. God gave them peace for 80 years. The description is graphic. The reason why Eglon is described as ‘fat’ is to show how this rule of lethargy and gluttony was suffocating God’s people. It took a risky, radical act of one man to say ‘I have had enough of this guy, I don’t care if I get killed, I am going to take him down!’ Sometimes it takes radical action to overthrow the spirit of mammon off of Gods people [you fight covetousness, not people!] After the violent [prophetic] act of Ehud, the people gained enough courage to cast the entire ruling nation of Moab off of them. Sometimes God will raise up a singular voice [John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness] to stir up the people to action. The individual can’t do it alone [he might take down an Eglon] but the people have to cast off the oppressors themselves [or at least finish the job].

(769) ACTS CONCLUSION- As we finish our study in Acts, I want to review a few things. The ‘church’ [ecclesia] as seen in Acts are without a doubt ‘organic’ this term describes the community of people in the various locations who believed the message of the Messiah. These people were not establishing ‘church meetings at the church on Sunday’ to compete with the Jewish meetings at the synagogues on Saturday. The transition from the old law into the new covenant was not only one of a change in message [law versus grace] but also a transition from shadows to reality. All the ways of worship and ‘liturgical’ form were part of the old law. The temple and priest and altar were important types and symbols of what was to come. But in the New Testament communities these ideas of physical worship changed. The actual praise of Gods people and doing good deeds will become the sacrifices that God is well pleased with [New Testament]. The Lords meal was actually a meal! The gathering on the first day of the week became a good tradition in memory of Christ’s resurrection. But as time went on many well meaning believers would return to the symbols and incorporate them into their worship. The church would be seen as the ‘church house’ the altar would be seen as a real place upon which the ‘bloodless sacrifice’ [Eucharist] would be re offered again for the sins of the world. The priest would be seen as having special powers given to him by Jesus, that during the mass the host becomes Jesus flesh and blood and as the people ‘eat’ him they are partaking, literally, of Jesus flesh and blood. Now, are all these believers wrong? Should we see the development of sacramental theology as pagan? I personally don’t think so. I prefer to view the changes that took place in the church as part of a process of Gods people grappling with doctrines and beliefs while at the same time struggling to maintain unity as the centuries progressed [I am not making excuses for wrong doctrine, I think well meaning church fathers grasped wrong ideas out of a fear of loosing their identity. The idea of a strong magesterium [teaching authority] gave room for wrong doctrines to become firmly entrenched in the collective mind of the early church]. For the first 1000 years of Christianity the people of God were primarily seen as Catholic. In 1054 the official split between eastern and western Christianity will take place. Another 500 years until the Catholic Church split again [1517]. The host of churches that came out of the Protestant Reformation are too innumerable to mention. Should we view all of these groups as deceived religionists? Of course not. Do we find a pattern in Acts that would allow us to trace ‘the true group’ and lay claim to being the most authentic? I don’t believe so. But as all the people of God strive for the unity that we actually posses in Christ, we have the great resource of the church fathers, the wisdom and insights of the reformers. The heritage of the outgrowth of the restorationist movements. The excitement of the Puritans as they launched out to found a new world free from religious persecution. If it weren’t for the strong institutional church we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have even had a Luther [Wittenberg] Calvin [first Paris then Geneva] or Zwingli [Zurich]! Or the ‘pre reformers’ Wycliffe, Huss and Knox. These men were products of Catholic higher learning! It was the reality of Catholic institutional Christianity that allowed for these men to be trumpets of truth in their day! The university cities that they taught in as Catholic priests allowed for their influence to spread far and wide. In each generation of believers you have had Gods people progress so far and leave us with great treasures that were intended to be passed on to future generations If we severe ourselves from historic Christianity, then we lose the great gains that have been made in the centuries gone by! The book of Acts shows us the freedom of the people of God. ‘Where 2 or more are together in my name, I am in the midst’ isn’t some description of ‘local church’. As in if we copy the formulas of what happened in Acts [break bread, prayer, etc.] then you ‘have a church’. Jesus promise to be with us when we are together is the act of brotherhood. Surely we saw Jesus going along with the people of God all thru out Acts. The Spirit of God that indwelt them in chapter 2 was the promise that he would be with them. He legitimized them! Not some institution [‘local church’] that they were to start! So today all the people of God are striving to find a closer identity with each other as fellow believers in the Lord. I believe the book of Acts gives us a beautiful picture of the church in her infancy stage. I also believe the growth seen as we read Paul’s letters to these churches indicates the heart of God for his people to remain in grace. Paul warns the churches to not fall into the legalism of observing days and regulations and legalistic requirements. He wants them to live simply, free from sin and to be the people of God in society. Some branches of Christianity took hold of the strong ‘we are pilgrims’ view [which is true to a degree] and would separate from society. Not realizing we are pilgrims and strangers to the worlds system, but our Father is God of heaven and earth! We are here to impact this planet! So let’s run with the exciting message and revolutionary mindset that the early church possessed. They weren’t in this thing for what they could get out of it, they were really laying their lives down for the gospel. They were sharing their stuff with each other. They were loving God and their fellow man in ways that were uncommon for their time. It wasn’t only what they said that allowed them to ‘turn their world upside down’ it was who they were, the People of God.

(757)ACTS 20- Paul travels with some brothers on the journey. This mode of visiting different regions and bringing brothers with him is exciting! They are truly seeing the Kingdom of God becoming established in the earth. Scripture says ‘they broke bread on the first day of the week’ we read later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that when they met on the ‘first day of the week’ he asked them to take up a collection before he arrived [so he could take the money and meet the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem]. Do we see here some type of Sunday Sabbath, that is the ‘church day to pay tithes’ so you don’t get cursed? Of course not. You are seeing the simple practical outworking of a people who are becoming the people of God. It’s fine to meet on a Sunday and to ‘break bread’. Hey, the group needs to know when to meet for the meal! But don't develop liturgical/sacramental ideas out of this. You say ‘hooray for John [me], he is really giving it to those Catholics’ well, don’t say hooray yet. Now he calls for the Elders at Ephesus to come to Miletus so he can give them some instructions and a farewell. This address from Paul is one of the best in the New Testament. He covers the basics for leadership and church growth. Now, he tells them ‘all the time I was with you guys I was upright. I taught you publicly and from house to house. I showed you repentance toward God and faith towards Jesus Christ. I worked and did not covet your money. I did this to prove I was not there to gain financially from you. To give you an example as Elders yourselves, so you would not see the responsibility of oversight thru a covetous mindset. Beware! After I leave you there will be an attempt by the enemy to undo the work of the Cross. Some men, even from your own group will rise up and speak twisted doctrines. They will try to become eminent in the group, drawing away disciples after themselves. Don’t become sidetracked and become followers of men! Guard the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Feed them Gods good word’. Paul lays down strong guidelines here. He actually teaches the elders that he worked when he was among them to leave this example of leaders not seeing ministry as a means to get gain. In one of his future letters [Timothy or Thessalonians?] he actually says this ‘working’ that he did was a tradition for them to keep. He said this in context of those who refused to work. Very strong indeed. Peter also will teach the Elders to take oversight of Gods flock ‘not for money, but out of a pure motive’. In the wars that rage over ‘simple church’ versus the modern 501c3 model, both sides have shot at each other wrongfully at times. There are very intelligent brothers who will take this chapter and teach that the modern Pastor has fallen into the trap of ‘making disciples after themselves’. They see the development of the role of Pastor as becoming the fulfillment of this. Now, I do see some merit to this, but I see most pastors [all the ones I know and have known personally over the years] as Elders who are striving to help Gods People. I see a real need for all leadership to see that ministry is not a fulltime clergy type office that has developed over the centuries! Paul is simply addressing the Elders [more mature ones- in the gospel, not necessarily old!] and showing them that their purpose is to help the people of God grow in grace and make it to a place of self sufficiency in Christ. Paul is pretty much laying down the gauntlet that leadership is not some ticket of ‘now that I am in ministry, my income comes from the God ordained tithe’. This is never taught as a means of support for New testament ministers. These ideas have developed out of the Old Testament idea of the tithe supporting the Levitical Priests. In the New Covenant all our Priests and we don’t practice this type of thing. But Paul does teach that it’s good to support materially [financially] those who are feeding you spiritual food. He does teach ‘don’t muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn’ [he called us ox's!] seriously, he lays down the biblical guideline of supporting those who minister the word. But it is important to see he was not establishing some type of clergy system, the fact that he was working while with these Ephesians and actually used this as an example for OTHER ELDERS as well as the believers shows you this. All in all the main point Paul is getting across is he wants the basic truth of the gospel to prevail and he does not want top heavy leadership to come in and draw away disciples after them. That is for strong gifted leaders to become the main focus of these Ephesian believers. So this chapter is important because we see Paul address these elders that he has been ‘ordaining’ in the churches [groups of believers]. We see the basic character and function of these men. We see the warning that cults will arise. In Paul’s day groups did come forth from the basic Christian communities [Gnostics and Docetists] that had a basic understanding of certain Christian things, but would deny the reality of Jesus. Paul bids them Farwell as they all embrace on the shoreline. The Elders were heartbroken over Paul’s words that he will probably see them no more. He wanted to keep the upcoming feast at Jerusalem and eventually preach at Rome. He was on this obsession to carry this gospel to the seat of the empire, even if it means his life.

(755)ACTS 18- Paul goes to Corinth, he meets Aquila and Priscilla. They are all tent makers and he stays with them and does some manual labor! Poor Paul, he just didn’t understand that when we read earlier in Acts, that the Apostles at Jerusalem devoted themselves to prayer and the word, that this meant they were in ‘full time ministry’. I am being sarcastic! The point is Paul did not see his very gifted apostolic ministry as a ‘ministry’ that would be run like a modern business. He certainly did not see manual labor as some type of lack of faith. In today’s environment you can ask a brother ‘how are you supporting yourself’ and many times the answer is ‘we are a faith ministry’ kind of saying ‘I don’t work, but I ask for money’ [Ouch!]. Now, Paul will say it’s good to meet the material needs of laboring elders/pastors, but don’t develop more into it than this. At Corinth Paul teaches for a year and a half, one of the longest recorded stays at any of his ‘churches’ [cities with believers in them]. He goes to Ephesus and back to Antioch. Then makes a tour of the cities where he originally preached. Basically going back and strengthening the churches. The Lord speaks again to Paul in a vision while at Corinth, he says ‘don’t be afraid to speak, no one will lay a hand on you. I have lots of people here’. Simple encouragement by divine means. Why, or how Christians can develop doctrines that say ‘these things don’t happen any more’ is beyond me. At Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla hear a great preacher. His name is Apollos and he is very well spoken. He is also limited in his understanding of the gospel. They take him and ‘expound unto him the way of God more perfectly’. It took humility on both sides for this to happen. Over the years I have had good friends who were/are pastors. As the Body of Christ goes thru transition it is becoming very well known that the development of the full time clerical office of Pastor was really not a scriptural development. Sort of like realizing during the reformation that there were limited teachings from the church that were simply wrong. As the people of God become more aware of ‘the more perfect’ things [more mature understanding on stuff] there is a humility that needs to be present in order for the proper change to occur. In many cities across the nation [and world] there are structures of church and practice that are limited. As Gods people [both pastors and parishioners] see this, then there is a process of change that occurs. In the more limited ‘churches’ you have scenarios where well meaning men often rebuke any freedom of growth along the lines of ‘I am your pastor, your role is to come to the Sunday [they view it as some type of Sabbath] service, pay your tithe to the storehouse [which they actually see as the church building!] and any rebellion against this order is like rebelling against Moses in the wilderness!’ Now, all good pastors obviously are not like this, but there are more situations that fit this example than you realize. So like Apollos [a good public speaking ministry- Pastor] he simply had to go thru a stage of seeing things at a deeper level. Simply submitting to the gifts that exist in the Body of Christ and being humble enough to learn. After Apollos learns, he is even stronger than he was before!

(754)ACTS 17- Paul heads to Thessalonica and preaches 3 Sabbath days in the synagogue. Once again the unbelieving Jews follow him and stir up trouble. Paul heads to Berea and speaks the word. The Bereans are said to be more noble because they heard Paul out and then searched the scriptures to see if he were telling the truth. The message he preached is that Jesus is the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke of. In 1st John, John says ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ Paul was showing them that Jesus was the Christ. Again trouble arises and Paul sails off to Athens and sends for Timothy and Silas later on. Now, Paul spent 3 weeks at Thessalonica. No huge budget, no message on ‘how can we reach Thessalonica without lots of money’ [I have heard it taught that you cant even begin to think about planting a church unless you have $250,000 dollars!] Paul believed in the power of the gospel. It took 3 weeks of simply sharing the gospel to plant this church! He will write them a few letters and give them some instruction, but the simple truth is every believer has the ability to ‘plant churches’ [speaking the gospel to people groups and those people believing and becoming ‘the church’]. At Athens Paul is troubled by all the ‘superstition’ [religion]. He runs into the philosophers. It said the people there spent all their time in either telling or hearing some new thing. An ancient form of ‘the view’ [the television show where the ladies talk about nothing all day long!] So Paul disputes with them and uses their own altar to ‘the unknown God’ and declares Christ unto them. Recently a Catholic priest made headlines because he advocated for Christians to use the name Allah instead of God. He felt the name was referring to the same God. Does Paul’s use of the ‘unknown God altar’ fall into this category? No. When any religion names their god and defines him, then this god is a false god [unless your speaking of the true God]. So in this case Paul was simply saying ‘this altar to the God you don’t know, I will show you how to come to know him’. Now, why were these philosophers in Athens? A few centuries before Christ you had the rule of Alexander the great. The Old Testament prophet Daniel speaks in detail of his rule. Alexander ruled one of the greatest empires known to man. He established the greatest library of the ancient world. He made Greek the common language. This is why the New Testament was written in Greek. Though Rome was the ruling empire of Jesus day, the culture was still Greek to a degree. This is called ‘Hellenization’. The Greeks even translated the Old Testament into Greek before the days of Christ. This translation is called the Septuagint, which means 70. This comes from the supposed number of scholars who worked on the translation. This period just prior to Christ was the time of the great philosophers. Plato, Aristotle and others. These Philosophers laid down a foundation of sorts for morality and the cultures that would develop down the road. The church fathers disagreed somewhat to the degree of mixing Christian faith with the thought of the pre Christian philosophers. Origen thought these men were Christian to the degree that God used them to instill types of thought and belief in the immortality of the soul and other concepts as a precursor to Christ. Others thought they were competing worldviews for the religion of Christianity and should be rejected. Paul himself will write the Colossians and warn them of the philosophies of men. Many thinkers were affected by the ‘new age’ concepts that came from these groups. Augustine, the great 4th-5th century Bishop from North Africa was into Manichaeism prior to his conversion to Christianity. He eventually would sit under the sound teaching of Ambrose and leave his former ideas. These groups had strange beliefs and concepts that would sound like the scientology adherents of our day. Others were not as drastic but would still be seen as on the verge of Christian truth. Marcion was sort of in this class. The point is Paul will take advantage of the philosopher’s willingness to delve into all types of ideas, and use this as an open door to preach Christ. Some breakaway groups from the more Orthodox churches will claim that the Catholic churches belief in the immortality of the soul is not scriptural. These groups teach that the ancient church picked these beliefs up from the philosophers of the day [some of the seventh day brothers say this]. You also find some Protestant brothers challenge the authenticity of various bible translations based on the Septuagint translation from ancient Greece. The church father Jerome will use the Septuagint in his popular translation of the Latin Vulgate. Some Protestants see Jerome’s version as less than pure. This is also why the Catholic bibles have the Apocrypha in them [The books between Malachi and Matthew that the Protestant bibles don’t have]. When Jerome translated his vulgate, he brought these books over from the Septuagint version. Jerome did put an asterisk next to the apocryphal books, he noted they were included from the Septuagint, but were not seen as authoritative. Simply added for historical content]. So we see the tremendous influence that Greek culture and philosophy played in the early stages of the church. Paul knew their thought, but his gospel was founded on more than some new belief system. Paul claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead!

(753)ACTS 16- Paul and Silas hit the road. They are being lead by the Spirit and are evangelizing large regions without a lot of money, organization or ‘corporate help’. Now, these things are permitted, but we need to make sure we are seeing this story right! Jesus imbedded a mindset into the Apostles, he told them ‘don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment! No special appeals for funds [ouch!], keep it simple’ [Message bible- Jesus instructions when he sent them out by two’s]. So here we actually see the Apostles living the vision. Paul by the way has a vision! He sees a vision of a man in Macedonia saying ‘come and help us’. Luke writes ‘we took this as a sure sign of God sending us’. Wow, what childlike simplicity. The great theologian Paul, the man who could argue orthodoxy all day [and win]. He has a vision and says ‘we took it as Gods will’. Don’t develop doctrines that cut you off from God’s supernatural guidance. Sure, people have gotten into trouble with visions. Cults have ‘prophets and apostles’. But the church also had these things and it helped on the journey. Now at Philippi they convert a woman down by the river. They cast out a demon from a fortune teller. The ‘masters’ see they lost their ‘money maker’ and stir up trouble in the city. Paul and Silas get thrown in jail. They praise God and sing, an earthquake happens. The doors swing open. The jailer thinks they all escaped and is going to kill himself. Paul and Silas preach the gospel and he asks ‘what must I do to be saved’ they say ‘believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, your family too!’ The whole house gets baptized and the city leaders send word ‘tell them to leave’. Now, Paul is a lot like me. He doesn’t let stuff slide. He says ‘they beat us unlawfully, we are Roman citizens! Now they want us to leave secretly. Let them come and tell us publicly’ the leaders hear they are Romans and are worried. Paul made them squirm! Let’s do a little overview. We are halfway thru the book of Acts and we see the ‘churches’ as these free flowing believers carrying out the gospel. Baptisms and healings and visions. We also see doctrinal growth. We challenge the mindset of many evangelicals, baptismal regeneration is not taught [at least I don’t see it] but baptism in water is the immediate outward identification of the believer. In essence it was the New Testament ‘altar call’. Our Catholic friends will eventually develop an idea of baptism as washing away original sin. But sometimes we miss the other idea of putting off adult baptism because of fear of future sins. Saint Augustine, the emperor Constantine and others delayed their baptism thinking they would use it to ‘clean them up’ after any future faults. The doctrine of baptism in Acts is seen as an immediate rite that does affect the believer [as do all outward acts of obedience! Even the Lords Supper strengthens the faith of the believer]. But justification and believing are prior to baptism. But not two weeks or two years prior! But a few minutes. I also forgot to mention that Paul has Timothy circumcised in this chapter. The great Apostle Paul, who will eventually pen the words ‘circumcision means nothing, but a circumcised heart is what matters’ here he gave in. Paul and Silas are fresh off the recent Jerusalem council. They have been accused of teaching Jews ‘abandon the law and circumcision’. The decree from Jerusalem said the gentiles don’t need to worry about these things. But they were still teaching Jewish converts to maintain Jewish law and custom. Timothy was not circumcised, and everyone knew it! His mother was Jewish but his father was Greek. So Paul realized that the judiazers would eventually say ‘see, Paul is even teaching Jews to break Moses law’ so Paul gives in and compromises here. Do the restrictions at the Jerusalem council still hold sway over Jewish believers today? No. Paul will eventually abandon all Jewish law and custom from his doctrine of justification by faith. But at this stage they are still learning and growing. The mindset of ‘God’ in this book is one of ‘less restrictions’ and more acceptance as time rolls on. We see enough stuff on baptism to not call the churches who emphasize baptism ‘Cambellites/heretics’ [the term Cambellite comes from the founder of the Church of Christ/ Disciples of Christ groups. There founder was Alexander Campbell. He falls into the restorationist camp. He saw the emphasis on adult baptism in scripture and many of his followers see the act of water baptism as the moment of conversion]. But we also see the basic ‘ingredient’ for acceptance as faith. So God is not excluding those who focus on baptism [Peters initial converts] but showing us greater acceptance among ‘those who believe’ [Acts 10]. This is what I tried to say in our introduction to this study. As we read we shouldn’t be looking for formulas or hard and fast verses to simply justify our churches beliefs against the church down the block. But we need to see the heart and mind of God. We also shouldn’t trace our peculiar belief to this historic church and say ‘see, our group is the most accurate one’. Why? Don’t I believe my idea of simple church is closer to the historic church? Yes. But the ‘church’ will develop in good and bad ways as the centuries roll on. The fact that many Catholics and Orthodox and future Protestants will grow and fight and reform, means the church herself has within her the inherent ability to ‘get back to the Cross’ or the reality of all of these groups believing in Jesus causes there to be a fundamental unity that exists because we all possess Christ’s Spirit. So even though I personally see the organic church in Acts, this doesn’t mean that I see the other expressions of church as totally illegitimate or lost! So let’s end this chapter rejoicing with the jailer who heard the gospel and ‘believed with all his house’.

(752)ACTS 15- Some brothers from Judea came down to Antioch and taught the believers that they had to be circumcised and keep the law in order to be saved. These are the Pharisees out of Jerusalem who became believers. They tried to put the gentile believers under the yoke of the law. Paul and Barnabas disagree strongly with this teaching. They decide to bring the question before the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem. This is the first ‘church council’ in history. The ‘Jerusalem council’. At the meeting the dispute arises. Peter speaks up and recounts his experience at Cornelius house. How God showed Peter that he would justify people by faith, without having to become converts to Judaism. James chimes in and quotes a famous verse [famous now!] from the prophet Amos ‘in those days I will rebuild David’s tabernacle and all the gentiles upon whom my name is called will see me’. I want to stop here for a minute. On this blog I wrote a chapter on David’s tabernacle. It is in the booklet ‘The great building of God’ you might want to read it if you are not familiar with David’s tabernacle. I want to note that scholars disagree on what James means here. Some see ‘David’s tabernacle’ as the house or dynasty of David. Like Paul saying ‘house of God’ when speaking of ‘the family of God’. Others say this verse teaches the rebuilding of the Temple. The main reason James is quoting this verse is really not for the ‘rebuilding of David’s tabernacle’ section. It is for ‘all the gentiles who call upon my name’ part! James is agreeing with Peter and taking the side of grace when he says ‘look, even Amos said gentiles would call on Gods name’. Paul does this in Romans, he quotes the Old Testament prophets in context of the gentiles being accepted. So I wanted to just put some context to why James is bringing up this verse. But I also give credence to seeing ‘David’s tabernacle’ as speaking of the New Testament house of God [the Body of Christ] and Gods intent to ‘tabernacle in his people’. Acts does teach that Jesus has ascended and is seated on a throne that includes Israel as well as the whole universe! So in this context Christ can be seen as ‘building the tabernacle of David’ [spiritual temple of believers] that includes all ethnic groups. Yes, gentiles too can call upon his name! The Apostles and Elders and brothers all reach agreement and write a short letter and send Judas and Silas along with Paul’s group back to Antioch to read the final decree. They told the gentile believers they were not under the law and did not have to convert to Judaism to be saved. They did give four simple restrictions. Don’t eat meat with the blood in it, don’t eat food offered to idols or strangled animals. Don’t commit fornication. Basic requirements that later on will lose their emphasis as the church grows in grace [accept for fornication! God does require believers to walk in holiness]. Now this chapter is vital for every believer. The 16th century reformation restored the truth of people being saved freely by grace. Many Christians were lost in the legalistic requirements of religion. Many believers thought they could buy their way out of purgatory with money! Others thought they would be saved by keeping church law. This early church council gave freedom to the church in seeing herself accepted by grace. The church grew in her understanding of Gods grace. As God’s revelation of himself progressed thru out the early church, they saw him as being ‘inclusive’ not exclusive! The more they learned about God, the more they understood him justifying people freely. It is easy to lose the reality of God justifying man freely thru grace. No excuses for living in sin, but true acceptance and forgiveness because of Christ. This is truly the heart of the gospel. The first church council laid the foundation of Gods free grace. The gentiles at Antioch and the other towns were ecstatic over this decision. Truly the gentile churches are experiencing more freedom than the church at Jerusalem, after all they had the ‘Pharisees who believed’ at Jerusalem, and they weren’t willing to give up on their belief of the importance of the law and circumcision. They will haunt Paul thru out his life. After the letter is read, Paul and Barnabas continue to teach at Antioch and the 2 brothers who were out of Jerusalem are free to leave. Judas goes back, but Silas likes the freedom at Antioch and decides to stay. Paul says ‘lets go visit all the brothers in the cities where we preached’ Barnabas says ‘great, lets take John Mark!’ Paul doesn’t want him because he abandoned them on an earlier missionary journey. Paul takes Silas and John goes with Barnabas. The ‘visiting of all the brothers’ is also described as ‘visiting the churches’. Once again, the brothers [and sisters] in the cites are defined as ‘the churches’. They were called out groups of believers who were recognized not because they ‘attended church on Sunday’ but because they were followers of ‘the way’.

(751)ACTS 14- Paul and Barnabas continue going thru different cities [Iconium, Lystra] Paul heals a man who was lame from birth and the whole city says ‘these men are gods who have come down in human form’. Paul barely stops them from offering sacrifices to them! In each city they travel to, they have a routine. They go into the synagogue and speak to the gathered. Both Jews and ‘God fearers’ [gentile followers] the pattern of some believing and others resisting becomes routine. Paul also has to deal with the Jews who were following him from past cities. They were sort of 1st century ‘apologists’ who made it their purpose to simply stop Paul. I want you to see that the ‘churches’ were the various groups of people who believed. They did gather together [Ecclesia] but they did not see ‘church’ as a place they went to for religious instruction. They did not start ‘gentile synagogues’ in competition with Judaism. Now Paul goes back thru the cities and at that point ‘ordains Elders in every church’. This is important to see. The ordaining of Elders was the simple process of seeing who had the maturity of understanding in the gospel and could be looked up to as a spiritual guide. Any questions or new converts in the towns would know ‘so and so’ is a responsible believer who Paul put his stamp of approval on. Why even do this? Remember, the enemies of Paul [Jewish law keepers] are going behind Paul’s back and trying to undo all the work that Paul was doing. Elders were gifted men who had the ability to push back against those whose ‘mouths must be stopped’ [Paul’s future language against false teachers]. These Elders were not full time Pastors in the modern sense. They were not singular authorities who ‘cover the flock’. They were not hired clergy! The reason why it is important to see this is because we want to stay as close as possible to the historic picture of the church as we read thru Act’s. These ‘local churches’ were caring communities of Christ followers who did have spiritual oversight that were to be respected and held in high esteem. Paul and Peter will teach the concept of giving honor to those who have spiritual accountability for you. But we can’t apply this to unbiblical forms of ecclesiology/hierarchy that will develop over the centuries. In Luther’s day many well meaning men felt Luther [the 16th century reformer] was rebelling against God ordained authority by going against the Pope. We need to understand that John the Apostle rebuked the rise of singular authorities who would seek to have the preeminence amongst Gods flock [Diotrephes- 3rd Jn]. Paul will warn the Ephesian church [later in Acts] that after his departure men would rise up seeking to make disciples after themselves. The point is any future use of the teaching of Elders/Pastors and the true responsibility to honor and submit to godly authority has to be seen in context with the complete story. While Luther’s [and Paul’s] critics could make the case that they were rebelling against God ordained authority, yet at the same time true revolution always carries an element of casting off old systems and restraint. Paul will confront Peter openly over his hypocrisy between treating Jewish believers different than Gentile believers. Peter was an Apostle before Paul and the argument could have been made ‘who does Paul think he is, going over the head of Peter’. So we need to see the biblical truth of God ordained leadership. The fact that many good Pastors and men of God have faithfully served Christ’s church. But we do not want to develop mindsets contrary to the freedom that we have in Christ while teaching the truth of godly leadership. Paul ordained ‘Elders’ on his way back thru Lystra and Iconium. He sails back to Antioch and recounts all the wonderful success that they had with the gentile believers. Antioch has this free flowing spirit amongst the church. They are gentiles and are not keeping the Jewish law. Paul and Barnabas were getting a reputation amongst the Jewish leadership in the cities and towns. Word gets back to Jerusalem and we will see whether Paul’s gospel will prevail before the ‘church authorities’? I believe we could describe Luther’s response before the Catholic church as fitting Paul’s spirit ‘unless I am persuaded by scripture I can not go against my conscience. Here I stand, I can do nothing else’.

(750)ACTS 13- The believers at Antioch were praying and fasting and the Holy Spirit said ‘separate me Paul and Barnabas unto the work which I have called them’. Then the whole group laid their hands on them and sent them out. Notice, there was not a singular authority figure who was the overseer of this church [community of believers]. It is important to see this, because when you share the oversight of a body of people with a plural team [Elders/Pastors- the title you use is insignificant] then there is less of a chance of one person becoming too elevated in the minds of the group. There is also a dynamic of the group coming to maturity as they see themselves as being able to ‘ordain-lay hands’ and send out. Now Paul and Barnabas begin their missionary journeys. At Paphos Paul casts blindness on a sorcerer and the chief deputy believes. At Antioch [Pisidia] they preach in the synagogue. Paul does a good Old Testament survey and mentions ‘Saul from the tribe of Benjamin’ as being part of Gods plan. I always wondered if Paul saw himself in this image [Saul from Benjamin]. Jesus did tell Ananias that Paul was a chosen vessel to bear his name. Notice also that Paul's message saw the promise to David in Psalms ‘the sure mercies of David’ as being fulfilled thru Christ’s resurrection. The theme of the message was not ‘Jesus rule is delayed’ [dispensational teaching] but that thru Jesus the promises to the fathers have come to fruition. While it is true that the Jewish hearers will reject their Messiah as a people, yet this did not mean that the Kingdom was delayed or that the ‘church age’ was a parenthetical time until the ‘Kingdom age’ reconvenes. The whole tenor of Paul’s message is the reality that Jesus resurrection and being seated at Gods right hand is the promise being fulfilled that God made to the fathers. It is important to see his theme all thru out the Apostolic writings. The following week after Paul delivers his message, many gentiles come back to hear the word again. The leaders get jealous and Paul rebukes them. He tells them it was necessary for the Jews to have heard the word first, but then in fulfillment of the prophets, Jesus will be a light to the gentiles also. Paul and Barnabas sail off to Iconium next. An important theme in all the sermons in Acts is how the main message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Prophets. Paul tells them that they heard the readings from the prophets [Old Testament] every Sabbath day, but they also fulfilled the prophetic word by not being able to understand what the prophets were saying. So they crucified Jesus because of their blindness to the meaning of scripture. We need to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets. The ultimate end of our purpose. To become like him in every way. In today’s church world it is so easy to see the word and ‘church attendance’ as a means to self fulfillment. But we need to re focus on becoming more like him. I am sure it was a shock to Paul when he realized all the time and study he did as a Pharisee was missing the main intent of scripture. It was humiliating to find out that the simple men who became these followers of Christ were closer to the truth than the theological doctors of the day. Jesus said we must become like little children again in order to see Gods kingdom.

(749)ACTS 12- Herod kills James [not the brother of Jesus who is one of the lead Apostles at Jerusalem] and puts Peter in jail. The church has a prayer meeting for Peter and an angel goes into the cell and wakes Peter up. He leads him outside the city and frees him. Peter thinks it’s a vision and realizes it really is happening! Note how real their visions and dreams must have been, Peter at times can not determine fact from vision! He shows up at the prayer meeting and a girl named Rhoda hears a knock at the door. She asks ‘who is it’? He says ‘It’s me, Peter!’ She can’t believe it and leaves him standing at thee door! She tells the prayer group ‘it’s Peter’ they tell her ‘no way, maybe his angel?’ Funny, you can believe his angel showed up, but no way could the Lord deliver him from jail. At the end of this chapter we see the return of Paul and Barnabas after they brought the relief money to the saints at Jerusalem. It calls it ‘their ministry’. This early church did not see ‘the ministry’ as the actual business and the need to raise funds for the ‘church’. Now, it’s fine to pool your money for good cause’s with other believers. When I teach we are not ‘under the tithe’ this does not mean we shouldn’t support good ministries with 10 percent or more of our money. The point is, here we see Peter going back out to the field, Paul and Barnabas returning back from ‘the field’. Spontaneous prayer meetings. No set time or way to give offerings, just a true freedom of giving themselves away for the cause of Christ. Leadership does exist, but the normal function and flow of this church is not centered around ‘the Sunday Sabbath’ [EEK!] There is a real sense of this community of believers being lead by the Spirit. It would be wrong to say ‘hey, Phillip went out on his own! He is not under the local church covering’! Or ‘now that we are back from Jerusalem, lets ask Pastor so and so [the supposed Pastor of the ‘church at Antioch’] what's next’. There were no ‘Pastors’ in the sense of the fulltime Christian minister who oversees the ordinances on Sunday. Now, these developments will arise as the centuries progress. Many good Pastors and Priests will function this way for centuries. They will see the church ‘building’ as ‘the church’. Our Catholic brothers will begin to see ‘the altar’ as the actual place ‘in the church’ that Jesus Body is ‘re offered’ [presented] as a ‘bloodless sacrifice’ for the salvation of the world. All developments that are not seen in Acts. The point is, we limit the flow of Gods Spirit thru his people when we regress from ‘the true has now come’ [the whole reality of Jesus and the church being the real image of things. The law and it’s shadows were only an incomplete picture]. When we as believers go back to ‘the shadows’ thinking that form and ‘pictures of things’ [symbols] are the way we will touch the world, then we lose the reality of us being the actual people of God showing the world Christ thru our unselfish lives. Jesus said when the people of God love each other and lay their own desires and goals down for his Kingdom, then the world will see our actions and believe. Jesus did leave us memorials ‘do this in remembrance of me’ ‘as often as you do this you SHOW the Lords death till he come’. I do realize that the church does have an element of ‘presenting thru picture [art] the Lords death and resurrection’ [passion plays and so forth] but when we lose the real fellowship mentality of this first century church, we then lose the greatest picture of all. Being the actual functioning Body of Christ on earth. John writes ‘how can you say you love God, who you don’t see. When you can’t love your brother, who you do see?’ [1st John] the New Testament clearly shows us that the love we have in word and deed is the greatest ‘sacramental’ picture we can declare to the world. Our Catholic friends have a song ‘they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love’. I agree.

(748)ACTS 11- Peter recounts his vision and experience he had at Cornelius house. The Jews at Jerusalem were upset that he went and ate with non Jews. He explains that the Lord showed him not to view these gentiles as unclean. They were accepted and made clean thru Christ’s blood. The leadership at Jerusalem agree [for now!] We begin to see the tension that will play out thru the rest of the New Testament. This struggle between Jewish law and grace will become the number one issue of contention in Paul’s letters. In this chapter we see Barnabas go down to Antioch and eventually get Paul from Tarsus to help him establish the fledgling church at Antioch. After Peters experience they began preaching to gentiles and Antioch becomes the counterbalance ‘church’ [community of believers] to Jerusalem. I want you to see something important here. The church at Antioch does not have ‘Temple worship’ along side ‘home meetings’. The believers ‘assembled’ as a brotherhood. They met in homes to be sure, but ‘the church’ was simply a description of a called out group of people who continued in grace and lived as a fellowship community. The reason I emphasize this is because we grasp limited ideas of church and then we try and make others fit our ideas. The church at Antioch [and Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, etc.] will continue to maintain this basic identity all thru out the New Testament and well into the second century. The earliest archeological find of a ‘church building’ is found in the 3rd century. There was an inscription discovered that spoke of the ‘church’ meeting here. The ‘here’ was the home of a believer! [I think the find was ‘Europa/duropa’ or something to that effect]. The point here is I want you to see the original design of the church. Up until this point we see the early church evangelizing large regions by simply being led of the Spirit. The finances are simple, this chapter will end with the believers at Antioch pooling their resources to send relief to the church in Judea. It will be the beginnings of Paul’s ministry of relief that we read about in 1st Corinthians 16. This chapter says Prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. Agabus prophesied of a famine to come, the church made arrangements to send relief to their brothers. One of the main Apostles at Jerusalem, James, will oversee a group of poor saints thru out his life. There is no early doctrine seen of rebuking the poor saints and teaching them how they were redeemed from poverty and the curse of Deuteronomy in a way that poverty was see as a sin. James will actually pen his letter and say ‘God chose the poor of this world [not just ‘poor’ in spirit] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom’ he will also rake the rich over the coals! The whole point is as we read the bible, we need to read it in context and allow the story to shape our views, not the other way around. This Antioch community received New Testament prophets, they did not view the verse in Hebrews ‘God spoke to us in the past by prophets, but in these last days by his Son’ they didn’t see this as meaning there were no more prophets. These believers were not tithing, they did not have a church building, not ordained clergy or ‘high church’ model. They were a vibrant bunch of grace believers who will be told they don’t have to keep the law to be saved! From this point forward, no New Testament church in scripture will lose this basic idea. Some will struggle [Galatians, Corinth] but the basic truth of ‘the church’ being the people of God justified freely by grace, will remain strong. They are still living a communal type of idea, and giving is still radical, done to meet the real needs of people, and is not a tithe!

(746)ACTS 9- Paul gets permission from the high priest to go to Damascus and arrest the believers. On his way the Lord appears to him and Paul is told to go to Damascus and wait for instructions. He is blind for 3 days. God gives a vision to Ananias and tells him to go to Paul in Judas house, because he too had a vision of a man coming to him and laying hands on him. Ananias is afraid but does it at the Lords insistence. I want you to see the role of visions and divine guidance in this event. The purpose of the visions and supernatural events has nothing to do with the canon of scripture. Some teach that the only reason you had supernatural guidance in the early days was because the canon was not complete. But after its completion you no longer had these types of things. First, no where is this doctrine taught in scripture. Second, you did not have total agreement on ‘the canon’ [all the books that make up our bibles] until the 4th century! Now you did have a basic group of letters and writings that were accepted as authoritative, but there was not total agreement. Many early believers had the epistles of Barnabas and a few other letters that were accepted. Some did not include Revelation at all. Others questioned Hebrews and James. You also did not have a workable, readable ‘bible’ in actual book form until the 12th-13th century! That's right, the actual form of our modern books was not invented until that late date. Plus the availability of books on a mass scale did not appear until the Guttenberg printing press of the 16th century. Just in time for Luther’s Reformation! The first book printed on his press was the Guttenberg bible. So the point is, the idea that somehow right after the early Apostles died off you had all believers going to ‘their bibles for direction’ as opposed to having dreams or visions or other divine guidance, really isn’t a workable solution. In this chapter God needed to get orders to his people, he gave them visions! Now Paul immediately preaches Christ as the Son of God and Messiah. He stirs up the waters and they sneak him out of town and send him to Jerusalem. The church at Jerusalem are leery of him, Barnabas vouches for him and he is received. He starts preaching there and once again they want to kill him. He eventually is sent back to his area of Tarsus. Now Peter is still on the road preaching Christ. He heals at a man at Lydda and many come to the Lord. A woman named Tabitha dies at Joppa, a town close to Lydda. They call for Peter to come and he does and raises her from the dead. What are we seeing here? An early church [community of believers] preaching the gospel and doing miracles and affecting large regions without lots of money. Without hardly any organization. Without setting up ‘local churches’ in the sense that each area has separate ‘places’ they see as ‘local churches’ with salaried pastors running the ‘churches’. You are seeing a radical movement of Christ followers who are sacrificially giving there lives away for the gospel. No prayer meetings on ‘how in the world are we going to reach the region for the Lord. We need tons of cash’! They believed the simple instructions Jesus gave to them on going into all the world and preaching the gospel. Sure there will be times where support is sent to help them make it to the next location. But the whole concept of needing tons of cash and to build huge ‘church buildings/organizations’ and to set up salaried ministers is not seen in this story. I do not think the development of these things over the centuries means ‘all the churches are deceived’ type of a thing. All ‘the churches’ [groups of believers who are presently identifying themselves this way] are great people of God. They are doing the works of Jesus and functioning to a degree in the paradigm that they were given [either thru their upbringing or training]. But today we are seeing a rethinking of the ‘wineskin’ [that which contains the new wine] on a mass scale. As we read this story in Acts I want to challenge your mindset. Don’t fit the story into your present understanding of ‘local church’. But let your understanding of ‘Local Church’ be formed thru scripture. This chapter said ‘the churches had rest and were edified and were walking in the fear of the Lord’. The ‘churches’ are defined as all the communities of believers living in these various locations!

(745)ACTS 8- After the death of Stephen the church scatters thru out the region. We see Phillip being used and directed by God. An angel will speak to him, he will be supernaturally translated from one place to another. We see the simple reality of all believers having Gods legitimacy to function. This is important to see! Later on we see the first gentile church at Antioch being told ‘separate me Paul and Barnabus unto the work which I have called them to’[Acts 13]. Some will develop unbiblical restrictions from this verse. The strong ‘local church’ view [the view that sees local church thru the 501c3 Sunday building mindset!] will later teach ‘see, you can’t function on your own. If you are not under a ‘local church covering’ you are an independent rebel out of Gods authority’. Here we see the simple reality of God sending and communicating to Phillip on the basis of him being a child of God. In Acts 13 the Spirit communicated his purpose to an entire group, in this chapter he communicates to an individual. The legitimacy comes from the reality of God being the one who is giving the directions! Now, we see Phillip at Samaria preaching the Kingdom and doing miracles. The sorcerer Simon gets converted. The church at Jerusalem sends Peter and John to see what’s happening and they lay hands on the Samaritan believers and they ‘receive the Holy Ghost’. This is also described as the Holy Spirit falling on them. This chapter is used as a proof text for pro Pentecostal theology and anti! The Pentecostals say ‘see, believers don’t have the Holy Spirit until a separate Baptism takes place’. The anti Charismatics say ‘this is an anomaly. God did this because he didn’t want to have a competing church in Samaria that did not have the approval of the Jerusalem church’. I will agree and disagree with both of these propositions [yes, at the same time!] Paul will teach in his epistles that it is impossible to believe without having the Spirit. He will also teach a doctrine of being filled with the Spirit. The arguments over the terms used can be confusing. The fact is we see both the experiences of believers [who have the Spirit] still experiencing greater empowerments down the road. And we see believers ‘getting it all at once’ [Acts 10]. Theologically, you can’t be born again without having the Spirit. But you can call ‘the Spirit falling on you in a fresh way’ ‘getting the Spirit’. The different expressions people use do confuse the matter. The hard and fast Charismatics will not agree with me. And the old time Calvinists might disagree with me. I believe both sides have things to add to the debate. I want all of us to be open and daily expecting God to renew us with the Spirit on a daily basis. I know one thing for sure, Paul taught we can water and plant all day. But if the Spirit doesn’t do his work we will never see any real increase! Simon the sorcerer sees that thru the laying on of hands the Spirit is given. He asks ‘Hey, I will pay you money for the gift of being able to lay hands on people and have them receive the Spirit’. Peter responds ‘you wicked sinner! How dare you think you can purchase Gods gift with money! You and your filthy money will perish together! You better pray that God forgives you for this’. Simon says ‘can you pray for me’? He didn’t want to get struck down that instant! Peter will later teach in his letters ‘take oversight of Gods flock, not for filthy lucre. But of a ready mind’. James will write in his letter ‘woe to the rich, their day is coming’. John writes in 1st John ‘love not the world neither the things in the world’. Paul will pen ‘The love of money is the root of all evil. Some went coveting after it and have left the faith’. Where in the world did all these first century Apostles get this idea from? Was it the devil tricking them out of the truth of wealth? Were they under the spell of church tradition? Lets see, Jesus said ‘the rich man dies and goes to hell. The poor man to Abrahams bosom’ ‘it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle’ ‘the rich man went away very sad because he had much riches’ [after Jesus said go sell all you have and give to the poor] ‘you can not serve God and mammon’ ‘the deceitfulness of riches choke Gods word’ ‘thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee’ [to the rich man who was planning on building more storage for his stuff!] The simple fact is the early church had imbedded in their minds a non materialistic gospel. The modern church seems to read scripture thru the lens of the prosperity promises that you do find thru out scripture. The prosperity promises are true and should be understood, but we need to also see the reality of what I just showed you. The church will eventfully coin the phrase ‘Simony’. It will refer to those who use money to gain influence and official positions in the church. Simons name does becomes famous, but not in the way he wanted!

(744)ACTS 7- At the end of chapter 6 we saw the accusation against Stephen ‘he teaches the temple will be torn down and that Jesus will change the laws and customs of Moses’. There are a few key chapters In Acts, this is one of them! Up until this point we have seen Peters message of the Messiah thru the lens of repentance and baptism. You will notice Peter is very strong on ‘you guys need to repent and show it’. Strong word indeed! Peter also introduced the scripture ‘the Lord your God will raise up a prophet like unto me [Moses speaking of Christ] whoever doesn’t listen to him will be destroyed’. But Stephen is the first one to teach publicly the passing away of the law and the temple and the new ‘house of God’ to be the people. It’s the beginnings of Pauline theology. Now I have read how this chapter was questioned and doubted as to why Stephen was teaching this. Some theologians thought the chapter was questionable as canon because of it’s seeming to be so out of context. These are the times where I do agree with the ‘seminary as being a cemetery’! This chapter is absolutely brilliant! I don’t want you to miss the main point. Stephen traces the history of Israel and uses the verse from Moses ‘the Lord will raise up a PROPHET LIKE ME’. Stephen explains that when Moses first showed up on the scene to deliver his people, that the people said ‘man, who do you think you are! Who made you the boss’? Then Stephen says ‘yet this Moses, who the people refused. He was actually the ruler and deliverer that they refused’. Stephen is showing them that the prophets actually prophesied of the first century reality of Israel rejecting Jesus because Moses said they would! Don’t miss this point. This is the main point of Stephens message. He is telling the religious leaders ‘you simply fulfilled prophecy by rejecting the Messiah’. He even compares the miracles and great works that were done by Moses to the great miracles Jesus did. Stephen ends the chapter by also tracing Jewish history to David’s son Solomon and how the future temple that he would build was simply a shadow of the New Testament house of God. He quotes David in Psalms ‘God will not dwell in temples made with hands’. Now, this has nothing to do with ‘church buildings’. This has everything to do with Stephen’s insight into the theological truths contained in Jesus teachings about the destruction of the temple. In today’s ‘church world’ we have a very unbalanced view of temple rebuilding and the significance of the passages in Matthew that prophesy of its destruction. In Stephen’s mind the future destruction [that is future from his time. A.D. 70!] showed the passing away of the old law and its entire system of worship. The first century Apostles and teachers saw the eschatological portions of scripture from a redemptive lens. Peter earlier said ‘repent and be baptized… so your sins will be blotted out at the return of the Lord’ ‘whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things’. He couched individual salvation in with Gods ‘full world’ purpose of redemption [Romans]. They saw it from a wider angle than just ‘me and Jesus’. Now Stephen is doing the same. The whole Apostolic tradition concerning the destruction of the temple showed the purpose of God in ending the old concept of law and ‘limited kingship’ [from Jerusalem’s throne] and how God raised up his Son and placed him at his right hand and made him Lord and Christ. The passing away of the temple and Stephens preaching on ‘the customs being changed’ was right on! When I taught Hebrews I tried to bring this out. I realize that some teachers say Paul didn’t write Hebrews. I attribute it to him simply because no one else had the revelation he had in these areas. But I wouldn’t argue with saying Stephen might have penned it [depending on the dates!] Now we end the chapter with Stephens’s famous martyrdom and him saying ‘lay not this sin to their charge’. Saul [Paul] is a witness to this killing, he will become the greatest advocate for grace versus law that the church will ever know. NOTE- I forgot to mention that Stephen even compares the mass killing of babies at the time of Moses with the mass killing done under Herod during Jesus time. He shows how Moses and Jesus were alike in many ways.

(743)ACTS 6- There arises the first controversy in the Jerusalem church. The fact that they were doing this daily massive food distribution led to an area of prejudice. The ‘Grecians’ [Greek speaking Jews] were being neglected. They were seen as a little lower on the scale of racial purity. They were speaking a language less pure than the Hebrew tongue. So the Apostles heard of the problem and said ‘pick out 7 men of good report, who have favor and wisdom and put them in charge of ‘this business’. In essence these were the first Deacons. The business was simply speaking of the duty of serving the food. Up until now the Apostles were involved with the distribution. But they said ‘we will devote ourselves to prayer and the Word’. This chapter is important, many well meaning church communions trace their practices of church government to this time. Are Deacons positions who ‘do the business of the 501 c 3’? Not really. Well, not at all! Are there ‘Pastors’ here in the modern idea of the office of a person who is over the flock and is the weekly speaker whom the people see every ‘Sunday’. No. Are these practices all wicked and from the devil? Of course not! But it does help to see what is actually going on. This early community saw the need for the leaders to devote time to the word and prayer. Fulltime ministry? Really more of a community adjustment allowing those with greater insight to propagate the gospel. Paul will later show us this doesn’t mean each separate community had ‘full time ministers’ who were forbidden to work secular jobs. He will continue to make tents thru out his life. But he will also teach that it is all right to meet the material needs of those who are ministering spiritual food. We also see the Apostles lay their hands on these first deacons. Is this some type of official ordination [recognition, licensing] from a seminary? Of course not. Is it wicked to attend seminary and have an ordination? Of course not. The principle of the ‘school of the prophets’ in Elijah’s day shows the possibility of God working thru these universities. It’s just we need to be careful we are not reading ideas into the story that are not faithful to the text. My reading of this chapter shows an organic community of people who were ‘the church’. They did have leadership and sought God for direction and weren’t imprisoned by any specific form of ‘church’. The main ingredient was a group of people sharing the life of Christ and living this life out as a community. All church communions have a tendency to read there own story into ‘Gods story’. That is we find isolated verses of scripture and say ‘see, this is why our church government does it this way’. It’s OK to a degree, but then when you see ‘our church government’ as the only true church government, that’s where problems arise. I think we should avoid looking for prescriptive patterns of ‘church government’ from the book of Acts. We should read the story as a community of people who are experiencing God and learning to walk out this experience as the Body of Christ. The great mystery is that God is ‘no longer dwelling in Temples made with hands’ but in a vibrant Body of people! [p.s. Stephen will quote this prophetic scripture in the next chapter as he does one of the most masterful jobs of an Old Testament survey to be found in the New Testament].

(741)ACTS 4- The religious leadership at Jerusalem bring the Apostles in for questioning. The reality of the lame man being healed and the fact that Peter was doing it in the name of Jesus was an offence to them. Part of the group were called Sadducees. We often think of them as simple Pharisees who disbelieved in the resurrection of the body. While this is true, we must not overlook the demonic strategy behind the rise of a religious group, just prior to the resurrection of Jesus, who would imbed doubt in the minds of people concerning resurrection. Peter and John are questioned concerning the healing of the lame man. The leaders really had no problem with the healing, they did not want them doing this stuff in Jesus name! Why? Once again we see the fact of mighty works being done in Jesus name as proof of his resurrection. If the resurrection is true then Jesus must be the Messiah. If Jesus is the Messiah then this first century group of religious leaders killed the only Messiah that they will ever have! Peter actually tells them this in the chapter ‘you rejected the chief cornerstone’. Jesus was not simply one religious figure in a religion of many religious figures. Let’s see, we have Mary the mother of Jesus, a great woman to be sure. What about old John the Baptist, man was he a firebrand! And don’t forget Moses and the prophets. But Jesus stands out because he is the cornerstone. He alone is the mediator. Peter says ‘neither is there salvation in any other, there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved’. These religious leaders killed the main person! Once again we see the church practice ‘communal giving’. They sell their lands and houses and bring the money and lay it at the apostle’s feet. The money is used 100 percent for distribution to the communities needs. Why is this so important to see? As you read all my writings you will see me teach over and again this basic Christian principle, that giving in the New Testament churches was primarily focused on meeting the needs of people. There was no sense of tithing to the storehouse as being a practice of ‘giving to the church meeting on Sunday or you are under a curse’. Now, it’s fine to give 10 percent on Sunday, it’s just we shouldn’t by pass the actual documented practice of giving as seen in the New Testament. Now, we do have the advantage of hind sight. Paul will continue to write the epistles of the New Testament and never once stray from this principle. In every single case, bar none, is New Testament giving taught as a voluntary free will offering. It is radical, taught in proportionality [as God has blessed you lay by you in store- Paul] but never once is it taught as a compulsory tithe that if not obeyed will bring the curse of the law upon the believer. Now, in the very next chapter we will see 2 people die because of lying in the area of giving. But it’s not because they didn’t tithe. Nor is it because they didn’t give all the price of the land. It was because they were lying to the Holy Spirit, they were introducing a deadly poison into the fledgling church. Jesus warned them in the gospels to avoid this cancer. He told them ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’. He wasn’t saying ‘beware of their doctrine’ in the sense of don’t listen to what they teach. He was saying ‘beware of actual hypocrisy’! The leaven of trying to present an image of yourself contrary to truth. Faking it so you look good. Now the leadership will warn the Apostles not to speak or teach in Jesus name. Peter says ‘we ought to obey God more than you’. Was he being rebellious against God ordained authority? Jesus did teach in the gospels ‘they sit in Moses seat, do what they say, not what they do’. Paul will respond later ‘I didn’t know I was speaking against the high Priest, I know he should be treated with respect’ as he defends himself before this same group. Some believe Luther and the reformers and even people like me are rebelling against authority when we question the system. To be sure Peter was ‘rebelling’ against an authority system that actually served God to a degree. This religious system [Judaism] did preserve the writings of the prophets. Peter was quoting the Psalms and prophets and utilizing the actual writings the scribes passed on to him. But there comes a point in time where ‘we ought to move on with God, rather than man’ a radical break from past well meaning systems, and a moving forward with God and the working of his Spirit. We end the chapter with the Apostles and believers rejoicing over the fact that Jesus movement is winning and Gods word is being fulfilled ‘of a truth the kings of the earth and its rulers are coming against God and his holy Son Jesus’. They knew they were in some rough waters but heck, Jesus has been raised from the dead! What can they really do to us? We will soon see.

(739)ACTS 2- The Apostles are gathered together in the upper room. As they continue in unity and prayer the Spirit of God comes upon them like a rushing wind. There appear ‘cloven tongues’ like fire above each of them. Why this image? Why not ‘ears’ or some other sanctified body part? God is going to give supernatural power to the words that they will speak. In a few chapters we will read how an angel will supernaturally deliver Peter from prison and say ‘go, speak the words of this life’. These tongues are a precursor to the tremendous fire that will be loosed from their lips. James says the tongue is a little member but boasteth great things, it has the ability to start fires. Jesus said he came to earth to ‘start a fire’ and how he wished it were already burning. Here he gets his wish! Now the Apostles and early believers experience the gift of tongues. They begin speaking and prophesying in the unknown languages of all those who are gathered together to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. God ordained this event to be strategically done at this time. All the surrounding regions heard the believers speak the ‘wondrous works of God’ in their native tongue. Peter stands up and delivers a scathing message! He basically tells Israel ‘this is that which the prophet Joel spoke about’ he goes on and says this outpouring is part of Gods predetermined plan to pour out his Spirit on all flesh in the last days. He speaks of divine manifestations [dreams, visions] and carries the prophecy right to the end of the age. He then speaks the gospel of Christ and tells Israel ‘this is the Jesus you killed’. Wow, these guys are bold. Peter leads them to faith in Christ, their public baptism is the immediate sign of their willingness to be identified with Jesus and 3 thousand Jews become believers this day. Now, what is the church? This corporate group of first time followers do 4 basic things. They ‘continue in the Apostles doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers and share their goods with all in need’[true fellowship]. This early community was a brotherhood who actually gave priority to the teachings of Jesus passed on to them from the Apostles. Don’t miss this! Many will develop all sorts of practices and beliefs that ‘make up church’. Some will justify extra biblical beliefs under the guise of ‘the Apostles doctrine’ as in if it were something totally contrary or not known thru the gospels or the writing of scripture. Paul will tell Timothy to stay true to the traditions he passed on to him. But I want to focus on the fact that the Apostles doctrine was not something different then the basic instructions Jesus left us in the gospels. Paul will add to this basic body of Christian doctrine thru his letters to the churches, as well as the whole New Testament. But we do not see a bunch of strange or unknown doctrines that come from this time period. The basics are mentioned above. I do want to stress the fact that this early expression of church life had no ‘Pastor’ in the sense of their gatherings being a time where a singular authority figure had oversight of the entire community. They had strong leaders to be sure, but would avoid the Protestant idea of Pastor. They had no church building or belief in a strong liturgy. The ‘breaking of bread’ was a common meal where they all shared together in a real life setting. And of course their giving was radical, it was not ‘a tithe’ and it was done to meet the real needs of the community around them. All these elements are basic to what the New Testament church is. A functioning society of people in whom Christ Spirit dwells and who see themselves as a real spiritual community of people. As we progress thru out the history of the church as seen in Acts we will never lose this basic mindset. It will be carried into the epistles of the New Testament and remain the best idea of ‘local church’ as found in the first century. There is a trend going on right now in Evangelicalism that says ‘lets return to the ancient practices of the church and see what we can find’. As an avid reader of church history I am not totally against this movement, but I do see a danger in thinking ‘the ancient practices’ are the 2nd or 3rd century development of liturgy and Eucharist and other early ideas, and by passing the ‘real ancient’ story in the book of Acts. To put it simply, some of the Protestant and Evangelical ‘practices and beliefs’ that have developed since the reformation are ‘ancient’. I believe we all have a long way to go, but the ‘low view’ of the Lords Table [low as opposed to ‘high church view’. Though I personally believe in the Lords table as a memorial, not as the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. Yet I personally don’t like referring to such an important practice as low!] seems to be the true ancient practice as seen in Acts. The absence of the Priest officiating over the altar is no where to be seen in the actual ‘church’ setting. This ancient church is really a simple brotherhood of believers having all things common and having the resurrection of the Son of God as the central organizing principle of their lives.

(735)GENESIS 48- Jacob is old and ready to die. He calls Joseph and his boys. Jacob reminds Joseph that God called him many years before at Luz [Bethel]. Jacob is instilling in his son the reality of him and his family being a part of the divine plan. In essence ‘God has called us to great things, he chose me for this many years ago, you my son are simply an incarnate part of his divine purpose’. Now Jacob does something interesting. Joseph’s boys, Manasseh and Ephraim, are here to see Jacob [grandpa] before he dies. Jacob gives the honor of making Josephs 2 son’s equal heirs with the other boys. Joseph’s sons share equally in the inheritance of the 12 tribes. Jacob also says the younger one [Ephraim] shall be greater than the older one. Joseph kind of says ‘dad, you have your hand of blessing on the wrong boy, your right hand should be on Manasseh’. The right hand demotes special authority and favor. Jacob says ‘don’t worry son, I know what I am doing. God will bless your oldest son, but truly the greater blessing is on the youngest’. Now, to be honest, as I study the history of these boys thru the scripture, it doesn’t seem to me that any thing ‘extra special’ happened to Ephraim. I think Jacob might have made a mistake common to people with destiny. He read his own story line into the lineage of his sons. He might have felt that because God showed him special favor by honoring him over his older brother Esau that this mode of operation was to become a long term thing. Many divisions exist in the Body of Christ today because of this reasoning. I have taught tons of stuff on the idea of local church and how many good men seem to mistake a ‘mode of operation’ that worked well for them, but to then try and read this into the up and coming generation in a way that might be wrong. Paul taught in Corinthians that though there is one Spirit, yet there are many different ‘administrations’ and out workings of the gifts. We often read that passage in a way that says ‘in the Sunday ‘local church building’ mindset, you have different ways God works’. But it is actually saying ‘the Sunday building mindset is only one of the various ways the Spirit works’. Now I know Paul wasn’t directly talking ‘Sunday church’ in the passage, but the point is when the New Testament speaks of different ‘administrations’ and ways the Spirit manifests thru the people of God, it is speaking of Gods ability to manifest himself ‘outside of the box’. Jacob experienced God thru a mode that said ‘the younger shall serve the older’ I think he might have over done it when he tried to project this ‘mode’ onto his posterity!

(724)GENESIS 38- Judah goes ‘down from his brothers’ [isolates himself] and sleeps with some women. He does have a history of ‘going in unto harlots’. This chapter will get graphic, just warning our younger readers! He seems to have a pattern with this. Now, one of the sons, Er, will marry a girl named Tamar. The son is wicked in the sight of the Lord and the scripture says ‘the Lord slew him’. Judah tells the other son, born from his playboy lifestyle ‘Go and have kids with your brother’s wife, and raise up children for your brothers name’. This was a custom of the time. If a brother died before his wife had children, then the other brother was supposed to do this. Now it wasn’t being Mormon! [The old time ones]. They wanted to make sure the lineage of the tribe from whom the son died continued to carry on a legacy. It was for the procreation of the children of Israel. Now Judah’s second boy, Onan, does not want to raise up seed to his brother. I see in him a sickness that plagues the Body of Christ today. Because of the way we have come to view local church as the separate 501 c3 organization, this tends to build a mindset into the clergy that says ‘are you with us [the so called 'local church’] or with the other team down the block?’ There is a strange concept that says ‘I will spend my time, resources and energies raising up seed to my name [my 501 c 3] but I can not give of my gifts and life to build into people who I do not derive some loyalty or benefit from’ [raising up seed to your brother]. Now Onan does something; here’s the warning about graphic language! He ‘goes in unto his brother’s wife and spills it on the ground’. I don’t think I should explain this. Years ago one of the Captains at the fire dept. would say ‘well, the bible says it’s better to spill it in a prostitute, than on the ground’. And he would look at me to confirm his translation. He really thought it was in the bible! I would ‘instruct him in a way more perfectly’. I also had a friend who said ‘well, the bible says “woman, if thy husband hitteth thee [notice how he used ‘hitteth’ as opposed to ‘hit’] divorce him, for he is lower than a rattler’. I would inform him I was pretty sure this wasn’t in the bible. He was adamant! I would tell him ‘besides it being contrary to scripture, I don’t think the Lord would say ‘rattler’ he would use ‘rattlesnake’. So Onan ‘spills it on the ground’ and guess what? The Lord kills him too! Now poor Tamar is real innocent in the deaths of the 2 boys. But Judah begins to wonder. Like the show I saw on some court channel. The woman accidentally shot her husband in the head. The defense had a hard time convincing the jury, being this was the second husband that she ‘accidentally shot in the head’! So Judah tells Tamar ‘go home to your dad, when my young son is old enough I will let him marry you’ sure! He of course tells his young son ‘stay away, you don’t want to die like your brothers’ [I added this part, but it sounds likely]. So one day when Judah is on a business trip, he looks around for the town prostitute. Tamar hears Judah is in town and puts a veil on her face and goes and stands on the corner. Judah doesn’t know it’s his daughter in law and sleeps with her. Judah agrees to pay for her services with a goat. Tamar takes his ring and staff and bracelet as a down payment. A few days later Judah sends his servant with the goat and he can’t find her. He asks the men of the town ‘where’s the harlot who was working the corner’? The men say ‘who’? They tell the servant they never had a harlot working the streets. Judah hears Tamar is pregnant and says ‘she played the harlot and should be stoned’! [He was a member of the Moral Majority]. Tamar sends the staff and ring to Judah and says ‘this is the man who got me pregnant’ and Judah admits his sin. I find it interesting that Judah will be given one of the best blessings from Jacob as Jacob is on his deathbed. Jacob will say ‘The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet. His hand shall be on the neck of his enemies, unto him shall the gathering of the people be. As a young lion he shall crouch down and go up from the prey’. We will read this later on in this study. These are Messianic prophecies. Jesus is called ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’. God uses people who have done wrong. People who when confronted don’t try and cover it up. People who have made mistakes and are willing to admit them. This leaves room for the rest of us.

(723)GENESIS 37- Chapter 36 has a lot of genealogies, so let’s skip it. In this chapter we see Joseph having the dreams that his brothers and father and mother will bow down to him. He makes the mistake of telling everyone about it! Rueben is already mad about the favoritism shown towards Rachel’s sons as opposed to him being the firstborn. The other brothers clearly see the favoritism too. Jacob made Joseph the coat of many colors. To me this represents the multi ethnic diversity of Christ’s church [body]. Skins represent ‘covering’ or flesh. All the animals sacrificed in the Old Covenant were a type of Christ. The tabernacle represented a living mobile dwelling place of God, the church. They used skins as a covering. So this coat of many colors is like the body of Christ. Joseph typifying Jesus as the favored son who will eventually bring together all tribes and nations into unity as Jesus ‘wears them like a robe’ [truly we are his dwelling place, covering of flesh if you will!] Jacob sends Joseph to ‘see how his brothers are doing and bring back the report’. Just like the parable Jesus gave about the king sending the servant to check up on the vineyard. Eventually the king says ‘I will send my son’. Jesus says they take the son and kill him. Joseph’s brothers see Joseph coming and say ‘here comes Mr. big shot, the dreamer’. Understand Josephs dreams were simply the destiny of God on his life. It is important to differentiate between ‘what I want out of life’ and Gods purpose. Joseph’s dreams did speak of exaltation and fame. But these were things he did not seek! Jesus gives instruction in the New Testament to actively pursue the lowest place. The teachings on taking the seat in the back of the room and not the front. The teaching against gentile ideas [Roman] of authority. So we must not read into Joseph’s story that God wants us to ‘be all we can be. Become great’. Greatness in Gods kingdom is backwards. You seek not to be exalted and exaltation comes! Now the brothers take him and throw him into a pit [grave] ‘without water in it’. A type of death. Water and spirit are interchangeable words. A pit without water is like the grave [body] without the spirit. James says this is what death is, separation of body and spirit. Now something is happening at this point. The brothers are falling into the trap of group think. Just going along with something because others are doing it. Rueben begins seeing this deception. He also despises Joseph, but begins realizing things are getting out of hand. He says ‘lets not kill the boy, just throw him in the pit’. Judah also speaks up on his brother’s behalf. So they take Josephs coat, put blood all over it. They sell Joseph into slavery and they bring the coat to Jacob. ‘Dad, we found Josephs coat with blood on it. I wonder what happened to him?’ Now, how many options do we have? Maybe the boy got into a scrap trying to save some sheep and that’s what happened, or maybe he hurt himself and used the coat as a tourniquet? Yeah, that’s possible! But Jacob is a pessimist ‘surely some wild animals got to him’ bad enough! But wait ‘and they tore him to pieces, devoured him and he’s gone’ Yikes! Then he says ‘I will be depressed about this for the rest of my life and go to the grave never getting over it!’ Boy, who would have thought the guy was gonna take it like this? We once again see the over reaction of Jacob. It’s so easy for leaders with destiny and purpose to think all is lost. Moses and others have thought the same. Elijah was ready for the Lord to take his life because some Jezebel was giving him a hard time! I want to encourage leadership, don’t make rash or major decisions when your emotions are out of whack. We have a tendency to take reproof or correction the wrong way. We want to quit and start all over. Find someone else to ‘take over the church’ so we can get out of dodge. Jacob thought the worst, but what was actually happening was Gods pre ordained plan that would actually be for his salvation down the road. Jesus is still thought to be dead by Jacobs descendants, they only see the ‘pit without water in it’. They don’t realize that Jesus [Joseph] is actually alive and waiting for them to come and bow the knee!

(716)GENESIS 29- Jacob goes on his journey after the Bethel experience and shows up at a well in Laban's land. As he is talking to the brothers who are sitting there at the well he scopes out the situation. He finds out that Rachel, the daughter of Laban, will be coming to water her dads sheep. Great, he is having some success in hooking up with a possible wife. As he is talking to the shepherds he asks ‘why don’t you guys water the sheep, there thirsty and it’s as good a time as any’? Jacob is pro active. His family history is digging up wells. For heavens sake water the ‘darn’ sheep already! The guys answer ‘O heaven forbid it! Our tradition is to wait for all the other brothers who are also bringing sheep. Then someone else rolls the stone away from the wells mouth [the ordained clergy ?] and then, and only then, do we water’. Well Jacobs a newcomer and he can’t figure out what’s wrong with these Yankees from the east. He just keeps his mouth shut. Sure enough Rachel shows up, and what do you know, he goes and rolls the stone away. That unordained rebel! Doesn’t he realize that he is violating the traditions of our fathers? The water in the well is precious, who does he think he is freely watering as if the water was ‘growing on trees’. Well it is! Or better, the ground is full of it. Jesus said ‘feed my sheep, the water that I give freely is available to everyone. This water will become a river in my people. For heavens sake the stone has been removed from my grave [well] for 2 thousand years, why don’t you water the sheep’? We are like the brothers waiting for the official ‘stone roller’ to tell us when it’s OK to water. Jacob was a go getter, if these other guys feel they don’t have the authority to roll away the stone and freely give access to the river of life, then that’s their problem. But ole Jacob is gonna provide that water whether they like it or not! Jacob goes to laban's house and they share the whole story. Laban says ‘just because you are my relative, doesn’t mean you are going to work for free. Tell me your price’. Well, I kinda like Rachel. We did smooch at the well. Sure enough Laban says work for me for 7 years and she’s yours. They sort of had a long time payment plan for stuff like this. Jacob works the full 7 years and scripture says it seemed like a few days to him. The 7 years are up, Laban says ‘your bride is waiting in the tent’. It’s late and dark, Jacob makes love to his wife, and sure enough in the morning its Leah and not Rachel! Jacob is incensed. Laban says ‘Oh, didn’t I tell you we have this custom that the older sister gets married first? But being I am such an honest broker. Just work another 7 years for Rachel’. We often see Jacob as a schemer. After all the whole reason he is at laban’s house is because of his past schemes. But in this instance, laban was the slippery character. This will be the beginning of many years of deceit. Jacob will go ahead and trick laban out of the good flocks. Eventually Jacob will leave under less than perfect circumstances and his wife, Rachel, will learn the supplanting ways of Jacob. We will read how Rachel steals laban’s idols and lies about them. But we leave this chapter with some deep-seated mistrust in Jacobs dealings with uncle Laban.

(714)GENESIS 28- JACOBS LADDER; Isaac sends Jacob off to Labans house. Esau sees that his father never dealt with Jacobs’s schemes and goes and TAKES A WIFE FROM ISHMAELS DAUGHTERS! A huge no no! Isaacs’s family knows this story like a family taboo. How many times has Esau heard how uncle Ishmael used to mock Isaac. And how ‘Father Abraham’ had to send Ishmael away. This story must have stuck like a thorn in the side of Ishmael and his family. Well, after all these years of family strife and division, old Esau goes and says ‘uncle Ishmael, can I have your daughters hand in marriage’? I am sure Ishmael thought ‘why what have we hear, the precious heritage of beloved Isaac wants to associate himself with us. Sure I’ll help you old nephew’. Ishmael was more than glad to oblige. Isaac never really dealt with the inner strife in his family. Kind David and others would fall into this category as well. Esau did what he did out of spite, and it affected many others. Now on Jacobs journey he stops and sets up a bunch of stones [living stones- Peters epistle calls believers living stones] and makes a pillow for his head [a place to rest his head. Jesus is the ‘head’ of the church [authority!] and he ‘rests’ [abides] in the people of God thru his Spirit. We are the habitation of God!] As the sun sets [it got dark on Golgotha- the place where the sun went down] he falls asleep [Jesus ‘slept’ 3 days and nights in the grave]. During his sleep God appears to him and assures him that because of the journey he will become the heir and father of nations and peoples [Jesus is the actual seed of Abraham that would inherit all kindred’s and nations. He was faithful to go on a journey to earth, the incarnation. And the father made him heir of all things while he ‘slept’] Jacob wakes up [resurrection] and says ‘this is the house of God’ [Jesus made us the house of God thru his death and resurrection] and puts the stones together into a pillar. It actually calls the stones [corporate] ‘the stone’ [singular] at this point. We were all individual stones before Christ. But in him we have become one ‘stone’. The church, the Body of Christ. The pillar is made from the stones [Peter said we are the living stones who being formed together are an habitation for God- Paul said the church was the ‘pillar’ and ground of the truth] and Jacob pours oil on the pillar of stones [Jesus poured out his Spirit on all the living stones on the day of Pentecost, anointing us as his New testament pillar of stones]. Oh, by the way, the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream was a door of access from heaven to earth and earth to heaven, this is a wonderful type of the Cross. Bravo to the great victory of the Son of God!

(708)GENESIS 22- The big test day! It comes to all of us. A time in your life where you choose to obey or keep playing around the danger zone of disobedience. God tells Abraham ‘you see that boy Isaac, the one you have been doubting me about thru out this journey. You thought I would fulfill the promise thru your servant at first. Then for sure you had your hopes on Ishmael. Boy don’t you remember what we went thru in order to get you to the place of promise’? I could hear Abraham saying ‘I know Lord, forgive me for being so stubborn. I had a hard time believing Sarah could really have a son. She was ‘beyond the time of child bearing’ and I doubted it would happen. But now that it did happen, well I can see Isaac truly being the father of nations, just like you said’. God ‘yeah, it’s been a wild ride son. Oh yeah, one more thing. Take the child and offer him up on an altar!’ WHAT! I am sure Abraham thought the major days of testing were over. The miracle boy has arrived. Things are going well for Ishmael, he’s on his own and enjoying some bow hunting [he became an archer!]. And Abraham wants to settle down and enjoy the rest of his life. But the Lord says ‘let’s go for another round’. In Hebrews 11 the Word says Abraham at this point simply learned how to trust. He knew in his own mind that the only way to get any where was to obey. He tried all the other angles before and they just delayed the promise. He also knows that this child is the one that the promise will be fulfilled thru. Hebrews says Abraham just figured ‘what the heck. I got the boy by way of a miracle. He was as good as dead when he was born. He came from a ‘dead womb’. If God wants me to kill him, I guess he will just raise him up again!’ Abrahams mind was trained at this point in his life to fall down on the side of ‘I will do what God says, and he will do whatever needs to be done to bring the future to pass’. [Read my commentary on Hebrews 11 on this blog!] Often times this Isaac story is taught in a way that says ‘God will ask you to give up on the promise. You must ‘lay Isaac down on the altar’. While there is some truth to this idea, it really doesn’t grasp the full picture. I just showed you how in Abraham’s mind he didn’t think he was ‘giving up on the vision/destiny’ he just learned to allow God to do it the way he said. It is really not a test of giving up the vision, it is a test of how do you think it will come to pass! Have you learned to not try and organize and strategize and be ‘motivated’ enough to make it happen? We usually create idols out of the process, the way we think it should be done [wrong concepts of ‘Local church’] and God doesn’t say ‘lose the vision/purpose’ he says ‘quit trying to do it in ways that are heavily dependant on your own strength’. Abraham wasn’t giving up on the vision, he was giving up on his own wisdom!

(694)SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘whoever hears these sayings and DOES THEM is like a man who built his house on a rock. When the floods and storm came and beat on it it fell not… whoever HEARS AND DOES NOT DO is like a man WHO BUILT and the storms caused it to fall’. Jesus doesn’t give the 3rd option ‘whoever doesn’t hear and doesn’t build’. In essence he is saying ‘all of you people who have heard this great sermon [Matt:5-7] have just increased your responsibility level. You can no longer say ‘well, we just won’t build!’ the cop out of todays society. The entitlement mindset ‘I will find some way for the govt. to declare me mentally unstable [many of the homeless people get these types of checks! On the 3rd of every month I wondered why the soup kitchens were almost empty. I quickly found out they all were getting ‘ssi’ checks on this day. Most of these checks go right to drugs and drink. I actually had a friend slip up and tell me that his ‘disability’ was having an anger problem and cursing at his boss and getting fired. WOW! What a joke.] Here Jesus is saying ‘you already heard the requirements, something is already being built, whether you like it or not’! Notice the hearers still had ‘structures’ going up! It’s like the city on the hill and the candle on a candlestick verses that we mentioned earlier. Jesus said the city can not be hid. Once the King has given you the responsibility, you can’t opt out and say ‘I will act like I don’t know any better’ too late! I personally have had to play a role in this type of dynamic. I know many well meaning Pastors must think ‘gee, why did I have to luck out by starting a church in the Corpus area, right at the same time when some nut on the computer starts a revolution on organic church and is tearing down all the old structures of church. Why couldn’t I just have done church the old way and never have heard from this guy!’. Who knows? I do know that once the level of teaching goes forth, all the hearers become responsible in some way as to how they respond. In essence ‘those who hear and do… those who hear and don’t do’. ‘But what about my fellow Pastors who are excelling in other cities, they never dealt with all this reproof’ well, they are those who never heard [certain reproofs] and therefore don’t have the same responsibility level of response. The question is moot. You guys reading us have heard certain things and now have 2 responses. Either build on a rock [apply and put into practice all the principles you have heard] or build on sand [pretend you never heard the corrections and build on sand]. Jesus leaves only 2 options, which one will you take? NOTE; I realize there are many cities and regions that are maturing in the broader vision of Gods Kingdom and in seeing church in a more biblical way. But there are cities who are not currently being challenged in the same way. Good churches and Pastors carrying out the work of God in the old paradigm. Inviting people to ‘church’. Doing ‘potluck Sunday’ stuff like that. These are all good people who are truly serving God. But then you have other cities who begin seeing the limited ideas of ‘local church’ and realize that these old ideas have to be dealt with. This certainly causes a degree of upheaval to those still functioning the old way. So instead of thinking ‘I wish I were Pastoring in one of these other cities who never have to deal with all this reproof’ just recognize that the Lord has blessed our city [and those of you who read this stuff!] with a greater degree of instruction and we should take advantage of being on the ‘cutting edge’. [I don’t want to sound too proud, but I had to say this].

(685)I was listening to a famous [and good!] radio preacher. Been around for years and is good. Of course I am mentioning him to disagree with a mindset that is prevalent in Christianity. He was teaching on abiding in Christ from Johns gospel. He said ‘are you feeling bored with attending church week after week, year after year? Does it seem unfulfilling to go to a ‘church’ and sit and listen to the Pastor? You know why you feel this way? It’s because you ARE NOT ABIDNG IN HIM!’ Ouch! God didn’t create you to be fulfilled by ‘going to a church meeting and sitting and listening for 50 years!’ The reason you are not fulfilled doing this, is because you weren’t designed to be fulfilled by DOING THIS! This is the whole reason for the present revolution going on in the church over the practices and function of ‘local church’. Now, when I hear a good man says this. I realize he means well and is still functioning under the old paradigm. But after reading all the stuff on this site it becomes obvious that the problem isn’t ‘abiding in Christ’ [at least in the way he spoke of it] but the problem is you were designed to function and daily experience and live out ‘church’ [ecclesia- corporate expressions of Christ’s functioning society of people- community!] Present church leadership teaches a type of ‘loyalty/membership’ to a ‘local church’ that is contrary to scripture. The idea that leaders were designed to ‘be over/ cover’ believers for their entire lives is unbiblical. When God made man, he explicitly told him ‘when you grow up [could this be the problem! We are not ‘growing up’?] You are to LEAVE YOUR Father/Mother relationship and cleave to your wife. In essence you are to establish new relationships with ‘your wife’ [the ecclesia- Christ’s ‘wife’] you are to relate on a co equal plain with the broader body of Christ and to not remain ‘cleaving to your former parents’. A lot of the abuses in the shepherding/apostolic covering movement made this mistake. They taught a type of ‘apostolic covering’ that said the problem in present Christianity is most believers are out of order. Out of order to these guys means ‘go find some man to cover you’! Double OUCH! So for the most part the reason you are bored by attending church for 50 years is because you were supposed to ‘leave you former parental structure’ [I am your Pastor mentality] and establish new relationships with the broader body of Christ. In this new relationship you too will eventually have kids, just remember that there will come a time where they too will ‘leave their father and Mother and cleave to their wife’. This my friend is the reason you are ‘bored with church’. Because what you call ‘church’ is simply a lecture hall. What the bible calls ‘church’ is a living organic manifestation of the Spirit of God functioning in a community of people! [That might have been a little harsh!]

(683)SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Give to him that asks of thee, and to him that would borrow from thee turn not thou away’ well, we could spend a lot of time here. Those of you who have read this site for a while know I have a ‘pet peeve’ about believers feeling that if they don’t ‘tithe to the storehouse on Sunday’ [may God deliver us from small paradigms!] they will be under a ‘curse’ but seem to give little or no heed to the actual teachings from Jesus and Paul on the primacy of ‘giving to those in need’. I just finished a study in Proverbs. If you replace all the verses on ‘giving to the poor’ with ‘tithing to the church building’ you could then deem tithing as important. If you replaced the portions of scripture where Jesus actually links GOING TO HEAVEN OR HELL based on our treatment of the poor. If you took those verses and said ‘at the judgment I will say to some ‘go into eternal judgment’ and to others ‘enter into your reward’. And then they said ‘why Lord’ and he said ‘in as much as you did not tithe to the church on Sunday’ then you would have a point about teaching the importance of ‘tithing’. But the fact is Jesus does link all these things to ‘giving to the poor’. Over 90 percent of all teaching thru out scripture deals with this. Even in Israel's economy they had principles of ‘leaving the corners of your farm land un reaped for the poor’. Over and over again is this theme preached. But even today, some of you just read the verse I began with and thought ‘I wonder how this will relate to me’. It relates to you BY TAKING IT SERIOUSLY! By reorganizing your priorities around the actual words of Jesus! By doing this actual thing. I know believers are still going to give priority to the Malachi verse ‘you have robbed God by not tithing to the storehouse’. If they could just see that the ‘storehouse’ in the New Testament are people, not ‘church buildings’ then we would have made some headway, but traditions in the minds of those who are always ‘fighting tradition’ are too hard to pull down!

(667)PROVERBS ‘Wisdom sends out her servants/maidens and builds her house’ ‘She hath hewn out her 7 pillars. She hath killed her beasts and mingled her wine. She sends out her maidens and distributes the food/treasures’. Jesus said the Kingdom was like planting seed. Faith sends things forth. Recently I visited a web site [not here! Too many local guys think I am talking about them! Understand, the whole ‘paradigm’ that we challenge applies to everybody! Don’t get self conscious. I very rarely watch or deal with local guys one on one. Sometimes, but mostly these examples are from far away!] They are a good prophetic ministry out of New York. I would guess their budget and staff and facilities run in the millions of dollars. They do lots of stuff. On their site they mentioned that one of their main areas of ministry is their web site. I do like the site. To be honest we do much more teaching and in depth stuff then they do. I don’t want to boast, but give you an example. It might really be this ministries most effective tool. It is a product of much time and money and staff and buildings and millions of dollars of organization. It is a product that could also be done with no money, staff, buildings, etc. Now, I am glad they are doing what they are doing. Wisdom says ‘If you can prepare the table [good teaching/food] Set up the pillars [basic structure of people being the ‘carriers/temple’ of God]. If you can ‘send out your maidens’ [news paper ads, radio, blog, people]. If you can do it all without ANY of the very expensive machinery mentioned above, then BY ALL MEANS DO IT! I tell my buddies all the time ‘YOU GUYS CAN DO THIS’. You are not ‘called’ to simply be excited that I am doing it. You are to see that Jesus said to all the disciples ‘Go into all the world. Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds, keep it simple [Message bible]’. Don’t fool yourself into setting up a million dollar organization and then wind up producing something that you could have done by simply praying, studying and writing. You say ‘brother, but we need money to eat’. That’s the whole plea Paul and others were making when asking the churches to ‘help them financially’. They were trusting God for the basics. Our problem is we read these verses on ‘the basics’ and quote them in an environment that leaves the impression that Paul was speaking about some multi million dollar organization. Some say ‘well John, we are glad you are doing all this stuff for free. But why teach it to everybody’? Because we need to see the reality of all believers functioning without the need for tons of money and organization. It is a biblical doctrine to teach believers to go and give and live to have a real impact. We limit the Body of Christ when we don’t release them into this freedom. Well, if you have wisdom you can ‘send out your maidens/servants’. Scripture speaks of a poor wise man who takes a city. Jesus was ‘poor’ compared to the elite of his day. Paul as well. They knew how to ‘take cities/regions’ they had wisdom that exponentially increased thru the spreading of the Gospel. A true revolution of heart and mind. They turned their world upside down without tons of money!

(652)Talking politics! While watching some of the ‘talking heads’ they were saying ‘they are using the church for this cause’ or ‘the local churches’ are spoken about in the same context as ‘the local hospital’ or ‘local barber shop’. The more you study the reality of ‘the local believers’ as ‘the local church’ and then hear this kind of talk, it really makes you wonder how much idolatry is involved with the present day view of ‘the local church’. It is almost impossible to up root the prevalent view of the local church as being the ‘church we go to on Sunday’. Why do I make such an issue of this? If you read all the stuff on this site [quite a job!] you will see how we as the people of God have bypassed the actual straight teaching from Jesus on all believers being personally responsible ‘to act’ and the modern church has developed the unbiblical idea of ‘the local church/ 501 c 3 Christian business’ in a way that seems to say to the average believer ‘your main responsibility is to honor and give money to and be in submission to this thing’. While in reality all of the verses dealing with ‘church’ are really speaking of the actual people of God called out of the world unto Christ. When believers are inundated with verses every Sunday on Paul asking for help with finances, these verses are then linked to Malachi ‘don’t rob God’. This leaves the impression that we will get in big trouble if we don’t tithe to the ‘storehouse’. Then the majority of instruction ALL THRU OUT the New testament on giving is seen as some ‘little moral teaching’ from Jesus on helping our neighbor. But if you look at the overall view of scripture, the main teaching on giving is in the context of all believers sharing their stuff with those in need. There is a subtle shift in the mind of the believer when he views the actual Christian business as ‘the local church’. He begins to see his responsibility primarily along the lines of putting 10 % of his money ‘in church on Sunday’. This idea is harmful to the main body of teaching in the new testament on the actual people being ‘the local church’. Well meaning Pastors have engrained verses on tithing into their people. They all know Malachi ‘bring the tithes into the storehouse’ or Paul ‘if you give to me God will supply all your needs’. While these are true scriptures, the main stuff on ‘give to him that asketh of thee’ or ‘if you do not directly meet the real needs of those around you, how does Gods love dwell in you’. The main body of Christian truth is taught in this way. Since the people are really ‘the local church/storehouse’ then they are the main ones who are to carry out the task. I just thought it strange to have been hearing ‘this group was raising money for this or that at their local church’. The language is so confused in the minds of the average believer that it will take at least a generation for us to see and begin implementing these truths!

(650)MISTAKING THE CLASSROOM FORUM FOR ‘THE LOCAL CHURCH’. I was listening to Jim Kramer’s radio show one day. He is the nut on CNBC that does all these outrageous things while teaching investing in Stocks. I do like the guy! A lady called in to his show and said ‘you are really good, you are good enough to teach at some university! Have you ever thought of ‘stepping’ up to the next level?’ She meant well, and you could tell by Kramer’s response that he was a little offended. He told her that thru his worldwide radio and TV shows he is doing far more than limiting himself to a few people in a room! In essence what the well meaning woman was advising would really be ‘stepping down’ [loosing influence] as opposed to ‘stepping up’. This last year I have had well meaning comments along these lines. Friends of my homeless friends who are ‘preachers’ or mature believers. When my homeless buddies tell them ‘Johns a good brother, he does all types of ministry stuff’. At first these ‘outsiders’ think ‘poor John, he looks homeless himself. I am sure he means well’. Then they go to this blog or hear us on radio and word gets back to me ‘wow, he should start a church and become more legitimate’! Been there, done that! They seem to think the ‘classroom format’ [Kramer] is more ‘legitimate’ than the much greater format of blog, radio and actually traveling to regions to ‘make disciples’. We have the same mindset of the well meaning woman who called into Jim Kramer’s show! We need to stop viewing the ‘building that we meet in’ as a step up from itinerant ministry. We really need to stop calling the building ‘the Local Church’.

(645)Many years ago I would teach and preach many of the concepts that you read on this blog. At the time I had Pastors who were friends and co laborers in ministry. At times as I would learn and grow in my understanding of church, I would sense a feeling of ‘is John saying I am wrong’! Sort of more of a defensive thing. Older believers would feel like ‘John doesn’t really see the modern office of Pastor as a New testament office’. Today there are many movements and expressions actually operating in many of the ideas that I spoke about. This is not to simply say ‘I told you so’ but to show how we often [we meaning preachers] judge truth from a defensive posture. The same with tithing. Most good men think ‘tithing can’t be wrong, I have done it for years. All the Pastors I know, the great men of the faith teach it, how can it be wrong’! Most men view it from ‘how will this affect the income of the organization [what they see as church]’. All defensive postures. These same men will never question all the well meaning Catholic Priests of the 16th century who were totally uprooted by the truth of the Reformation. The modern Pastor will simply say ‘well, truth is more important than the security of all those Priests and Catholic churches. If the truth of Luther disrupted the whole function and flow of the well meaning churches, then so be it’. Now, I do agree with this to a degree, but then these same brothers will judge the ‘modern reformation of the practices of local church’ from the standpoint of ‘it is disrupting things too much’. They don’t use the same standard that they apply to the Catholic brothers of the 16th century!

(659)PARABLE FROM A TREE! Recently I was having a conversation with a brother who sees himself as part of our ministry [even though we don’t have something to ‘be a part of’ in the traditional sense!] I could tell he has heard ‘John is a cult, he doesn’t believe you ‘need a church’ to be a ‘church’. As my friend expressed his belief that ‘I know the people are the church’ he also said ‘but you need a church building too’! This is a common response from well meaning people. A few years ago I read a story about believers [in Africa?] who had no money to ‘build churches’ so they started a movement of believers ‘meeting under trees’. They used the tree as a meeting place and met there and worshipped and shared in Christ’s life. Great stuff! Can you imagine 10 years going by and all the young believers saying ‘I attend this tree’ or ‘I go to that church [tree!]’. I am sure if you asked ‘why are you calling the tree ‘a church’. They would say ‘well, we know it isn’t ‘the church’ but we just refer to it that way’. Fine. Then after 100 years if you heard these same believers children say ‘We know the tree is not a ‘church’ but you really can’t serve God without a tree’! You would say ‘why not’? I think we need to stop saying ‘we need a tree’ [building].

(644)OVERVIEW OF NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY AND THE CHURCH. Pretty tall order! As I finish our study on John’s gospel, I am debating on how much New Testament study to plunge into. I know we will cover the letters and all, but don’t want to finish the whole New Testament in a year or two. I heard a few ideas these last few weeks that I want to cover. One was that we are called to be the ‘21st century church, not the 1st century one!’ Good point, needs to be clarified. People will say this to counteract the strong ‘organic church movement’ to which I am a part of. The best way to understand the ‘21st century church’ is to understand ‘church’. If you have the biblical view of church, as found in the ‘1st century bible’ you see church as a community of people. As she grows thru the centuries she will form and interact with each generation as a real ‘person’ changes with the times. She shouldn’t lose her fundamental message [reconciliation of God and man thru Christ] nor her fundamental nature! She is and always will be the people of God! So any development or ‘seeing her in the 21st century’ has to keep in mind the basic nature of community. If you lose this idea of her, and begin to define her as ‘mega church’ or huge Christian corporation, then you are not really sticking with the actual ‘person’ [Ecclesia] that she is. So any growth has to stick with this basic idea of the church as the corporate people of God. The expressions of mega church or ‘Sunday church’ are fine, just don’t lose the fundamental 1st century idea. It’ not so much a following of a model in as much as it is sticking to the organic person we see as defined by community, got it? Now as we proceed from the Gospel into the book of acts and the letters we do find the basic nature of church. Some have made it harder than it needs to be. For example, the whole area of giving. By now you guys should know my position on ‘tithing’. I believe it’ fine to give 10% of your money, it’s just the whole New Testament is filled with direct instruction on giving. It is always seen in the community context. The later ‘idea’ of tithing into ‘the church basket on Sunday’ as being ‘the local church storehouse’ is really a silly development and digressing away from the idea of community. Not so much ‘those wicked Sunday churches’ an idea seen in George Foxe’s preaching. He was the founder of the Quakers, he would call the ‘churches’ ‘steeple houses’ as he was challenging the mindset of ‘church’ as the building. You would also see the ‘Church of Christ’ emphasize ‘the church of Christ meets here’ as opposed to the word ‘church’ on their buildings. All good people seeing real truth. So as you read into Acts and the epistles you will see Gods people adapting to society around them while not loosing the fundamental nature of being the corporate people of God. We must keep this ‘1st century revelation of Christ’s body’ just as much as keeping the ‘1st century revelation of Christ’. The ways we present the message can change, we don’t have to avoid modern technology or using corporate innovation as a means to advance the gospel. But we cant begin defining ‘church’ as the actual corporation itself! This seems to be the mistake of some who espouse ‘the 21st century church as opposed to the first century one’. So as we begin our way into the New Testament lets keep this in mind. We are going to learn about the great story of redemption, how God chose us and saved us by his grace. Being called the ‘people of God’ and partaking of all the blessings that were once limited to the commonwealth of Israel. Christ destroying racial barriers and ‘making in himself one new man’ from all races of men. Jesus himself being the preeminent ‘stone’ of this building. The singular ‘test’ of whether or not you are ‘one of the stones’ in this building will be defined by Jesus himself who said to Peter ‘upon this rock [your confession of me as Christ] I will build my church’. Jesus himself will be seen as the criterion of whether you are a believer or not. Yes, the message can be seen as ‘narrow minded’, some will challenge this idea ‘who do you think you are telling us we all need Jesus’? But the fact will remain that we all do! You will see thru out history that some will emphasize the teachings of Jesus more than the letters of Paul [Catholics and more orthodox churches] and the Protestants will become focused on Paul’s revelation as seen in justification by faith. While some see these as opposing views, I see them as 2 strains of truth that are destined to merge as Christ becomes more preeminent at the close of the present age. He will truly ‘bring all things together in him’ in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. So as we move ahead, lets fix our eyes on the ‘Captain of our Salvation’ and let him steer this ship the way he wants.

(649) Let me pick up a little on the history/purpose of the church and kingdom. As the fledgling movement of Jesus followers were launched out after Pentecost, they went everywhere ‘preaching the word with signs following’. Gods ‘plan of salvation’ if you will included more than simple evangelism. Now, simple evangelism is very important! Some liberal trends of the social gospel of the early 20th century saw the importance of social action and would neglect the need for redemption on an individual basis. As the early church ‘preached the Word’ people in these areas of hearing would believe and thru baptism become outwardly marked as Christ followers. They were literally called followers of ‘the way’. Early believers were not setting up separate Christian social clubs that they called ‘local church’. They were the actual tabernacle that God would dwell in! As Paul will address the letters to ‘the churches’ he was addressing ‘the actual believers’ in these communities, not some separate ‘group’ that were defined by having a Pastor/Priest who was functioning as the ‘under shepherd’ in a way that each city had ‘the church I belong to’. You ‘belonged to’ the believers and the lord Jesus that were present in the community in which you lived. They were all ‘local church’. The Kingdom would be an outward reality of Jesus manifesting his works thru them as his body. The work of evangelism [making new citizens of this Kingdom] and the sending out of these new citizens [ambassadors] would go hand in hand. The church was present in society to impact and affect it for change. Social justice was a major part of the ‘prophetic voice’ of these ‘new people’ who were inhabiting the planet! They weren’t ‘starting churches’ in the sense of setting up ‘lecture halls’ so people could come and ‘do church on Sunday’. As time progressed [lots of time!] Christians in our country would begin seeing the need to ‘preach the gospel of the Kingdom’ and emphasize the importance of the church having a voice in society. You would find a funny dynamic taking place. Many of the strong independent church movements would get a hold of a ‘Kingdom message’ and without realizing it begin imitating both the ecclesiastical structures and programs of the ancient church! In essence many of these Protestants were rejecting the historic expressions of Christianity as seen in the Catholic Church, and then adopting the name ‘Bishop’ and building cathedrals [Atlanta] and begin impacting society in a way that Catholics have been doing for centuries. In essence they were seeing the need for a kingdom message and then mixing it in with their ‘501 c 3 Christian organization’. This would lead to the appeal for money from all the ‘rebellious Christians who are not tithing’ so the ‘church’ could fulfill her mandate to impact society thru ‘the church’. The better perspective [in my view] is to see the great reality of all of Gods people, under the headship of our high priest Jesus, to go forth and be the actual vessels whom God is using to touch the world. The simple strategy of Jesus to empower and entrust the Kingdom message with all who believe. To a degree the Catholic Church had the most influential ‘Kingdom church’ ever! In the sense of ‘institutional church’. After the fall of the Roman Empire [loss of power and influence] the Catholic Church would at one point in history become the sole arbiter in all things pertaining to religion and human govt. The ‘Kings of the earth’ would appeal to her to speak into the ongoing conflicts in the history of man. So in a strange way the 20th century ‘reconstructionists’ [Protestant ideas on the church being very involved in human govt.] were just babies in the sense that our catholic brothers ‘have been there and done that’.

(636)Recently saw an appeal to give. The teaching [TV] was well meaning. They were showing how the scripture is loaded with the doctrine of ‘first fruits’. All good stuff on the ‘secret’ of first fruits. The teacher was being hailed as an authority on Jewish history and why ‘first fruits’ is so important. The main problem with this whole mindset is they ALWAYS seem to see giving in the context of sending money to ministries. Jesus taught THEE NUMBER ONE priority of GIVNING TO GOD was to be expressed by meeting the real needs of people. Now, you do find the woman giving into ‘the offerings of God’ by giving into the Temple offering. Or giving into Jesus ministry, but the overall main doctrine on giving and how it relates at the final judgment of mankind is ALWAYS based on our treatment of our fellow man. ALWAYS! So, no matter how elaborate we get in finding the real ‘hidden truths’ of money in the Old testament, we do a grave disservice to the Christian community when we equate GIVNG TO GOD with giving money to my ministry! The world sees this and mocks us because of it. Do you not see how foolish we look when we teach GIVE TO GOD and than at the end of the teaching we equate it with GIVE TO MY MINSTRY? Do you not see that the STOREHOUSE OF GOD are the corporate people of God dwelling in the earth? The storehouse IS NOT THE CHURCH BUILDING YOU MEET IN ON SUNDAY! So no human should ever teach ‘if you don’t put 10% of your money in this basket you are under a curse’. Sorry about being riled up, but I get so tired of ministries teaching on the importance of giving to God and then equating that with sending money to them, this is outrageous!

(637)Now that I cooled down a little, let me explain some stuff. Recently I posted our blog on another site of ‘ex Christians’ who left a cult. Good kids, very burned by cultic expressions of Christianity. One of the initial reactions was getting ‘cussed out’ [I used to say ‘cursed’ but in Texas this gives you away as a Yankee!] The kids also accused me of being a money hungry preacher who equates ‘giving to God’ with ‘giving to ME’. I realized how really offensive we are to the world when we do and teach ‘giving to God, test God in this [what?] and he will pour out a blessing’. If you rightfully interpret this verse from Malachi [the only Italian prophet in scripture! Kidding!] The ‘test me’ that God is talking about is testing him in bringing tithes and offerings into the ‘storehouse’. A room in the Old Testament tabernacle/temple where the money went. Now in the New Testament the corporate people of God are the spiritual ‘storehouse’ temple of God. This is a very basic truth. So ‘giving to God’ is really not ‘giving to your ‘church’ or my ministry [though it can include this!] But ‘giving to God’ would be giving directly to meet the real needs of humanity, whether believers or unbelievers. There are tons of verses on this. I have quoted them all over this site! So when we see a TV ministry spend an hour on ‘giving to God’ and then at the end of the show say ‘call this number, don’t test God’ the world LAUGHS AT OUR STUPIDITY! They see right thru this. I am not against giving 10 % of your money. I do [actually more now!] it’s just we need to see this stuff. Recently a Prophetic person got a divorce from her husband. Both Christians that I prayed for. The sister was behind on thousands of dollars of taxes for some business venture property. Another ministry gave her thousands to bail her out. I am sure they all meant well, but the media reported how this church gave tens of thousands to help another Christian business venture. It just seems wrong to take the sacrificial giving of the saints and to use it like this. We need an overhaul in our thinking. Be careful not to equate a message on ‘giving to God’ and then appeal for money for your organization at the close. This is a real stumbling block to the world. Some preachers say ‘well, if the world gets offended over this offering stuff, that’s their fault’. Not really, Paul does teach if taking offerings is becoming a stumbling block to people, then you can adjust your procedure! [Corinthians]. So after the kids on the ex-cult site criticized me as a ‘money grubbing preacher’ they then saw that I don’t take money and read some of our stuff. It worked the way it was supposed to!

(638)I want to remind you of a couple of basic principles. The New Testament does give the primary source of funding for the things God requires you to do. Do you know what it is? I have taught it before ‘he who is not working, let him get a job SO HE CAN HAVE TO GIVE TO HIM THAT NEEDETH’. This is the basic ‘funding source’ actually taught to the average believer. Now, Paul did say ‘who goes to war at his own expense’ teaching the basic truth to help leaders financially. But this does not trump what I just showed you. Paul is addressing a basic principle in ministry, but we should not view everything from ‘the ministry’ paradigm. The problem with ‘modern church’ is we live in a day where ‘ministry’ means ‘the huge Christian business that needs tons of cash’. The fundamental error of seeing ministry in this way causes many well meaning leaders to ‘search the scriptures to find true stuff on bringing in money’. This leads to tons of overemphasis in the modern church on the few verses where you find Paul asking for financial help. Or going to the popular verses on David/Solomon getting money for the Temple. We see thru the paradigm of funding the business, we don’t really teach the New Testament simplicity of all believers sharing what they have. The main teaching from Jesus on giving was doing it this way. The verses I quote from John/James ‘if you have the ability to meet the needs of your brother and don’t, how does Gods love dwell in you’? Direct instructions on you simply taking money from your own budget and meeting the need. No teaching here on you going out and starting some ministry to collect money for some good purpose! Now, you can find the principle of collecting money for ministry stuff. It’s just what I showed you is direct teaching from Jesus and the Apostles on how you should see ‘giving’ and it is in the context of community. The actual judgment scenes from Jesus teach this. ‘When I was hungry you didn’t feed me, naked you didn’t clothe me’ the whole context is couched in the idea of personal responsibility to act. Not for you to either fund the ‘acting’ of someone else [ministry] or to begin with the mindset of collecting money from others so ‘you could act’. Do you see this? This is why it ‘bugs the hell out of me’ when I see the average believer inundated with a message that says ‘become wealthy to fund ministries’ or ‘if you don’t give a tithe into this church meeting you are cursed’ wrong ideas breed wrong actions. I wonder if some of us will tell Jesus at the judgment ‘the reason I didn’t feed you was because I put it all in the church basket’ Ouch!

(629)MEGA CHURCH- I want to speak a little on the trend of ‘mega church’. Those of you who have read all my stuff know the way I view ‘church’. Not so much the ‘church I go to on Sunday’ but more of ‘the group of believers residing in my city’. Now, I am not against mega church. Recently a mega church in Texas taught some stuff that was in the class of real heresy. They denied that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. This got us to discus how stuff like this can happen. In the idea of church as being ‘to get as many people to attend the Sunday meeting as possible’ this environment often breeds a corporate mindset that sees the ‘filling of the building’ as the goal. Along with this comes the ‘meeting of the budget at all expense’. When we first started reproving the doctrine of Jesus being a millionaire, the disciples having a huge budget, Jesus owning an expensive house and all the other stuff that went along with this distorted view of Jesus. It was hard to ‘correct’ the average Pastor who would hear a ‘proof text’ like Jesus wearing an expensive coat and then falling headlong into the money camp. It really upset me that average Pastors could be so easily ‘moved from the gospel of Christ’. I then began to see that in the context of these men’s lives, the major pressure was to ‘fill the building and meet the budget’. All well meaning guys, just distracted from the real goal [the developing of the character and image of Christ in the people groups [oikos] you relate to over your life]. Now, in this environment [the fill the building one!] you grasp hold of any teaching that helps with the accomplishing of the mission. So good Pastors, wanting to meet the budget, hear something from the prosperity group and take it in hook, line and sinker. Any reproof is seen as ‘these rebels don’t see the truth of money and its major role in the Christian life’. While in reality money is dealt with in scripture, but the overall view can be summed up in Paul’s statement ‘using the things of this world while not abusing them’. An overall balance of finances without falling into the trap that Paul warned about in 1st Timothy 6. But in the highly individualistic style of a Pastor overseeing thousands of people [like the San Antonio mega church- 18,000 members] you can become isolated thru viewing everything thru the lens of million dollar budgets and having people come and listen. The safety mechanism that Jesus put in the ‘church’ [corporate body of people] was when all the believers are together, they share and correct and keep each other in balance. The ‘big church’ model can be in danger of losing this ‘safety mechanism’. Some see this and encourage home groups, that’s a good thing. But some mega churches have Pastors who don’t participate. So these brothers are on a course to accomplish huge goals and then when they get off track doctrinally it is next to impossible to correct them. The members are so enamored with the strong preaching of the leader [in the more authoritative situations, I don’t see this in Corpus Christi] that they fall into the category of hearers only and would never confront the leader. Even if he starts to deny that Jesus is the Christ! [Messiah]. So in all of the varied expressions of church, let’s stay balanced and be open to receive from all the Christian communions that are out there. Don’t go down the road of viewing other Christian churches as ‘those deceived traditionalists’. I find it disturbing that when talking with Jehovah witnesses they espouse the same feelings towards the Catholic Church as many Baptists do. While not defending all the teachings of the Catholic Church, this mindset is inherently unhealthy. When a strong mega church is ‘ruled’ by an authoritarian Pastor, this whole dynamic is absent from the New Testament. There was NEVER a situation, NOT ONE TIME EVER where you would have 18,000 believers under the weekly preaching of any single person who was called ‘the Pastor’. Now you can see why the way you view your function as a Christian can be limited if your whole experience in Christianity is one of sitting in a pew and passively hearing bible words being preached. This perspective is not what you find taught in the New Testament assemblies of believers.

(623)In the last entry we showed how it can be dangerous for independent churches, no matter how big or influential they are, to really get off track doctrinally. In Hagee’s view, he grasps the doctrine that Jesus was not the Messiah to Israel. Others also embrace a dual covenant idea [see note at bottom] they see the scriptures in Romans about a remnant of Jews who are still with God, and see that as saying there are Jewish people who are still in covenant with God outside of the New Covenant [a view by the way that Charles Taze Russell embraced, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses]. Most theologians view the remnant as those who have embraced Jesus as Messiah. Like the writer of Romans and all the original Apostles. Even John who would later say ‘he that denies Jesus as Messiah is anti christ’. So the fundamental flaw is this view sees the remnant as being outside of Messiah, while scripture shows them to be in Messiah. Over the years I have seen believers who would start their walk with the Lord and then after a while be introduced to the broader Christian community. Like myself I see all the traditions of Christianity as a real part of this mystical Body of Christ that we call ‘the church’. Some are so excited to find the hidden treasures contained in the study of church history that they eventually become Orthodox or Catholic. They see all the great stuff of the past and join the great traditions. I personally don’t go that far. While I do see merit to this argument, I feel the 1st century church as seen in scripture was a much more organic form than the later development of traditional church. I don’t see the later development as ‘devil worshippers’ as many Protestants do, I see them as true Fathers of the faith with many good things to contribute to the community. I want to espouse the idea that from the development of the Lords supper we can see in microcosm the trend that the Orthodox/Catholic church took as she moved away from Organic church. When Jesus instituted the ordinance of the Eucharist, he told the disciples that from now on when you do this [do what?] that you show his death till he comes. You can almost take it like he was saying ‘as often as you get together [organic community] and eat the fellowship meal, you will be a symbol of the spiritual reality of the truth of all believers feeding and living off of the actual life that is in me’. Not so much a liturgical thing, but more of a spiritual thing. Sort of like saying ‘no more Passover meal, but instead a true sharing of my life as seen in community’. Now, if you read 1st Corinthians 11 you will see this play out. Paul tells the church at Corinth that when they were getting together for these meals [which are actually called ‘love feasts’] that some were eating and getting full and drunk while others were not even getting any food. A far cry from the liturgical thing! This section of scripture also is important to understand the mistaken idea of church at ‘the church building’. Our English bibles say ‘when you come together in the church [ouch!]’ it is easy to read ‘in the church’ as ‘in the building’! Actually ‘in the church’ means in the corporate get together. When believers meet corporately they ‘are the church’. So right off the bat you can go down the later road as seeing the ‘church’ and the ‘Eucharist’ as liturgical, while it is not! As you read the chapter you see Paul saying ‘as you come together [church!] you are disrespecting the great reality of Jesus being the bread and us being the ‘eaters’ or receivers of his life’. He is the bread of life! [John’s gospel]. Now, the reproof is ‘you are disrespecting Christ’s Body [the other believers in the assembly!] by doing what you are doing!’ He reproves them in the context of community. He is not speaking into the later development of liturgical Eucharist! So, as you read the New Testament you see this truth all thru out its pages. Paul referring to all the believers as ‘church’. Never once addressing the ‘Pastor of the church’, but instead all the brothers in the city! He actually tells the church at Corinth ‘you have a brother in open sin, when you all come together [as a communal group] deliver him over to satan for the destruction of the flesh’ he isn’t addressing a Priest or Pastor or Bishop. He is telling ‘the church’ to do this. So as time goes by you have the early development of church and offices and liturgy as a sincere reaction to the fear that the church would apostasize if she didn’t have a strong ‘magisterium’, a teaching authority that could say ‘this is true, this is false’. The well meaning development of strong liturgy was a natural out growth of seeing church this way. At the reformation the Protestant church dealt with important issues, but really didn’t change the way we ‘do church’. The Protestants just replaced ‘the Priest’ with ‘the Pastor’. All good people on both sides, just not what God originally intended. So today you are seeing the idea of church as the strong liturgical communion being challenged by many ‘communal/organic’ ideas of church. A return to the original model [some think ‘model’ is too strong of a word]. But in this whole debate, you also find good men, who have ‘discovered’ the church fathers and all the great wisdom of the Mystics [Christian spirituality] and they cling to liturgy as a welcomed communion as opposed to the truncated independent rebels! These ‘ex Protestants’ are doing a service by re introducing the themes and practices of the early church. But the ‘real early church’ as seen in the New Testament was not liturgical! The above example from the Lords table shows you this. So as we continue to either ‘reform’ or ‘restore’ [those who see a return to the early practices of organic church can be seen as restorationist as opposed to ‘reformists’] we want to embrace and understand the ancient practices of the church, like popular writer Tony Jones speaks about [One of the key leaders in the Emergent church movement] but we also want to use the actual New testament as the most pure form of ‘early church’ [John has clarified his belief on the dual covenant, he has stated that he does not believe in dual covenant. But he seems to have not rejected the idea that Jesus is not the Messiah to Israel- as of 5-08].

(604)Got with my homeless friend yesterday, the Muslim brother. Found out that he served in Iraq and went thru lots of stuff. His family is Jehovah witness. They were stressed when he became a Muslim. During our conversation I never really push conversion on people. After becoming real friends with people, with no hidden agenda, then when you talk with them the door is open to share truth with a friend. Jesus style! He is knowledgeable in many areas, does read scripture. I spent a few hours answering many misconceptions that he had. I rarely have a bible when doing this stuff, but I have memorized lots of scripture over the years. So during our conversation I realized that my human power of persuasion wasn’t cutting it, I would quote scripture along with my reasoning. Stuff like ‘great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, believed on in the world and received up into heaven’ and explain the truth of the incarnation. I went a little thru the history of Islam and the difference between the way Jewish people and Muslims view Jesus as a prophet, but not Gods Son. I did quote a lot from Isaiah 53 and noticed how my buddy was listening intently as I would quote scripture. You could see it was really the power of the gospel thru Gods word that was doing the work. As I was quoting and explaining the substitutionary aspect of Christ’s death, he confessed that he was just reading Isaiah 53 earlier in the day. Wow, I felt like the guy in Acts [Phillip] who was preaching to the Ethiopian Eunuch! [Acts 8?] After a good few hours of really teaching my Muslim friend, I was dropping him off at his spot where he camps by the bay. It’s kind of cold, but I told him [truthfully] that I planned on baptizing some people when the water gets warmer. It’s been too long and I don’t want to neglect this part of the great commission. I didn’t want to push it with my Muslim friend, but he eagerly told me that he wants to get baptized when we do it! Also wants to be involved with some home groups and stuff. It’s only been a few weeks of friendship with this brother and he’s ready to get converted! This is the same brother that I was kidding about giving my classic Mustang to a few entries back. I thank God that he is ready to take the plunge! But he isn’t getting the car! NOTE; Let me say something about this ‘style’ or way of ministry. It is all to easy in today’s current mind set to relate to people on the basis of ‘come to my church/ministry and we will provide services to you and you will give a tithe and we will pay for others [missionaries] to carry the gospel to the world. Just be real faithful to give and we will do great things’. The intent behind this thinking is well meaning, I just believe it is a little misguided. It is all to easy to fall into a style of ministry that begins ‘falling behind’ in the budget and then there develops a tension on ‘why aren’t the people giving’? I know! It’s because we have failed to teach the mandate to tithe! [though there really is no mandate to tithe!] So what starts out as well intentioned people [the Pastors and the congregants] digresses into this power struggle where every time you meet one of the main inferences is ‘lets go people, we have much to do. Obey God, don’t rob him!’ the whole thing is so far removed from true New Testament ministry, yet we don’t really see this! In the above interaction with my Muslim friend, it was obvious to me that he has ‘gotten into it’ with many Pastors thru out his life. He has told me how what turned him off was the arrogance [and ignorance] of ‘chaplains’ [prison] and guys who were always relating to him with an agenda. I don’t want to say ‘I am the first noble person who treated him right’ but I want you to see how all believers need to begin directly relating to people without seeing ‘my church [organization] or the missionaries we support are responsible to do this stuff’ We are all responsible! When the modern system teaches the ‘brick builders’ to simply ‘make more bricks’ [bring in more resources] we are giving the impression to the average believer that this is his main responsibility! NOTE; If you remember that in one of my books I shared some thoughts from my mission statement [I think the last chapter of ‘Further Talks on Church and Ministry’] I shared how in the great commission Jesus simply tells believers to go and preach the gospel and baptize those who believe. Also to teach and make disciples [more than just ‘getting saved’] but there really is no instruction on ‘starting churches’. Later in Acts after the Spirit is poured out on the believers they ‘continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and breaking of bread’. That is they were growing as a community of people, not a separate organization that was called ‘the local church’. They were ‘the local church’. Because of this subtle shift in our seeing the separate organization as ‘the local church’ it becomes natural to see the bringing in of more money into ‘the storehouse’ [eeek!] so the work of God can be carried out! After all, God chose ‘the local church’ as his instrument to do this stuff! We sure have a long way to go. NOTE; This is the friend who shared the dreams about the ‘gold book of God’ [few entries back]. He also just shared how when he was a boy he had a dream and heard the word ‘unity’ and his mom [or someone?] was aware of this. I think they heard the voice too? The point was I also told him [interpreted] this prophetic sign as from God. During my discussions with him one of the main obstacles of becoming Christian was certain expressions of the Trinity. How Muslims say ‘you cant worship Jesus as God’ or you cant have ‘3 gods’. I tried to explain that Jesus said ‘if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I am in the Father and the Father in me’[a ‘unity’!] I also explained how the historic church battled over certain expressions of the Trinity. I explained the ‘Arian’ controversy of the 4th [or 5th?] century when the Bishop Arias thought it was wrong to call Jesus God, and ultimately the church had an historic council and came down on the side of Trinitarian language. I brought all this up to show him how believers have struggled with explaining the Trinity. But I used his own prophetic experience of hearing the word ‘unity’ to show him how Jesus and God are one. This was the 2nd prophetic thing that happened with him in concert to bring him to conversion. Which in a way was a fulfillment of what I told him a few weeks back, that many Muslims were having dreams and visions and converting to Christ. This whole experience was a good prophetic clinic to those of you who are not familiar with these things. Signs and visions work in concert with the overall purpose of God in redemption. Just like the book of Acts, those of you who do not believe in these things need to see the ‘orthodoxy’ of all that has happened in bringing my friend to truth. It wasn’t ‘spooky’ charismatic stuff, it was real evangelism! NOTE; Let me give you guys a little ‘prophetic clinic’ in what happened with my Muslim friend. He had these 2 prophetic experiences that stuck with him his whole life. The ‘gold book of God’ and the ‘unity’ word/vision. Both of these signs speak of the deity of Christ, the main obstacle keeping a Muslim from becoming Christian. So for all these years God knew there would be a time where this buddy would go thru as being Muslim. God had a predestined course for him to have had these prophetic experiences in his background. God was waiting for the day to come where Martin would run into ‘an interpreter of dreams’ [don’t want to sound too big headed, at least someone who believed they weren’t from the devil!] so you see how these dream things were not simply ‘eating too much Pizza’ but a collaborative effort with the sovereignty of God to reveal his Son to Martin. God gave his Son for the world, he has the right to divinely arrange the ‘playing board’ so he wins every time!

(594)[ this is the other entry on my Muslim friends dream] Got with 2 homeless buddies yesterday, Steve and Martin [Steve Martin!] met them a few weeks back. They camp about a half mile from my house, right off the bay front. My fishing spot! I told them for a bunch of homeless guys they have it made. Living on the water front. I didn’t realize that Martin is Muslim. He knew I was a Christian and never mentioned it. But Yesterday he brought it up. He didn’t immediately come out and say it, but he was saying ‘I like Jesus as a Prophet, but you shouldn’t worship him’ after a while I caught on. I was honest with him and told him I believe Muhammad made some good points [like being against idols] but that he missed it on Jesus as the Son of God. I did quote some stuff from John’s gospel and gave a lot of scripture on Jesus as being more than a prophet. He did listen to me. I also shared how many Muslims have reported having dreams about Jesus appearing to them and getting converted. This has happened a lot over the last few years. He told me he had a dream he can’t forget, he dreamt of a new book that was to come out. It was Gold and looked like a new ‘book from God’. I interpreted his dream to mean God was going to reveal Jesus [the divine Logos- Gold speaks of divinity, Jesus is the ‘book/word’ of God] to him. He couldn’t really see what I was saying. I tried to explain the concept, he didn’t grasp it [yet!] On my way to drop them off at the fishing spot, I decided I would do some crabbing also. We went to my house to get some traps and I showed the guys my classic mustang. It’s a 1966 with a 281 engine. Real nice car. Martin loved it. I told him I too had a dream, I dreamt I was to give the car away to a Muslim, but he had to convert to Christianity. He looked at me for a second thinking I was serious, I told him I was just kidding. But I did laugh a little, I said ‘you liked like you were ready to say ‘Muhammad, it’s been fun while it lasted’. He laughed too! I caught about a dozen crabs, Martin got a drum and red fish. I also gave them a few of my books, they both are avid readers.

(598)I am going a little ‘theological’ today! In the ‘Emergent conversation’, as well as just ‘the conversation’ there are questions about the Kingdom versus the ‘Church’. When Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to cast out devils [demons] heal the sick and proclaim ‘the Kingdom of God has been here’. I see the Kingdom being expressed and manifested wherever Christ’s ambassadors are journeying at the time. In these areas where the gospel would spread certain groups of people would ‘submit’ to the message of the King. The outward sign of this submission was baptism. Those in the surrounding areas knew who these subjects of the Kingdom were, they were ‘branded’ if you will, with the ‘mark of the Kingdom’. Now, these cities [Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia { a group of cities}] would become ‘out posts’ of the Kingdom on earth. The ‘church’ [Ecclesia] in these areas were actual territories of people in whom the King would dwell and have expression thru. From these ‘local churches’ [groups of believers residing locally! Get the idea of a 501 c 3 organization out of your head!] Others would eventually go out and establish ‘new outposts’ thru the proclaiming of this good news [of the Kings reign!]. This organic thing we call ‘Ecclesia’ was the natural outgrowth of the Kingdom in the earth. The scholar N.T. Wright says the Kingdom message was really a proclamation of the Kings reign thru the lips of the Apostles. In essence they weren’t just preaching ‘get saved and join a ‘local church’ but were saying ‘the Kingdom has been inaugurated, submit to the King while you still have time!’ I like this! So today you have ‘regions/groups’ of people on planet earth who are ‘citizens’ of this heavenly Kingdom. The fact that the Spirit of God has taken up residence permanently in these groups of believers shows the ‘long term’ thinking of the Father when he started this thing! There most certainly will be a future aspect of this Kings great entry back into the planet, at that time all will see the outward reality of the fact that the King has been alive and well for a few thousand years [or more, depending on when he returns]. But make no mistake about it, the Kingdom of God has been invading this planet ever since the King took his seat of authority and vested the church with this authority by the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Be assured that ‘the Kingdom of God has come among you’.

(427) It is common in the modern world of ‘church’ to have a scenario where certain people [deacon boards and stuff like this] rise up and come against ‘the Pastor’. You then have a dynamic where the ‘Pastor’ is in a struggle for ‘control over his church’. Then the fight rages on. All of this is absent from the New Testament. Paul fought against the false teachers who were trying to influence the ‘churches’ [communities of people] with false doctrine, but this power struggle over the ‘control of my church’ [501c3 Christian business who meets on Sunday] did not exist. Recently I have heard/seen a few scenarios along these lines. There actually are scenarios where those who are fighting the Pastor are like what you would find in an abusive relationship. A type of manipulation that says ‘if you don’t say stuff that makes me mad, I will behave’. Then the Pastor feels like ‘I stood up against the opposition and God was with me’. Even though the whole ‘atmosphere’ of stuff like this is unscriptural. This type of stuff is what you see in the world of corporate takeover. The rising up of stockholders and stuff who are ‘dethroning’ the CEO’s who are making millions while the stock is falling. I just want you to see that when we view and function in limited paradigms; this affects the way we carry on with the journey. Jesus taught a type of ‘prophetic preaching’ that said ‘if people don’t receive the gift, go to the next house/city’ I am not saying all Pastors should leave their churches when strife arises. I am saying that the whole scenario is really not of God. Even the part where the well meaning Pastor ‘fights for the control of the church’ [Christian business]. Being the true New Testament Churches were communities of people, as opposed to ‘501 c 3’s’ you never had these types of situations. NOTE: I really don’t blame the Pastors for functioning out of this limited mindset. We send guys to College and they are taught all types of stuff under the guise of ‘Pastoral’ administration. We basically teach them that this means running and administrating a business. We teach a form of ‘deacon board’ and all other types of stuff that are simply bible names given to 501c3 corporations and their boards [Roberts’s rules of order!] The New Testament shows all these ‘gifts’ [Pastor, Deacon, etc.] as gifts that function in a community environment. The modern Pastor is taught in a way that he simply replaces the idea of ‘board of directors’ with ‘Deacon board’. If you try to show these brothers that they are simply putting bible names on an American corporation, they will tell you ‘well brother, the bible speaks of deacons’. True, but the bible speaks of Bishops and Pastor and we think that justifies us putting our own definitions to them. God has placed gifted individuals in the ‘church’ [community of believers]. These gifts are primarily given to build up people. If in this process you need a building, or a ‘501c3’ or a ‘radio/blog ministry’ that’s fine! But your gift is not primarily given to administrate the tool [the whole business and stuff that arises out of modern ideas of church] but the gift is primarily given to facilitate growth in the community of people. Because we don’t really see and function this way, we inadvertently accuse the saints. We say ‘if you don’t put the tithe in on Sunday, you are cursed because you are not submitting to the Local church. Which after all is Gods plan to change the world’. Well it is Gods purpose to function thru the ‘Local Church’ but once again this simply means ‘all the believers residing locally’. It does not mean the whole 501c3 organization that functions in the building on Sunday. You see how easy it is to read the verses on ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’ and then to mistake the ‘storehouse’ for the 501 c 3 that owns the ‘church building’. The storehouse are the corporate people. Jesus said ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer’. We are his house! We are a ‘corporate house of Prayer’. Well I have taught all this stuff before, just felt like you needed a reminder. NOTE: I have heard over the year’s well meaning Pastors say things like ‘I don’t believe in Bible college, that’s the job of the ‘Local Church’ or others who might denigrate a ministry because ‘it is not under a local church covering’. The mistake these brothers are making is once again ‘seeing’ the ‘local church’ as the building and all the operations surrounding it. What do they mean when they say ‘it’s the job of the local church’? They seem to be implying that the actual instruction should take place ‘on the grounds of the 501c3 organization’ or in the actual building where the Christians meet on Sunday, after all ‘it is the Local church!’ UGGH! They don’t seem to realize that if the college or other ministry that they are talking about is something that was a God ordained thing, and that ‘thing’ is being administrated or ‘run’ by ‘local believers’ then it is part of ‘the local church’ [community]. But when you ‘see’ local church as the 501c3 building/organization that Christians meet in on Sunday, then you inadvertently ‘accuse’ the brethren by saying ‘you are not under the local church’. God does not vest authority/legitimacy in a ‘501c3’ corp. He vests authority in his people by his Spirit. When you do not see this you accuse the ‘local church’ [the local believers] by thinking that ‘the local church’ is something that its not! Let me also add that I have had friends over the years who ran ‘Para church’ organizations [a misnomer!] some of these brothers have jumped thru all sorts of hoops to gain legitimacy with the ‘local churches’ [organizations] when these brothers see that I am ‘functioning’ as a believer with Gods authority, they do get offended. Sort of like ‘I have jumped thru these hoops for years. Tithing to my ‘church’ and all sorts of things to be in proper order. How dare you come along and challenge the legitimacy of ‘the local church’. The point is God wants all of his kids to function freely under his headship/authority. It’s OK if your ‘Para church’ ministry is working along side a ‘local church organization’ but to then try to make everyone fit into this limited paradigm is out of order. If Jesus taught us anything on authority, he taught that servants gain authority in Gods Kingdom. If you want authority my friends, then serve! Don’t think it comes from being ‘under the covering’ of some man made organization. NOTE: If the Kingdom is not about ‘being over people’ as Jesus taught, then why even ‘have authority’? Those who are being used in the Kingdom to build up the Body of Christ realize that there is no greater joy than to actually ‘wash the feet of Jesus [serving him]’ by building up the Body of Christ [the Local church/community of people]. You build so far and then you need more ‘skills’ to complete the ‘building’. At that stage ‘more authority’ is given for this purpose. The ‘minister’ is rejoicing because God has given him more adequate tools to complete the mission. Further ability to serve! Paul told the believers that God gave him this authority to build them up, not to ‘rule over them’. In today’s environment of success and trying to feel legitimate, people unconsciously fight for this recognition [authority] thinking it will bring them some sort of fulfillment. In the more extreme cases this can lead to ‘authoritarianism’. An ongoing battle between the ‘congregation’ and the ‘Pastor’ for control. So here you see how the limited paradigm affects everything else. In the New Testament churches you did not have scenarios where ‘Pastors’ were trying to be over the people for long periods of time. The shepherding process [discipling] was done over a short time until the new believers were mature enough to be ‘launched out on their own’ [under Christ’s headship]. When you have unnatural environments where men are fighting for control or authority simply for the purpose of ‘having authority’ then this causes an abusive situation for the people of God. Not all Pastors do this, but the unnatural environment lends to this happening more often than it should. The giving of ‘more authority’ is primarily for the continued function of servant hood, to continue to build the people up. It is a violation of biblical authority to see your position as one of singular authority over the people of God [see Diotrephes mentioned in the 3rd letter of John].

(428) I kind of am hesitant to do this, but I felt it was time. I have had a radio listener who is a prosperity guy. He has written me ‘re proofs’ for years. I am surprised he still listens! He recently sent me a few more letters. He actually liked what I was teaching and did thank me. But he usually sends pages of stuff to teach that Jesus was a millionaire [actually the richest man who ever lived]. He basically has been taught an exhaustive doctrine [that goes on forever!] that traces Jesus roots thru King David to Abraham and goes thru these pages of explaining how Jesus was the natural heir of David and therefore truly owned all the wealth of Jerusalem. He has been taught [or taught himself] an intricate bible system that is absolutely consumed with mammon. The simple fact that Jesus was a carpenter’s son and lived that way escapes these guys. The fact that Paul taught ‘you came into the world without material wealth, when you die you will not be able to take wealth with you. Therefore be happy with your needs being met’ [1st Timothy 6]. Why didn’t Paul teach Timothy that he needed to believe for all this wealth so he could reach the Roman world? These poor brothers who are so consumed with wealth have gone to extremes to search the scriptures and come up with unbelievable teachings that are consumed with mammon. I have come to believe these guys are under a ‘spell’ [Paul says this in Galatians- ‘who hath bewitched you’]. I am glad this guy still listens to the program, maybe he will get free someday? Also for the sake of this brothers argument. Jesus was from the line of King David. The fact that he was ‘conceived’ by the Spirit, a major Christian doctrine, shows that Jesus ‘in the natural’ did not come from the line of natural David [the actual ‘seed’ of David, don’t want to get to explicit here!] because of this Jesus would teach things like ‘my Kingdom is not from this world’. Jesus showed us that his actual lineage [really] was from the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit caused Mary to conceive! This isn’t a problem for most Christians, but this guy has sent me these arguments for years and for his sake I thought I would do this. NOTE: this note is for the last 2 entries. Both the idea that the ‘church’ is the actual 501c3 corp. who meets in a building on Sunday, as well as the teaching on lots of money go hand in hand. It is only natural for the Pastor/CEO mindset to fall into the snare of seeing how ‘if we just had more money’ if Gods people were not disobedient in bringing the tithe to the ‘storehouse’ then we could accomplish ‘the ministry’. These well meaning Pastors get allured by this need for money, they then fall into the extremes of the prosperity gospel. They truly feel unless tons of money comes into the ‘local church coffers’ [which they see as the 501c3 machine!] then the world will never be evangelized. Its easy to look to the examples in the New Testament where Paul is receiving support, or where all the believers gave sacrificially and brought the money and laid it at the Apostles feet. In these scenarios you had the concept of communal sacrifice and giving that ‘equaled the playing field’ and fulfilled the Old Testament type of Manna. Those who gathered what was enough for their families [be content with having your needs met] were provided for. Those that gathered much for the greater need had enough. Those that gathered little for their need had enough. God specifically rebuked hoarding and a covetous mindset by showing that those who took too much, the Manna ‘bred worms’. So in these examples of extravagant giving in the book of Acts, we are seeing Gods family voluntarily [no tithe!] give of their wealth to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters. When the modern minister uses these verses to either teach a doctrine of becoming rich, or to bring in ‘the tithes to the storehouse’ he is not rightly dividing the Word! NOTE: Just read an article in the paper on someone starting a ministry. They showed the facility. Talked about the renovations needed. The eventual staff. The need to obtain I.R.S. status. This is typical of the way we ‘see’ ministry. Our mindsets see a project, a facility and the functioning of some type of a ‘service’ that we will provide. The New Testament mindset was taking the message of the Kingdom and simply proclaiming it to people groups. The fact that the message of the gospel has within it the inherent power to change society caused there to be a mindset that said ‘if I can just plant this Word in the hearts of people, I will have been faithful to the task’. You don’t see Paul going to cities and setting up anything! He is presenting the gospel, and the actual act of the gospel being believed becomes the completed task. The communities of people who believe become the ‘Local church’ that is the ‘outpost’ of God in that region. The people are the ‘facility’ that God takes up residence in by his Spirit and this is the work of the Apostle or believer carrying out the great commission. We focus too much on ‘starting something’ instead of ‘declaring him’! NOTE: It is also a common mistake for Christians to ‘attend church’ and debate the fact that ‘everything our church does is scriptural’. They will mistake the function of someone ‘preaching’ bible words [either the Pastor or Evangelist] as ‘being biblical’ even if the entire mindset of ‘the church I am attending’ is absolutely no where to be found in scripture! Now I don’t want to be too ‘iconoclastic’ [a destroyer of idols] here, but I want you to see that many Christians see ‘being scriptural’ as simply ‘speaking from scripture’. To be truly ‘scriptural’ is to function as the New Testament churches [communities of people] functioned. They lived lifestyles of community that did not view the ‘Sunday service’ as the ‘place I attend and put in my tithe’. When we as Christians view ‘church’ in this limited way, we are being UNSCRIPTURAL, even if we preach from scripture while doing it!

(430) Let’s review a few things. In Isaiah it says ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways’. A lot of the stuff I have been showing you on ‘Local Church’ is simply a process of changing our thoughts [ways of seeing things] to Gods thoughts. As you see this stuff you begin to see that ‘knowing scripture’ is different than just memorizing verses, or being familiar with the text. It means having a general understanding of the whole flow of what God means. As you simply ‘see’ Gods thoughts on ‘Local church’ it allows for there to be a ‘grid’ that puts everything else in context. When Jesus debated the Pharisees, they had this ‘obsessive’ ability to memorize scripture. They actually had a ‘profession’ that copied the Old Testament to the tee [scribes]. These ‘brothers’ were obsessed with the technicality of the Word! Yet Jesus would rebuke them for not truly grasping the meaning of the ‘text’. Sort of like not being able to see the forest because of the trees. This ultimately led them to crucifying their Messiah. They couldn’t ‘see the Body of Christ’. So today when we don’t ‘see’ Christ’s Body properly [thru the Church] we also do harm to it. Let God replace your thoughts for his. NOTE: I don’t mean to be picky here. But when we don’t ‘discern’ the ‘Body of Christ’ [the church] we do unconsciously accuse her. Paul writes ‘I have shown you these things so you would know how to behave in the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth’. We read ‘how to behave in the church building on Sunday’ [our thoughts] when what it is really saying is ‘how to behave in the family of God’. We say things to believers who are ‘functioning locally’ ‘you need to be under a covering, you need to be in submission to ‘a local church’. We often are using a ‘form’ of local church that isn’t to be found in scripture when we say this. In essence we are doing ‘damage to the Body of Christ’ when we do not properly discern her.

(432) I am continuing to study on apostolic movements. I read a book years ago on these movements [reinventing American Protestantism-Donald Miller] and have read lots of stuff over the years. I just looked at the ‘Calvary Chapel’ with Chuck Smith and the ‘Vineyard’ with the late John Wimber. I also looked at the Victory Outreach and the Door. I would have to say the Calvary Chapels and the Vineyard are ‘more mature’ in their understanding of what God is doing with them. The ‘door’ is a little too ‘sectarian’ in their mindset. They actually expressed things on their site that seem to say they see ‘their movement’ as ‘thee’ restoration of ‘the’ Local Church. This type of stuff is dangerous. But overall these movements are great. The book I read from Donald Miller referred to these churches as ‘new paradigm’ churches. I don’t really see them as ‘new paradigm’ they still function out of the ‘paradigm’ of local church being the Sunday 501c3 corp. but they are ‘new’ in the sense of the way they branched out thru outreaches. I commend these works and these men, both Wimber and Chuck Smith are good men whom I respect. A lot of the critics don’t see them this way, but I see them as truly being used of God. I think we are at a stage in the Body of Christ where God wants to ‘join’ the dimension of rapidly expanding thru ‘church planting’ with the whole concept of the church as ‘family’ as opposed to ‘the building we meet at’. What this ‘new paradigm’ will do is release all the Body of Christ into seeing themselves as ‘church planters’. Everyone has the ability to speak the gospel to people groups in various locations and settings. Too many of the older type movements were looking for ‘church sites’ ‘what property should we purchase?’ And stuff like this. The ‘new paradigm’ will be looking to ‘people groups’. ‘Shall I go to Macedonia today?’ ‘I wonder if the Lord will send me to Galatia?’ Things like this. Instead of ‘seeing’ the setting up of an organization, you will be ‘seeing’ the open doors to reach people groups. ‘Where will we have church than?’ everywhere! You can meet in a park, home, whataburger, even in a CHURCH BUILDING! The point is God will provide many ‘places’ to get together. Quit being so focused on ‘the place’. Didn’t you have friends growing up? You had a ‘bunch of people’ that were your ‘clique’. You played ball, went places, did things. Were you always looking for the ‘building’ to meet in? NO! You were a group of people with a common identity. You gathered around mutual interests. So begin to see this ‘new paradigm’ and operate along these lines. This reduces the current need for great finances, and allows for the simple expansion of the Kingdom thru simple disciples carrying the great message of Christ. NOTE: it is common for the average Pastor to fight against this way of seeing ‘church’. You will often hear the verse in Hebrews ‘forsake not the assembling of yourselves together’. This verse cant be used to defend a form of ‘Local Church’ that is no where to be found in the New Testament! If you stopped ‘getting together’ with your friends in the above scenario, your parents might say ‘what’s wrong with you Johnny? You are becoming too isolated. Don’t STOP GETTING TOGETHER WITH YOUR FRIENDS’. In essence this is what the writer of Hebrews is saying. Don’t use stuff like this to justify ‘going to church on Sunday’.

(446) A few years ago I had a Pastor friend who kind of competed with me in ‘getting’ the addicts/excons to ‘go to his church’. I knew this brother for years. He got saved in his 50’s [?] and started preaching at the jails when I was going in my 20’s. Eventually he left the Pentecostal church he attended and ‘started his own church’. I knew he would ‘talk’ about me every now and then, and to tell you the truth, it really didn’t bother me. It’s like when you go thru rumors that your are having a gay relationship with an ‘ordained minister/sorcerer’ who started the rumors himself, you kind of don’t mind about the regular normal gossip! I chalked it up to his immaturity in the Lord. Even though he was a good 25 years older than me, he meant well and was going thru the silly games preachers play when they first start out. He did invite me to preach at his church once, and we had a good service. But being he would gossip to me about the Pastor and church he had formally attended, I knew it was only a matter of time before he would get to me! I never even confronted him or anything, I just let it slide. One day he saw me at a restaurant with a brother [ex-con/addict] you could tell he was a little jealous that the brother was with me and not him. I don’t even ‘have a church’ but in his mind he was at the childish stage of ‘why don’t you come to my church’ type thing. This Pastor read my first book ‘house of prayer or den of thieves’ and I think it might have been a little strong. I never gave him my 2nd book, and as we went to the parking lot to get it, he started gossiping about the ex- addict brother who we just left to go into the parking lot! Well I gave him my 2nd book, which challenges the whole concept of ‘local church’ and the role of ‘Pastor’ I knew it wouldn’t be long before he would read it, and more than likely I would become the ‘talk of the town’ by this Pastor in his 60’s who would probably call me a heretic. I just didn’t worry about it, I figured I would give him the book and just leave it at that. We did have a mutual Christian friend and I finally asked him how Pastor ‘so and so’ was doing. In a nice way, I kinda figured the Pastor might have already gotten to my friend and told him what a heretic I was. My friend said the last time he saw him he was in the hospital and it looked like he was going to die. I don’t think it was because he more than likely talked about me, it was just something that happened. I later thought about it, how so many of us [Pastors/leaders] see people as simple tools in a big game. To try to challenge the present mindset of ‘Pastor’ and ‘church’ is a difficult thing. To be sure all Pastors don’t fall into the category of my friend, but the system itself has a way to bring this type of stuff out of us, even the best of us. NOTE; he died a few months back, the same day I read of his death we had a strange phenomena in the gulf where I live. We had a real clear ‘water spout’ that the local channels picked up. It was a perfect ‘tunnel’ type spout that showed the water going right up to ‘heaven’ thru this tube. I took it as a beautiful sign of my friend’s home going. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

(447) It is difficult for the American church/Pastor to ‘reform’ his understanding of church from one of ‘the 501c3 organization that raises funds to do projects and support ministries’ to that of a free community of people whom Christ’s Spirit dwells in to ‘reform and effect’ society around them. I remember hearing defenses of the ‘Local church’ from the fundamental Baptists that said ‘some people speak of the ‘invisible church/universal church’ well the bible never speaks of a church ‘you cant see’. While there is some truth to this, what these brothers were saying is ‘the local church is this ‘church building’ and all the functions that surround it’! God has his people strategically located all over the earth. When the Bible speaks of ‘local believers’ versus ‘the universal church’ it is not speaking of 2 different things. It is speaking of Christians who reside locally and to the believers who reside ‘universally’. They are the same thing, just in different locations. We have a tendency as Pastors and leaders to want to do some project, complete some goal. This is good. But it becomes ‘not good’ when we view Gods people at large as the primary ‘funders’ of the ‘big project’. This ‘projects’ a mindset into the people of God that is contrary to the function of the church. Moses, Paul and all the other biblical leaders were men with vision and destiny. Moses did ‘collect funds’ for certain godly purposes [the Tabernacle] while leading the people, but the primary thing they were doing, their ‘vision and destiny’ if you will, was bringing the people of God along a journey that led them to a place of self sufficiency/rule under the headship of God [Christ] that released them into a functioning society of people. You never see Paul or the other Apostles primarily relating to the people along the lines of ‘God has given me this vision, if you Galatians, Ephesians, etc. were simply obedient to fund it, then it would happen’ the vision was not some project or thing apart from their own function and growth. They were not following Paul’s leadership to accomplish something apart from them. What Paul [Moses] were doing was bringing them into the reality that God wants to express himself and who he is thru a people that bear his name. The fact that Israel [or the church] were being governed by God and representing him in the earth gave God ‘opportunities’ to act and show himself strong on their behalf. Society around them were not going to be influenced by the great things they were to build [Babel mindset] but they were to be influenced by who they were and their real relationship with God as a nation. So when we ‘see’ the church as ‘this visible 501c3 organization’ and the people as ‘taxpayers’ [tithers] to the projects and goals of the organization, this causes both the Pastors and the people to fall into roles that are not the primary expression of what God really wants. The people are faced, week after week, month after month, year after year, with leadership saying ‘you are not obedient enough in the area of raising funds’ and the primary challenge to the average saint in the pew is ‘I will give more diligently this time’ and his whole function is measured by this rule. Then leadership reinforces the ‘scriptural mandate’ of this dynamic by appealing to the few areas in Paul’s writings that speak on giving. Though Paul was not primarily dealing with it in the same way. We truly ‘see’ the function of the motivated minister to set goals and somehow inspire people to fund these well meaning goals. This is a very small part of what New Testament leadership was doing. In the very verses we use to justify ‘giving on Sunday’ in a legalistic way, Paul actually says ‘take up the collection before I get there [Corinth] because when I get there we have real important things to do, I don’t want to waste time dealing with the money stuff [1 Corinthians 16]’ so we take these verses that are teaching the small role that finances play in the functioning of the church [to support laboring elders/Pastors and to meet the needs of the less fortunate] and we turn these verses around and teach them in a way that giving becomes thee number 1 measurement of a persons faith. We give the mindset to the average believer that his main function is to ‘attend church and give money’ and he measures his faithfulness this way. And he is taught ‘God highly values the ‘local church’ if he loves it so much that he gave his life for it, how much more should you value the local church in your life and give it priority’ But we seem to be telling the poor people that the ‘it/local church’ is the organization and all that surrounds its ‘corporations life’ [versus corporate life]. Yes God does love the 'local church’ [community of believers] and he did give his life for it [them and you!] and this is why you see biblical leadership so unfocused on some ‘vision to accomplish something’ and so focused on ‘seeing the people of God come to maturity’. They were giving their lives for the thing of value, which were the people of God [the LOCAL CHURCH!] NOTE: This is why you can see Paul in prison, writing letters to the churches and being totally fulfilled while doing this. His purpose was not to be in such a ‘state’ of outward self sufficiency and having all the money to accomplish some goal, he was actually doing the purpose of God by building the church, even though his outward man [and all of its expressions] were ‘passing away’. NOTE: the materialistic mindset in the church, along with the confusion on what [who] the church is, causes us to be unable to grasp how Paul could be ‘fulfilled’ even though he was not ‘building’ a ‘ministry or organization’. Paul was the one who said ‘we look not at the things which are seen, but unseen’ also ‘Abraham believed that the things that God said would come true’. We use these verses to bring us to a point of ‘making things seen’ or building outward stuff. In these verses God was defining faith as actually living in such a way that you knew after your departure that your ‘seed/lineage’ of spiritual children would ‘inherit’ the land. In essence ‘faith’ in these stories is the ability to die without actually seeing or possessing the physical promise in this life. The patriarchs are defined this way in Hebrews 11. They died as they blessed their offspring, believing that God would make a great ‘family/dynasty’ from their offspring. So Paul in prison is ‘unstoppable’ because he knew the Word of the Lord would have free course. He knew ‘by faith’ that these outward things were not really where the Kingdom was at. He knew by faith that after his death the ‘everlasting gospel’ would prevail and that by Gods grace his ‘spiritual seed’ would go on forever. That’s why I am writing about him now, and you are listening!

(25) As I was just outside praying I felt the Lord leading me to share this. I was at the point of intercession where I pray for all of the people that we have ever worked with or sown seed into by either word or deed. I refer to these as the ‘Ecclesia and her children’. This covers those of you who are reading this right now! What I wanted most of all to get across is that when I pray like this I am not praying only for the success of ‘our ministry’ [I really don’t like using this term at all] but the overall success of all of the Kingdom works that Father has predestined for all of you. This actually positions me to regularly pray for the benefit of everyone who hears us or receives from us in any way. This includes the leaders/pastors who might hear us and even dislike our strong stance on what the Church is. I am praying for their overall success and Gods purpose to prevail in their lives. I am not doing this out of some feeling of ‘I am more noble than them’. But out of the reality of realizing that all who listen or receive from us are the ‘field’ that God has called us to. Seeing things this way, as opposed to your prayer time being about the success of ‘your ministry’ places you spiritually in a great posture. You actually desire the benefit of people who might not fully understand you, or even those who actively work against you. These themes are actually contained in Jesus instruction on prayer. I would encourage you to begin seeing ‘your ministry’ less and less, and focusing on the overall benefit of the people you relate to over your life. You are not here to build some type of Christian business. You are here to build the Body of Christ! Let me also add here that because of the way we see ‘church/ministry’ and the way we confuse it with the 501c3 model, that this hinders prophetic people. I have heard it said ‘you need a local church covering’ in order to be in biblical order. What most people ‘see’ when they say ‘local church covering’ is a modern Christian business. I am not totally opposed to ‘modern Christian businesses’ [I attend a fantastic local church] as long as we are not using them to ‘de-legitimize’ other functioning members of Christ’s Body. I wrote a prophet in San Antonio who I heard years earlier. He advertised his ‘church’ in the S.A. paper. He did split off from another ‘apostolic’ brother thru a disagreement. He started his own ‘church’ in order to feel and be accepted as legitimate. This comes with the whole package of ‘receiving tithes’ and everything else we see as ‘so-called’ legitimate church. I simply felt the ‘prophetic word’ for this prophet was that he was limiting himself by trying to moderate meetings and become a ‘weekly lecturer’ to Christians while this was hindering his true prophetic ability that simply functions freely in society. I don’t see any prophets in the book of Acts setting up lecture hall environments in order to receive tithes and 'feel legitimate’. Well he never wrote me back, but not to long after I noticed he stopped advertising in the paper. I feel we need to re-think the whole issue of what makes up church and ministry and re-focus on our responsibility to build up each other in love. ‘Change the way you think and act, because Gods kingdom is here now. Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this, you are the equipment. No special appeals for funds, keep it simple’. [Message bible]

(44) I was just thinking about the times over the years where I have spoken to ministry leaders and others who found it difficult to grasp our teaching on the ‘Local Church’ and what she is. Sometimes these brothers unknowingly confirm what I believe. For instance they might criticize their Pastor for blatant ‘holes’ in his teaching that ALL LEADERS have. The fact that we have a tendency to exalt and prop up people where one individual is the main voice of the Local Congregation allows for the Body of Christ to see these faults to an exaggerated degree. It is my belief that the modern phenomenon of Christian leadership is to some degree a ‘disability’ that causes believers in general to be ‘deformed’ [I don’t want to sound too critical here, those of you who have read our stuff know what I mean]. This leads to the effect of many ‘congregants’ seeing the shortcomings of leaders simply because it was Gods original intent to speak thru the whole group corporately. When this natural flow is restricted by the limited forms of ‘Church’ that we embrace, the end result is for the ‘members’ to see these mistakes. What I wanted to emphasize is in the past while having discussions with individuals who do not see Church the way I see it, I found it interesting that they are the very same ones who ‘see’ all the faults of ‘their Pastor’!

(58) Being I have been speaking a little about Catholic/Protestant stuff lately, let me talk on ‘authority and covering’ issues. Recently when certain evangelical leaders fell into sin, others speculated on why this happened. Some Protestants taught that certain Prophets who ‘fell’ were not ‘under covering’ or under the authority of ‘a local church’. I have spoken at length in our books and thru radio on what the Church is and what it means to ‘be part of the local church’. All I felt like saying here is our Catholic brothers historically view ‘all’ Protestants as being ‘without covering’ or not under proper biblical authority. I do find it interesting that some who feel they are ‘apostolic’ in the protestant church start highly independent and entrepreneurial type ministries and then preach that if people are not ‘under one of these apostolic coverings’ then they are in rebellion. Many of these ‘apostles’ have absolutely no ‘covering or connection’ to the historic church and yet preach a form of authority that seems to begin and end with them! To put it simple, we as Christians are all related and responsible to each other. As New Covenant priests we are directly under the authority of our high priest Jesus. I thank God for all the gifted Apostles and Prophets in the church today, I just think we need to remind ourselves of the basics once again.

(106)Let me talk to the Pastors and leaders who read this blog. There are many changes and things the Lord is doing across the Body of Christ in a dynamic way. Theologians refer to some of these movements as the ‘emerging church’. There are many other names and descriptions as well. I would just like to state the plain fact that God is challenging our mindsets in many areas of Church life. I find many Pastors and leaders who are afraid to even think about the possibility that the present role of ‘Pastor’ is really an unbiblical expression of New Testament leadership. Not saying these guys are bad or evil, just the fact that God has challenged the concept of the Pastor as the Sunday lecturer who is ‘over’ the Local Church. These ideas are changing by Gods design. Many leaders who heard me [and others] say this stuff years ago, thought we were nuts. Now it seems to be an ‘open secret’ that people cant avoid dealing with. I just want to encourage you guys to be bold and courageous, if God changes the way you function and brings you more into alignment with the biblical model of leadership, then this is a good thing! Come out of your shells of fear and timidity men! We have all been wrong and needed correction over the years, don’t see your current role as something that needs to be defended at all costs, God is changing things and I encourage you to go with the flow!

(150) ‘I BROUGHT YOU THRU THE RED SEA, AND CAUSED THE ARMIES OF PHARAOH TO DROWN THERE’ just read this in Psalms the other day. It’s a funny thing, the stuff that we go thru as believers advances us to the next level [hopefully!] This same stuff destroys the unbeliever! The last few weeks I have had a good open door with putting our blog in area papers. The lord has used this as an opportunity to reach out in an exponential way. During this same time I have had a lot of resistance! I had an old drug addict friend, who spent many years in jail tell me ‘Brother John, every time I try to serve the Lord the devil comes after me. It’s easier to just ‘not serve God’. This was the father of some of the brothers I was working with. I met the dad by going to the local Kingsville jails to preach and later became good friends with his sons [many!] that were in my age range. By the way I consider one of his sons to be one of our key people in Kingsville. A few of the brothers from this original group are still witnessing and going strong [or at least ‘going!’]. Well the father is now dead. He died right around the age of 50 or so. Good friend, but too many years down the wrong road. It eventually took a toll. Well the lesson is ‘if you are experiencing severe trials and tests, know for a fact that you are making headway into enemy territory’ sure it makes the devil mad, but scripture says ‘THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL CRUSH satan UNDER YOUR FEET SHORTLY’ NOTE; this computer will ‘fix’ the word ‘satan’ with a capitol letter during spell check, but it wont do the same for ‘God’. That old devil try’s to get into everything, doesn’t he! NOTE: In the above scenario we have people that see themselves as a ‘part of us’. Though there is no organization to join, no ‘membership’. No ‘partnering with us financially’ type thing. But like the song says ‘friends are friends forever, if the Lords the Lord of them’. The ‘attachment’ to each other is more along the lines of ‘a band of brothers’. Its not some ‘you are under my ministry, how dare you visit or attend another church’ or commit the worst offense imaginable, GIVE YOUR SACRED TITHE TO ANOTHER CHURCH! All silly stuff that goes on today under the guise of ‘local church’. P.S. This stuff that I just said doesn’t only get the devil mad, but some well meaning preachers too!

(152)Just outside praying and was finishing a part of intercession where I pray for the nations. I lift up our brothers and sisters in ‘regions of conflict’ [Africa/Middle east/Iraq/etc.] I pray for those on the verge of martyrdom, that God would supernaturally deliver them. Those who were recently martyred, that the Lord would be with their families/wives/children that are left behind. You know I didn’t realize I was going to share this when I just sat down! Maybe the Lord wants to expand your ‘prayer base’? What I wanted to get to was I finished with the Lords prayer [Our Father]. When I got to the point of ‘Thy Kingdom come’ I sensed how God’s ‘Kingdom comes’. I have heard over the years how God set up the local church and how his ‘plan’ to fund it is the tithe. And how the ‘tithe’ is Gods tax for Gods people. I do find it ironic that NO New Testament church tithed [except the Jewish believers at Jerusalem, and it wasn’t like you think either. The Jews had quite an elaborate system of tithing; it wasn’t putting 10% in the offering plate on Sunday!] The ‘rules’ Jesus set up for the church were quite simple. You love each other, help those in need. If you have a brother/elder ministering to you Gods word you take care of his needs [no tithe here when Paul teaches this by the way!]. You are a ‘community/brotherhood’ of people who love God and each other and show it by taking care of each other. This is the simplicity of ‘Gods Kingdom’ being expressed thru his people in planet earth. The ‘tax’ that we ‘owe’ is to love one another. Paul actually uses this language in speaking about being a ‘debtor’ to no man, but Gods love constraining us to act. Well I thought this might help you guys today.

(213)One of my good friends who was part of the original group of brothers called me up at work last night. He asked if I could help him with some money [around $60.00] I told him no problem. I will be getting with him in a few hours when I get off of work. It’s around 4 am, this is one of those days where I woke up at 12:30 am and couldn’t sleep! I was thinking about the reality of this friend [and others] who see themselves ‘connected’ to us in ministry. Even though we don’t have ‘connections’ in the way you would be a ‘member of a church’. If you think about it, I have probably given away thousands of dollars over the years to friends. Feeding guys, doing charity and just helping with bills. I do not see this as ‘paying staff’ but these brothers are faithful communicators of the vision the Lord has given us. No matter how many churches or Pastors they have encountered in the journey, they see themselves as loyal to ‘us’. I find this interesting as to the fact that we really don’t care if people are loyal to us! Our attitude has been ‘if you got blessed thru us in the past, then go bless others’ this mindset that exists in today’s form of ‘local church’ is a type of dysfunctional insecurity. Many good Pastors try to develop criteria to ensure the loyalty of people. We read the book of Acts and try to come up with ‘rules for the church’ that would cause people to be ‘faithful to the vision of this house’. Many times the leaders are well meaning, but this type of trying to teach ‘commitment’ is really not a function in the New Testament churches. They were ‘loyal’ to the gospel and to Jesus. They were to ‘obey’ those over them in the Lord as it pertained to these basic truths. You don’t find Paul setting up ‘systems’ of loyalty that you see today. When you truly reach people for Christ and give your self away, they will be loyal like a son to a father. There will be no need to ‘check up’ on whether they have been faithful to the church and stuff like that.

(223)Let me use the above example to show you a few things. As I was talking to this ministry leader we did have a fairly good fellowship. During this day of fellowship I shared many of the thoughts on the church as community versus ‘a church building’. He seemed a ‘little’ familiar with this. He said ‘O I know people who believe that way’. Which showed me the Lord has tried to show him this before! He had difficulty grasping many of the concepts, though they were true! It was later on where he got offended and actually yelled at me. He basically said to me ‘your wrong!’ I nicely told him, well I understand you think I am wrong, but I believe I am right. [I know it’s hard to believe I was calm during this exchange, but I was]. It shows how his later frustration of not being able to raise money for ‘the ministry center’ and things of this nature were an outgrowth of seeing ministry as ‘this thing I need to raise money for so I can run it’. If this person learned the lesson of not seeing it in this limited way, he would not have been so frustrated. It’s like the answer wasn’t ‘a transference of wealth’ in as much as a ‘change of thought’. He needed to see the new ‘wineskin/paradigm’ that God is trying to bring forth. These truths are being seen and practiced on a worldwide basis as I write this! Wolfgang Simpson says ‘God is not trying to start lecture halls across the world’ This seems to be the current understanding of ‘planting churches’. We seem to think ‘setting up buildings where people come and listen to bible words being spoken’ is the local church! We really need to be delivered from this mindset!

(281)Lets jump out of character a little. During a discussion I had with a ministry leader in our City, I shared the function of the church at Corinth and showed him how during their gatherings they all shared and functioned. I showed him this to explain that I felt the Lord is changing the practice of church from an environment of people who come and listen to a Pastor preach, to an environment of all Gods people sharing together. This doesn’t mean there will never be an instructional time where a Pastor or Apostle or another gifted person can share or preach a sermon, but it shows that the original intent of God for the church was one of interactive involvement of all it’s members. My ministry friend disagreed and said that Paul was just dealing with the ‘home group’ here, and the ‘regular church’ was another thing/place. The mistake my friend made was ‘seeing’ scripture thru the paradigm of church as we practice it today. He sincerely took scripture that addressed the ‘church at Corinth’ [all the believers at Corinth] and read his own mindset into it. The scriptures in Corinthians that deal with how the believers were meeting IS THE CHURCH AT CORINTH. There was not ‘the home groups’ and ‘the main sanctuary meetings’ now if your church has this distinction, fine! The point I was making to my friend was Paul was addressing THE CHURCH when he gave them instructions on how to meet practically. When believers meet anywhere and share the love of Christ and mutually build each other up, that is church in its most simple form. To read Corinthians and ‘see’ another sanctuary service ‘down the road’ is a good example of how we read scripture thru the ‘lens’ of our own understanding. Let me also say it’s a common mistake among modern cell church movements to read the meetings of the Church at Jerusalem at the Temple [actually they ‘held’ services in Solomon’s Porch, which was an outside courtyard!] and to read into this that the early Christians had ‘sanctuary’ services and ‘home meetings’. This isn’t so. The only Christians that had ‘temple’ services were those at Jerusalem. All the gentile churches [Ephesians, Corinth, etc.] met in homes. This is a fact that doesn’t change. Does this mean all gentiles must only meet in homes? No. I am just showing you there was no pattern of ‘temple’ and ‘home’ groups. Also some advocates of radical reform see Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in the book of acts as a warning against the modern clergy system. Paul told the Ephesus church that AFTER MY DEPARTURE, WOLVES WILL RISE UP FROM AMONG YOU [from the believers] and will draw away disciples after themselves. Some see the rise of the ‘singular Pastor’ as a fulfillment of this scripture [I don’t necessarily hold to this view, but I do see some credence to this speaking of the strong personality worship that exists in the church today] Others also use 3rd John and the example of Diotrophes as one who ‘loved to have the preeminence’ and would not receive the brothers. Some see in these examples a strong warning from the early Apostles to avoid strong singular authorities who are looked to as the authority of a local church. I do believe there is some truth to these insights. My goal today is to simply challenge your present understanding of ‘going to church on Sunday’ to seeing yourself as the actual ‘temple of God’ that moves and interacts in the world around them. God brought his presence out of a Temple made with hands and put it in his people, we must not lose sight of this great reality! NOTE: In the book of revelation it says the ‘City of God’ is ‘as a bride adorned for her husband’. We also know that the New Testament calls us ‘the New Jerusalem, the Zion of God’ basically John is writing prophetic imagery in Revelation. It also says ‘there was no temple in it, God himself and the Lamb are the temple’ [we dwell in God] but it also says the Lamb is the light of the City. The only logical way to fit all these images without contradicting is to see the City/Temple being the Church of the living God. As the ‘body of Christ’ we are a real extension of ‘the Lamb’ so the Lamb can be the City, the Temple or the Light of the Temple. Jesus is the light of the Church, he illuminates us by the Spirit. It’s important to grasp this major change of thought from the earthly Jewish Temple, to the heavenly spiritual one. If you don’t rightly see this you will not interpret scripture properly! [By the way I do believe in a literal heaven!] NOTE: A common mistake amongst Apostolic ministries is thinking that it is a biblical mandate to have ‘a spiritual Father’ [and Mother]. I was reading from an apostles site and it gave some testimonies from Pastors Who said the reason they now have a spiritual Father and Mother [speaking of the Apostle and his wife] was because the bible teaches we have natural ones, therefore we should have spiritual ones. The ‘spiritual’ father is God and the mother is the ‘church’ according to Paul. He says ‘THE NEW JERUSALEM IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL’. Paul does tell the Corinthians that he is their spiritual father. But he is basically saying ‘I birthed you guys into the Kingdom; you are the fruit of my Apostolic ministry. Listen to me for correction, not all these others who are trying to bring you under their authority’. Paul was not advocating for people to go out and find Apostles and make them and their wives their ‘spiritual father and mother’.

(407)Been studying an apostolic movement. I am familiar with this church. They have a few of them in our area. A lot of stuff on line says they are a cult. They really are not one in doctrine. The leader of the movement has a legalistic background from an old time Pentecostal church [four square] and it seems to me that the movement, though Christian, has embraced a lot of the mistakes from the ‘Shepherding/Discipling’ movement. I am not studying what the so called ‘cult researchers’ are saying about them. I am reading from their actual story on line. It really is a great story. One of the limitations of these movements are the limited way they see ‘church’. For the most part these groups see church as sending someone to a city, either renting, buying or building a building [too many of us still cant get past this building centric mindset- none of the disciples or New Testament Apostles EVER did this!] They then set up ‘a Pastor’ to ‘run’ this ‘New Testament Church’. And then the strong authoritarian types will basically teach a strong doctrine of submission to this ‘New Testament order’ and anyone who questions this very limited/unbiblical view of ‘Local Church’ is ‘out of order’ and seen to be ‘departing from the faith’. We need to get back to the biblical model of Jesus and the Apostles. Jesus sent them out ‘2 by 2’ to go and bring this message [the gospel] to the cities and towns where they were sent. Later you see Paul doing this same thing. The ‘planting of churches’ was the actual speaking the gospel to people groups. Those who would believe and get baptized became ‘the church’. These believers were encouraged to get together, have fellowship meals [the original pattern of the ‘Lords Supper’] and to basically be ‘Gods Ecclesia’ in their town. They were seen to be Gods ‘dwelling place’. There was no ‘church’ that they were going to on ‘Sunday’. Paul told the Corinthians that when they got together on the 1st day of the week they were to take up an offering. We take stuff like this and turn it into a commandment. We teach Sunday as some type of New Testament Sabbath [it is not!] and we say ‘go to church on Sunday, obey your Pastor [singular] and put in a tithe’. This is permitted to a degree, but in no way is this some type of mandated New Testament order. That’s why those Pastors who lean towards grace and liberality are seeing growth. They are operating in this system while not teaching that this system ‘is church’ to the same legalistic degree as the other guys. Now when you take this limited way of seeing church, and you put it into the hands of strong authoritarian types. Then you have the ingredients of a ‘cult like’ culture within the group. You find well-meaning Pastors telling Christians ‘how dare you challenge my biblical authority, you are under me’ well this is an abuse of the grace of God. These well meaning guys have taken a pattern of ‘church’ that is common for our day, and have turned it into THE MEASURE of a person’s faith. Any question from the parishioners is seen as rebelling against ‘Gods Man’. Well just remember Paul was not teaching this strong Sunday church, tithing to the church, obey your Pastor mindset. Paul actually teaches [Romans] that the weaker Christians [in faith] will observe certain days and foods and stuff as clean or unclean. He then teaches those who are stronger [more mature] in the faith don’t do this. So for believers to meet on Sunday and to give offerings and to share in Gods grace is a good thing. But to teach that a limited system where you are under ‘a Pastor’ for the rest of your life can become ‘cult like’ in its expression, especially if you have a legalistic background to begin with. [The movement I am studying is known as ‘the door’ or the ‘Potters House’, not to be confused with T.D. Jakes]. NOTE: A few things that I want you to see about the biblical mindset of every believer having the potential to go and evangelize the world. When a believer goes forth with the gospel and brings the good news of Gods forgiveness and acceptance thru Christ. Others want this. To simply see ‘church planting’ as a natural outgrowth of evangelism allows for there to be a rapid increase of the gospel thru out a region. Everybody can ‘pass it on’ to everyone else. You are not viewing ‘church planting’ as going somewhere to start an organization that will need lots of money to function; you are simply preaching the gospel. Those who believe get together, there will be elders [more mature ones] that will have special ability to ground these new believers. But for the most part the only ‘finances’ needed to do this is enough money to get you to the place of ‘sending’. You then teach these new believers to share of their resources with the less fortunate. This is actually the biblical model of church planting. This is why Paul could evangelize large territories in his day. The modern idea sees the need to raise tons of money to support ‘other pros’ who are doing it for a living [missionaries]. They see church planting/evangelism as the ‘job’ of those in ‘full time ministry’. The average believer is told ‘your primary responsibility is to work in the secular world and bring in the finances for the ‘church’ [Christian business] to have enough money to pay the pros’. We have effectively ‘de clawed’ the average believer from the divine mandate to go and preach the gospel to all nations. That’s why when the well intentioned Pastors get mad at me for preaching against tithing, they really can not see how the ‘law of the tithe’ has actually put people back under bondage. The average believer is under the bondage of seeing himself as the ‘resource pool’ that brings the money in for others to do the ‘ministry’. This is actually a form of legalism that puts believers under bondage. Every so often you get a radical believer who breaks the mold of simply being a ‘funder’ and then he goes off and enters ‘full time ministry’. He is then taught all the above and the cycle repeats! The Pastor feels like he is doing right because he now is so fulfilled [it cant be wrong if it feels so right]. But he doesn’t realize the fulfillment he is experiencing is to a large degree the sense of well being that God intended for all the saints to experience as they express themselves and give themselves away for the gospel. In essence the Pastor had the courage to break the mold and step into the journey, but where we have failed is to then take that person and make him into a propagator of the current system. God wants a change in the current system. God wants all his kids to see that we all have this freedom to run the race and be active. It is not limited to the ‘full time clergy’! NOTE: When the well meaning Pastor in the current system looks at the statistics ‘only so many percent of all Christians tithe, therefore we are not reaching the world’ he is seeing ‘reaching the world’ from his limited paradigm. This type of Pastor truly believes it is the lack of tithing that is hindering the gospel. It is not the lack of tithing that is doing this, it is the above system that is limiting the gospel! NOTE; The other day I was trying to open some bag of lunchmeat or something. I remember how hard it was to get the bag open. So of course I thanked the Lord for this obstacle and praised him as I looked for a pair of scissors [I am lying]. I did think to myself ‘what a wonderful product. I am sure it will taste good. I am sure the producers went out of their way to produce the product. Much thought went into the marketing of it. They only forgot a very small thing, they made it next to impossible to actually access the thing!’ This is what we do in modern church. The most valuable asset are the People of God. They can do unbelievable things in the area of reaching the world. We have made it next to impossible to ‘get the product out of the package’.

(493) It’s Sunday morning. I am watching a few local churches on TV. I caught one of the non denominational guys. Good message [I guess?] a little too much of ‘I am your Pastor. You need to be submitted to me and be under my authority’ he meant well, just doesn’t see the overall view. Basically everything I have taught [and others!] about the office of Pastor and it not being a singular authority position over ANY OF THE CHURHCES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT! I switched to the Catholic mass. They were much more humble. They had a deacon sharing on forgiveness; they then cited the Apostles creed. It got me to thinking about the brother who I wrote on a few weeks ago who said ‘leave behind you the creeds and doctrines’. The contrast between these 2 ways of ‘doing church’ are tremendous. While I do not embrace all Catholic teaching, it is obvious to see that the Protestant brothers meetings were saturated with them. You see their gifts, their abilities. The whole service is really about them. They don’t mean for this to be so, its just the result of ‘doing church’ thru the lens of ‘I am the Pastor, my job is to speak to you every Sunday for the rest of your life. Your job is to come and listen and put the tithe in. Anyone who disagrees is in the camp of those who challenged Moses authority. The earth might just open up and swallow you’. Now, I am being a little sarcastic. The point is ‘church’ is supposed to be the healthy gathering and communing of all believers around the reality of Christ. It was never intended to be a ‘place’ where people are spectators in an audience who are watching others perform. It is very obvious to see how the Protestant church has allowed herself to become ‘personality oriented’ as opposed to Christ being the real center of attention.

(619)PARA CHURCH MINISTRIES In all of our writing you can see that because I view ‘local church’ as the organic growing of the Ecclesia, this leaves little distinction from ‘church’ and ‘Para church’. They both are expressions of the ‘local believers’ functioning as God directs. It’s a little more than this, but for now it will suffice. The reason I am bringing this up is because the last few days I had the chance to check out some ministry web sites that I haven t seen in a while. A fellow ministry who used to broadcast on the station we are on has moved to the Chicago area. I had some friend who used to support them financially [still do?]. Good people all around. My friend who supported them was like one of the original funders to get in on it at the beginning. Sometimes I would get the feeling that they were a little uncomfortable with it, the ministry is run by a highly motivated woman who really can stir you up. They are both Navy people and the husband is still an officer in the Navy. I liked them, still do. When they first went on the air I sent them some free stuff. I realize now that we are so radical in some areas that most preachers get offended when they first ‘run into’ us. They have been off the air for a while, went north and I just saw on their site how they got a few Chicago papers to publicize some ministry stuff. They are very into getting their name out, my style avoids this concept. The articles showed how they opened a coffee house in Chicago, giving coffee and doughnuts out. Looking for support, the papers even say ‘the husband works and is paying for it out of pocket, they need help’ the atmosphere seems to be one of the many well meaning believers who kinda launches out and pays for stuff, like I do. But they will then try hard to convince others to support the work. Stuff we forbid ourselves. My local friend who supports them is an unselfish believer. Tithes and gives to ministries. I know he was giving a lot to this person. I also can see how the average believer can tithe, give to others who are reaching out and actually get over their head in sending money out. All the while hearing another ministry, who has been around forever [me!] who also refuse to take money. But instead is always challenging the believer to personally get involved. Direct commands from Jesus to ‘do the stuff’. To the ‘supporter of ministries’ it seems as if you are obeying God by sending money out. ‘After all, we are helping serve coffee to people in Chicago’ all right I guess? But the point is, in all of our involvement Jesus does require us to ‘see a brother in need, give’ ‘how does the love of God dwell in us if we do not help our brother who we SEE’. My point here is all the believers in the above scenario are good people. They know me and I know them. The idea of ‘ministers’ helping others and asking for support is not really wrong, but it can by pass the believers personal responsibility to ACT. We are really challenged to do the hands on stuff ourselves. In the verses I quoted above, our ‘responsibility line’ is IF YOU SEE A BROTHER IN NEED [as opposed to a ministry in need!] Don’t want to be picky, just want to show you that we are the living body of Christ on earth, in the world of virtual ministries [which I like] and TV and RADIO it is easy to SEE others who are reaching out and to start funding them and to leave no room for your own personal responsibility. There are real verses that say ‘let him who is not working get a job [lost half of the church right here!] so he can have to GIVE TO HIM THAT NEEDETH’. Wow, scripture commands us to take the money from our check and meet the needs of people. Surely this cant be as important as tithing? Believe me, if you study everything on this subject, it is more important! I didn’t always see this, but after I did I tried to make this known as much as possible. So today we learned that it’s possible to send money to all sorts of people across the land who are doing good things. It’s possible to be the ministry asking for the money! Just keep in mind the scriptural mandate for all of us to act and function ‘locally’ in the sense of ‘when you see’ a brother in need. God has believers all over the world. He also has lost people all over the world. His plan is for all the believers to act when they see the real needs around them. When the church and ‘Para ministries’ appeal to believers at large to help with some need far away, keep in balance the primary responsibility to act when YOU PERSONALLY see the need.

(620)PARABLE OF A FIRE STARTER This kinda goes with the last entry. Jesus said he came to set fire to the earth, and how he wished it were already burning. We are all fire starters in this Jesus revolution. Some mock the revolution. I know of unbelievers who make fun of it. Hey, if you wanna die and go to hell, that’s your problem [you will not start the fires, but believe me, you will see them a lot!] For the rest of us we have a job to finish. Now in this revolution our primary responsibility is to start fires. Sure, there are some who have started ‘fire ministries’ they will tell you how important it is that you recognize that God has called them to start these fires. They will show you the verses where a great past fire starter [Paul] started them. They will even take you to the verses where he asked for others to send him some money because God called him to start fires in other places. He needed bus fare to go to the next place and start another fire. What you usually don’t hear is that the Apostle wasn’t starting a huge ‘fire starter’ ministry to get others to support. He was simply asking for help to go to the next forest and set that thing on fire! Many current fire starters seem to think the job is to convince many others to join the fire starter ministry, when in reality a true fire starter lights the fire and runs! He knows that inherent in this fire is the self sustaining ability to grow and spread rapidly. He will check in every now and then to see how big the fire got, but for the most part he lets the thing burn on its own. One of the things that can stop it is when the future fire starters believe that they only have the responsibility to start the fires. They can unwittingly restrain the nature of the fire. They don’t mean to do this, it is just an outgrowth of viewing ‘fire starting’ as a profession. The early starters all believed that it was everyone’s job to start them. After all, the original fire starter seemed to say this all the time. The early fire starters remembered the words of the first revolutionary ‘I have come to set fire on the earth, how I wish it were already burning’! NOTE; another thing that has hindered the fire is that many starters think the job is to simply raise the money and believe for the money that the fire starter Paul would speak about. These sincere starters have lost track of the original mission, which was to actually start the fire! [win people to Jesus!]

(640)We had a good outreach day yesterday. Just a brotherhood of believers sharing and living like Jesus and the disciples. Ate some good tacos too! Took my buddies to a Mexican restaurant in Kingsville and had good stuff. Let me challenge you ‘money guys’ [or those of you who are victims of this wrong message!]. Did you know Jesus taught that the power of ‘compounding disciples’ trumps ‘compounding interest’? How many times have we been preached at on ‘the power of money’ ‘you can’t reach the world without money’ ‘if you are not believing God to make you rich, you are sinning’ all wrong stuff that the bible doesn’t teach. You know what the Word teaches? Take your measly little few bucks and give yourself away, the simple work of daily ‘making disciples’ will reverberate and ‘your disciples’ will make more! This is the power of ‘compounding disciples’, it puts the power of ‘compounding interest’ to shame!

(484) In a few weeks we will probably be finishing my overview of the last few chapters of Isaiah. As I was just praying I felt the Lord wanted me to speak a little more on ‘freely you have received, freely give’. There is a verse coming up in our Isaiah study [unless we already passed it?] that says ‘come, let him drink. Buy good stuff, without money and free of charge’ [my paraphrase]. Modern ministry is structured along the contemporary way we function in the corporate world. I need to make a distinction here. There are old time preachers who will criticize the church I attend because they play hard rock Christian music [hey, I listen to hard rock ‘unchristian music’]. I don’t want to be flippant here. I have absolutely no problem with modern ministries progressing and doing whatever it takes to get the gospel out. I am not in the camp of these old time brothers who are fighting for the ‘old time gospel’ but are really just defending a culture/heritage that has nothing to do with the gospel. I have already made plain thru all our teaching that the way we normally practice ‘church’ today is not in the New Testament. Now, as we progress as Christians [Pastors/leaders] we normally fall into the same mindset of the corporate world that causes us to ‘get our name known, be at the top of the charts, and publicize our personas for the sake of the ministry’. I just recently spoke on God exalting us in due time for his glory. Fame that comes from God is OK [Billy Graham]. It’s just the modern idea of going after it is so engrained in the way we do business that it’s hard for us to not violate the principle of Jesus when he taught ‘servanthood leadership’. The question of who would be greatest and rise to the top in Gods Kingdom was dealt with by Jesus in the gospels. He tried to change the thinking of ‘roman hierarchy’ to that of being last. It was hard for the disciples to truly grasp this principle, but he basically showed them that the normal idea of every man for himself as he works his way up the ladder was not the way the Kingdom would operate. So today we see nothing wrong with having highly famous people who Christian’s pattern themselves after to the degree where we have the ‘cult of personality’ operating in the Body of Christ. It is common for the universities of our day to put out Pastors/leaders who are looking to advance a business, and to see the ‘pastoring part’ as simply part of the whole package. I will serve these people [Marry, bury, etc] and they will tithe and together we will see this thing grow. The mindset is engrained into the way we function. We see ‘hired clergy’ as a vocation like we see ‘carpentry’. ‘Hey Pastor, you were hired to build this ‘house’ and if we think you are doing shoddy work we will fire you and get another contractor’ we function along these lines that Jesus expressly taught his disciples not to partake of. I just want to encourage all Christians today to see themselves as needed parts of the overall purpose of God for his church. We all are ministers who have gifts in us that are to be used to build up Gods people. Pastors, don’t see yourselves as punching a time clock. Give your self away for the world. Empower your people to do the same. We are not in this to make a name for ourselves, to impress the community around us, we are in this to fulfill his purpose and destiny. God highly values those who lay down their lives [their own desire to be ‘great’ in the eyes of men] and become the least in the Kingdom of God.

(495) When I picked up my homeless friend the other day, we had a good discussion on the ‘Temple of God’ being the people of God as opposed to a ‘place of meeting’. I always emphasize that it is not wrong for believers to meet in buildings, but that the great transition from the Old Testament mindset to the New Testament was one of transition from an actual Temple to a Spiritual one. That is the people of God would become the actual dwelling place and mode of operation that the Father would work thru to establish his purpose in the earth. The famous Old Testament story of ‘Jacobs ladder’ was an encounter that Jacob had with God. When he awoke he said ‘this is the House of God’ though there was no building for miles! It was a preview of Gods house as seen thru the meditation of Christ. The Ladder had angels ascending and descending. It was a type of Christ who would give new access from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. Wherever you would find this ‘ladder’ being set up in the future, there you would have the ‘house of God’ [all New Testament communities of people]. There was a time in Israel’s history where they came to depend on their temple. They were saying ‘the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’ and they were rebuked for trusting in this earthly piece of furniture and not trusting in the living God. And of course Jesus prophesied of the temples destruction in the Gospels. The whole point I made to my friend was that God’s mode of operation was to express himself thru a living community of people who would not be limited to a ‘place of worship’ but who would carry this presence of God wherever they go. In essence wherever people were experiencing the reconciliation of the Cross, there a ‘ladder’ [the Cross] would be ‘set up’. God would be setting up these access points from heaven to earth all over the planet. No more ‘dwelling in temples made with hands’. Now the fact that believers do have this ‘atmospheric influence’ wherever they go, means that even if they are in the ‘church building’ or home or park or anywhere, then God will manifest himself there. Not because of these buildings, or because of the lack of a building. But his presence is solely based on the fact that people are there who have accessed ‘Jacobs ladder’ they have access with God thru the Cross. I would encourage you today to ‘plant that ladder’ everywhere you go. Allow God to use you as an access point from heaven to earth. Those you come in contact with, set up that ladder of hope for them. Let them see how simple it is to approach God thru the finished work of the Cross. Let them know that after you leave, that truly ‘this was the House of God’.

(539) Isaiah 66 ‘Thus saith the lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest’ Here we begin to see the transition that will take place in 1st century Rome. These descriptions from Isaiah are prophetic of Gods offer to Israel. Isaiah is saying ‘where is the temple that you can build for me to dwell in’? I do not want a man made temple any more. I am done with all animal sacrifices [we read that next!] God will end the prophetic message of Isaiah with his intent to transfer from an earthly natural temple, to a heavenly spiritual one, the Body of Christ! God will show his displeasure with all animal sacrifices, not just certain ones. For Isaiah to claim to be speaking for God, and to say these things seems blasphemous to Israel at this time. You must see that Isaiah is coming against all the ceremony and system that God instituted. To say these things was to put himself in the same category of Paul who the Jews will accuse of trying to destroy the law and Temple worship. But Paul was saying this post Christ, Isaiah was saying it before the Cross. How could Isaiah get away with this while the law was still in effect? The Spirit of prophecy sees and functions in future realities. When God opens up the future to a prophet, he simply speaks what he is seeing. It is Gods prerogative to proclaim his disapproval of the old system in anticipation of the new one that was to come. ‘For all those things hath mine hand made, but to this man will I look, to him that is of a poor and contrite spirit’ God says ‘I will not dwell in the temples of men, but in those who are humble and contrite’. Jesus said unless we humble ourselves and become as little children, we will not enter Gods kingdom. Here we see the ‘stones’ that the new temple will be made of, humble contrite people. ‘He that killeth an ox is like he slew a man, he that sacraficeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dogs neck, he that offers an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood [and you guys think I am harsh!] and he that burneth incense as if he blessed an idol’ In essence Isaiah is saying the same as the book of Hebrews. You must see that in the mind of God, all animal sacrifice, after the Cross[which Isaiah is seeing thru prophecy, he is speaking ‘post Cross prophetically’] is an insult and an abomination. I am going to start a commentary on Hebrews as soon as I finish Isaiah, I want to put the book in proper perspective. When the writer of Hebrews says ‘those who continue to sin after they were enlightened, that God will not allow them to renew their repentance’ it is not speaking of believers, as commonly taught. But it is telling Israel ‘if you reject Messiah, and think you can keep bringing me all these sacrifices of repentance, I won’t accept them anymore. You cant be ‘renewed again unto repentance, you have done despite to the Spirit of Grace and have trampled under foot the sacrifice of God’ The reason the language is so strong here, is because God is saying when you continue to sacrifice animals after the once and for all sacrifice of my Son, then you are doing disgrace to Grace. For Isaiah to being saying this, pre Cross, is amazing! ‘Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out FOR MY NAMES SAKE said, let the Lord be glorified, but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed’ the brethren of Jesus cast him out for what they thought was Gods will. The rejection of Messiah was seen to be an act of Israel’s orthodox belief. They truly thought they were doing the will of God. Jesus even said a time was coming when people would kill believers thinking they were doing Gods service. But in the end God appeared to Jesus joy and they were ashamed. ‘A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple’ Gods ‘city’ and ‘temple’ are the people of God. God has a voice that comes forth out of the temple. Rivers flow from this temple. Jesus said he who believes, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. God speaks thru his church. Some have attempted to ‘de gender’ God. They will say that God is both male and female. This is not so. God is definitively male. Then where is the feminine voice? It comes from what the Spirit is saying thru the bride, the Lambs wife. God has purposed to speak this way. So you have both the male and female sides seen. Paul said that the Jerusalem which is above is the mother of us all. The ‘Jerusalem from above’ is the church, the city of God. Scripture says listen to the voice of your mother and your father. We are to hear what God says [Father] and our mother, the corporate voice of the Spirit that has spoken thru the church, the mother of us all. ‘Before she travailed she brought forth, before her pain came she was delivered of a man child, who hath heard such a thing? For as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth?’ God is saying there is a process to the things he wants to birth from you. Part of the process is travailing, it is the severe pain experienced at the end of pregnancy. We often equate that pain the wrong way. We think ‘well, things are so hard here at the end, I want to quit and go home’ God is saying don’t quit, you are about to give birth. Don’t misread the labor pains; it is a culmination of the long months of waiting. I determined to bring you to this point of extreme pain, it is my process. Don’t abort! ‘Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, be glad all ye that love her’ It is vital for us to enter into joy. Jesus said after the woman gives birth, she forgets all the pain she went thru, because of the joy of bringing forth the child. Begin rejoicing in God, he will do great things. Scripture says ‘when the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, it was like a dream’ God is going to so move on your behalf that you will think it is too good to be true! ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the gentiles like a flowing stream’ Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid’ You have the inner ability to ‘not let your heart be troubled’ the world runs to doctors and drugs, we run to God. ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem’ God comforts us ‘in Jerusalem’. In the book of Galatians the Body of Christ is called ‘the New Jerusalem, the Church, the mother of us all’ in the book of Revelation John says ‘the city that comes down from God out of heaven, the New Jerusalem, is the bride, the Lambs wife’ God says we are comforted in community. John also says [in 1st John] ‘when WE walk in the light, WE have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses US from all sin’ God works in community, as well as with individuals. Some times we as believers go to one extreme or another. Soren Kierkegaard, the great 19th century Philosopher/Theologian wrote as a Prophet against what he saw as the abuses of the institutional church. The Danish state church had a lot of formality and ‘spectator’ Christianity. Kierkegaard emphasized Gods desire to reveal himself to people individually, outside of ‘the church’. He would say things like ‘the congregations are totally useless, there is nothing good to be found there’ and then he would say you can only truly serve God outside of ‘the church’. Well God does see all of us ‘as the church’ and he works thru individuals as well as ‘groups of people’. God wants to ‘attach’ you to people for his purpose and destiny. You need to ‘walk in the light’ with other believers, so God can ‘comfort you in Jerusalem’ the corporate city of God. ‘For I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations… to the Isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither seen my glory, and they shall declare my name among the gentiles’ sound familiar? This sounds just like the day of Pentecost, in Acts. God gathered all types of people groups to Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit, and these nations/people groups went back to their own areas and spread the gospel. God sends those ‘who escape’, out to be evangelists. Many times you will ‘go thru hell’ and barley escape with your life, but the reason God let you escape was for the purpose of sending you out to other places and people. Don’t make bargains with God and not keep them! How many times have people said ‘God, if you get me out of this one I sware to do this or that’ are you out? Then do what you said! [note: in the New testament Jesus and James taught to not even make these types of vows, so I am not advocating doing this, but the point is many of us have, so if you did do it, now fulfill what you promised God you would do!] ‘For as the new heavens and the new earth shall remain before me, so shall your seed and name remain… and all flesh shall come to worship me.. and they shall go forth and look upon the bodies of those who transgressed against me, for their worm dieth not, neither shall the fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh’ I want to end our study of these last 15 or so chapters of Isaiah with a brief overview. God tells us ‘I am going to make all things new’ God has a real future eternal hope for all those who are in Christ. We need to reaffirm the truth that heaven is real! As well as a ‘new earth’ that he will make new some day. God also affirms thru the Prophet that hell is real! Theologians, even good ones, have differing views on hell. I like R.C. Sproul, he is one of my favorite theologians, he believes the references to ‘hell fire’ are symbolic, but he states ‘the real punishment will be worse than real fire’ the reason I wanted to add the above verses on ‘the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched’ is because Jesus himself uses this terminology when describing eternal punishment, the ‘worm dieth not’ indicates that there will be a real physical judgment that lasts forever! God doesn’t want ANYBODY to go there. How many will go? I don’t know, but this I do know, we as believers have the only hope in the world to keep people from going there, his name is Jesus Christ. I exhort all of you to begin doing all you can to reap in a huge harvest of souls for God, we can’t bring our cars and houses and money and stocks and all these other things with us, but we can bring people! Gather up as many of them as you can, so you will have some friends and family when you get to the other side.

(551) Deuteronomy 20-25 You read ‘the elders of the city’ a lot in these chapters. Paul will eventually choose to use this terminology to describe the leadership of the New Testament church. These were plural leaders among a group of believers in a city. Not singular preachers of groups of people in buildings on a set day of the week! You did have the singular model in Paul’s day. Where? In the system of the Pharisees and Synagogues! The concept of a ‘president’ of the synagogue leading the people on Sabbath day in Christian [Jewish] instruction was being carried out in Paul’s day. Paul used to be part of the system! He chose the concept of elders over a city, instead of a singular title over a part of the people that met in a building. I think we need to get back to the better model. Also instruction is given that when the children enter the land they are to share the fruits of the land with the stranger. They are not to totally reap all the fruit from the trees or the fields. The stranger can walk in your fields and eat whatever he wants; he just can’t take it with him. These guidelines are given for the benefit of the alien [stranger]. God says I want you to remember that you too were strangers in Egypt. This cuts to the heart of so much of the present debate over the illegal alien issue of our day. I do understand the anger that some have over this issue, God says ‘remember, you were all aliens at one time or another, don’t get so self righteous. If I tell you to share your goods with those who don’t deserve it, then do it. I am the one who brings forth the produce, so share it with others’. God has blessed us financially and materially, he requires us to share it with others. A few difficult verse’s 23:1 God says if a man is wounded in the ‘private area’ he cannot come into the congregation. God is not telling people if they have had some sexual accident that they cant serve God, he is saying he wants people who can ‘procreate’ in his church! He wants people to be able to ‘reproduce’ [soul winners] for his Kingdom. 23:14-15 God says when you ‘go to the bathroom in the land’ dig a hole and bury it, because he is in the land and your land must be sanctified. If it isn’t then he can’t ‘walk among you’. The spiritual lesson is we can’t accomplish anything without God’s presence. We need him, stay clean so he can work among us. Only by the blood. Also when a man dies without having children, his widow shall marry the brother so he can have seed remain in his name. If the brother says ‘no, I do not want to raise up seed to my brother’ then he is taken before the elders and they take off his shoe, spit in his face, and his name is called ‘the man who has no shoe’. What’s this all about? God is saying be willing to build others up, your gift is not given for you to build your ministry, or the people who relate only to you [church members]. But I have given you gifts to raise up ‘seed to your brethren’ as well. Use your gift to help others, others who can’t repay you [I think I heard this somewhere before? Jesus!] If you don’t, all the people will know your church well, it will be the one in town where every body where’s one shoe!

(558) A few more things from Joshua. He tells Israel to build cities of refuge, so when someone is guilty of the blood of another person he can flee into the city for refuge. This is a type of the church. The bible calls the church the New Jerusalem, John calls her the city of God coming down from God out of heaven, the bride the lamb’s wife. All men are guilty of the blood of Jesus, he died for our sins. We can flee into the Body of Christ and find refuge in the church. Those who fled to the cities of refuge stayed there until the death of the high priest. After his death they could go out from the city and live the rest of their days in their land. The death of our high priest, Jesus, allows us to ‘go out and come in and find pasture’ we have release thru the death of Jesus as well as thru his life! The 2 and a half tribes, Rueben, Gad and Manasseh go back to the other side of the Jordan to posses their land. They build an altar on the coast of Jordan. The tribes in the Promised Land hear about it and confront them ‘why did you build this altar? Are you rebelling against God?’ They reassure their brothers that it is an altar of witness only, they will never sacrifice an animal on it. It is standing there alone, away from the tabernacle and is free from all animal sacrifice. What a picture of the Cross! And last but not least Joshua commands all the people to honor God, he makes them publicly commit to serve the Lord. He then sets up this ‘great stone’ and says ‘this stone is a witness for you, it has heard all the words you have spoken. Don’t go against what you have said’. This is another type of Christ. Jesus is the ‘great stone’ that all judgment has been given to. He has ‘heard all the words we have spoken’ and seen our thoughts and intents. Don’t rebel against him. He also is the ‘capstone/headstone’ that completes the temple of God [the church]. In the prophets [Haggai/Zechariah] they shout ‘grace, grace’ unto it as it is being placed at the temples completion. Jesus will return someday and complete the glorious temple of God, the church, and he does it with absolute grace. He is the great stone!

(597)Just outside praying, nice and cold! A few days after Thanksgiving and its nice. Had a thought. We have a tendency to excel in the paradigm that we are given. We have so many talented young men [Pastors] who we graduate from college and put them ‘into the ministry’. They often excel beyond their ‘fore fathers’ in advancing the ministry. Usually they do it in the current ‘framework’ of building centered church. The idea that ‘to excel’ means better ways to do ‘Sunday church’. More innovation, new technology, a ‘jet set’ ideology that goes further and faster than the ‘old time’ guys. All of this is okay to a degree. I think it would be better if we instill the idea of ‘church’ into the next group of leaders as being various communities of people whom you will implant the gospel into and the people themselves become ‘church’. A highly mobile community of people on the move for God. You can have ‘on line campuses’ [which, by the way, I feel are really on the cutting edge of ‘new paradigm’. We often speak in terms of ‘new paradigm/ new wine’ but are really just speaking of doing church in different ways in the same old auditorium mindset!] free flowing ‘open air’ [parks] groups. Meeting in clubs [bars!] on a weekday. Making ‘church’ available in all new types of ways. We can still have the old cathedrals, our eastern orthodox friends, and yes, even a good Old Catholic church! Hey, I like getting in on a Mass every now and then. You would be surprised how ‘prophetic’ the traditional scripture reading can be! My point is we need to ‘re think’ our approach on ‘how to do church’ in this next century [millennia!] Jesus spoke of ‘new wineskins’, as believers we need to ‘divorce’ ourselves from the marriage relationship that we have with ‘going to church on Sunday’. It’s time to expand the paradigm! NOTE; Let me say this. Recently I have had some good conversation [interaction] with a very popular orthodox writer. Most theologians would know his name. I realize that when they first come to our site, we LOOK STRANGE! Many of these guys are very uncomfortable with ‘dreams, visions,…’ and stuff like that. At the risk of offending all my charismatic friends, I confess that out of all the ‘theological communities’ out there, I like Reformed theology the most. I consider myself ‘non denominational’ for the most part, but have found reformed theology the ‘most likeable’ if you will. NOTE; in the ‘Emergent conversation’ I think the danger is in ‘the conversation’. We have a tendency to ‘talk things to death’. I too am guilty of this. The hardest thing for believers is to transition into ‘the doing’ aspect. There is a ton of good teaching out there right now on the church transitioning into this new paradigm, but I feel there really aren’t enough ‘doers’. Jesus said ‘look on the fields, they are ready to harvest. But there aren’t enough doers’. I don’t want to sound self righteous, I too am guilty! I just thought I would throw this in.

(112)Just got home from doing some food shopping. On the way back I parked by the bay for a little while. Took a break and read the paper while listening to the radio. I heard a preacher defend the idea of ‘the Pastor’ as the person who ‘runs’ the church. I got upset! He went on to speak about the multimillion dollar ‘church’ that their building in San Antonio, he spoke on the biblical principal of leadership, someone having to make a decision. For example: God makes decisions in the Godhead [Trinity] and things of this nature. Then he spoke on the practical reality of one man needing to ‘make the call’ for the ‘church’ on vital financial decisions and the like. I understood his defense, but it is dead wrong! He basically was making the fundamental mistake of viewing ‘the multimillion dollar building and operation’ as ‘the church’. The Church in the New Testament are all the communities of believers in the various cities and regions where they dwell. The simple fact is there was NEVER a ‘Pastor’ who made the decisions for the whole community. This brother from San Antonio simply was defending the need for one person to make the call in a business environment, but he mistakenly called this ‘the church’. The fact is there was never a single New Testament Church [community of people] who were dependant on ‘a person’ to call the shots! Just cause someone’s on the radio doesn’t always mean that they know what there talking about! [Note; for those of you who think I should have approached him personally before correcting him, I already sent this brother all our books a few years ago, he should have known better by now!] The ‘one man’ who would run the Church in the above scenarios given is JESUS CHRIST! [Next day] Well I cooled down a little bit from yesterday [just a little!]. Let me give you some ‘regional’ history. Back in the late 80’s there were ‘apostles/prophets’ who taught strong ‘apostolic authority’ in the San Antonio area. Many of these brothers are still going strong for God, some I am not sure about. These brothers had a strong influence on the above ‘mega church’. The Pastor of the mega church tried to incorporate ‘plural leadership’ in his ‘church’. They had some difficulties. They were missing the whole point of plural leadership [elders] as being ‘guides and facilitators’ of the community as opposed to leaders who ‘run the church’. The basic mistake was they were ‘seeing’ church as the ‘Christian business’ who meets on Sunday. In this limited perspective it is virtually impossible to incorporate ‘plural leadership’. It’s like ‘who preaches this Sunday’? Or ‘who decides on the color of paint for the church’? Silly stuff like that. I refer to these brothers as being ‘building centric’ as opposed to ‘Christ centric’. Well the Pastor of this San Antonio mega church finally abandoned the whole ‘plural leadership’ mindset in order to simply ‘fulfill my vision’. Which was to have a huge building with lots of people coming to hear him speak. Also during the formative period of all these guys struggling with these issues, a ‘former pastor’ who is now one of the key leaders in the ‘house church movement’ visited San Antonio and spoke on the church as the people, as opposed to ‘the building’. He dealt with plural leadership and the role Apostles play in today’s church. Well eventually the mega church pastor opted out of the idea to do ‘plural leadership’. He needed [or did] embrace a model of ‘one man’ who is highly motivated to get this big building, and no one is going to stop me! The problem with ‘doing church’ this way is that people become assets to another goal. People are ‘expendable’ in these scenarios. The ‘thing’ of importance becomes ‘the building’ as opposed to the harder more long-term goal of ‘the people’. I believe that during the transition stage of this church, the Pastor opted for the easier road of ‘going for the big building’ as opposed to the more difficult road of helping to facilitate a move in the church where ‘plural leaders’ lead people down a road of independence versus being ‘church attendees’. Leaders often choose ‘their vision’ over the overall benefit of the people. God wants leaders to make decisions based on the future of his purpose. Not on ‘what do we want in our lifetime’. Many times Gods higher purpose entails not seeing what you want, for the sake of what he wants! [A few weeks later] I just had a dream [Its 1:22 am as I write this!] about the above San Antonio church. This isn’t the first time I dreamt about this church either. In the dream I was visiting the church, they were very gracious to me. I introduced myself as a visitor who directs ‘Corpus Christi Outreach Ministries’ [I hate relating to ministry people this way, but sometimes I find you have to do this or leaders simply wont give you the time of day!] Well the Pastor, who is a good man, kind of said ‘O this is the Pastor of C.C.O.M.’ and I kind of had to uncomfortably explain ‘well not really the Pastor’. By the way this happens so much in Christian circles, we have a tendency to evaluate people along these lines. ‘What do you do, I am a fire fighter, I do this’ we judge people based on what society believes to be important. Well the dream was all right, the Pastor was nice and well intentioned. I actually plan on visiting this church in the near future. I just felt the San Antonio connection to be important recently. I feel we are going to make some good contacts in this city. Our radio broadcast covers that entire region [as well as Houston and some other major radio markets]. Those of you up there give me an e-mail and lets get in touch.

(118)I read a verse the other day that struck me ‘wisdom is better than weapons of war’ [Ecclesiastes]. Proverbs says ‘wisdom builds the house, and knowledge fills it with treasure’. I felt like the Lord was showing us the importance to ‘work smarter not harder’. Look at the apostle Paul. We [Pastors and leaders] have a tendency to read scripture and miss vital truths. Paul ‘started churches’ by going to a region, preaching Christ for a set time [sometimes only 2 or 3 times on a Sabbath day to certain Jewish brothers!] and then trusting the Spirit of God in them to carry on the work. This is working smarter not harder! These New Testament churches were self-sustaining from the get go. Paul wasn’t setting up churches that would be dependant on him [or anyone else!] to be the main Pastor that would run the show. These communities had leaders for sure, but they didn’t have clergy like we do today. God wants all of us to work smarter not harder. Wisdom is better than weapons of war. If you build Jesus into people and develop a ‘self sustaining’ mentality among them, then you have released a people that will do more damage than many ‘weapons of war’!

(137)‘EVERY HOUSE IS BUILT BY SOME MAN, BUT HE THAT BUILT ALL THINGS IS GOD’ in a lot of our teaching we are trying to change the mindset from ‘building the building/ministry’ to ‘building the people’. There is an inherent nature in man to want to build something. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of building ‘buildings/ministries’ as opposed to building the Church [community of people]. As we see the purpose of God to have a habitation of ‘people’ as opposed to a ‘temple’ we transition our focus from ‘things’ to people. The excitement that the Apostle Paul was experiencing as you read the New Testament was his understanding that he was building these communities of people that would ‘last forever’. In essence he was grasping the eternal purpose of God to live in a ‘city’ whose builder and maker is God! These communities [buildings] survive till this day. You and I are this building. When we fully grasp that we are the Church that the gates of hell cannot prevail against, it is exciting to realize that God himself is dwelling in us as his habitation. In all of our efforts of ministry we need to be mindful that we actually are the ‘City of God’. We are the ‘New Jerusalem that is coming down from God out of heaven’ we are ‘born from above’. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken [the buildings of man] so the things that cannot be shaken [the building of God] may remain!

(145)‘I called on the Lord when I was in distress and the Lord answered me and set me in a large place/ in my fathers house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you’. King David said ‘when I was in distress the Lord enlarged me’. God increases your ‘area’ of influence when you go thru difficult situations. Scripture calls this ‘birth pains’. ‘As soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children’ ‘a woman when in labor wants it to stop, but after the birth of the child she forgets all the pain’. God gives us ‘manifold’ areas of influence with diverse groups of people. These groups of people are the ‘places’ where God dwells. He will expand your horizon to see further than you have up until this time. Psalms says ‘I will have no rest until I find/build for you a habitation’. You see the heart of Jesus Messianic purpose and destiny contained in this cry of David. Jesus [and those of us representing him here as his body] are on a mission to find ‘a resting place for God’. David came to realize that this wasn’t some earthly temple at all. Jesus was on this mission in planet earth to redeem a bride that would actually become this ‘temple/dwelling place’ of God. He accomplished this thru extreme suffering and difficulty. Hebrews says ‘he endured the cross/ DESPISING the shame and has been seated at the right hand of God’ there was an aspect of the ministry of Jesus that he despised. The identifying with sin and shame was an ‘unpleasant’ reality that came along with the package of finding a habitation for God. I want to encourage you today, if you are feeling like your being ‘despised’ or ‘shamed’. If people gossip about you, or you feel you are being mistreated. Know for sure that God is ‘expanding your borders’ these ‘borders’ are areas of influence with different people groups [many mansions] and God takes pleasure in ‘dwelling in them’. You are literally being used to ‘find an habitation for God’. ‘ENLARGE THE PLACE OF THY TENT AND LET THEM STRETCH FORTH THE CURTAINS OF THY HABITATIONS. SPARE NOT, LENGTHEN THY CORDS AND STRENGTHEN THY STAKES, FOR THOU SHALT BREAK FORTH ON THE RIGHT HAND AND ON THE LEFT AND THY SEED SHALL INHERIT THE GENTILES AND MAKE THE DESOLATE CITIES TO BE INHABITED’ ‘THRU YOUR SEED [THE PEOPLE YOU INFLUENCE AND BRING INTO THE KINGODM] SHALL ALL THE FAMILIES [GROUPS OF PEOPLE] OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED’

(147)‘Jesus style’ what we are trying to accomplish is to facilitate the natural growth intended for the Church [people of God] as a living organism. There are prophets and leaders who approach ministry and the discharging of their gift as taking place in a ‘meeting’ hall environment. They schedule and have a regular pool of ‘church houses’ to preach in on a yearly basis and they view this as their profession. If you have enough ‘places to preach’ you are now ‘building your ministry’. We are trying to get away from this model of ministry. Those of you who are gifted prophetically can still function and be used, but we are trying to promote the ‘Jesus style of doing it’ go out into the by-ways and function in the ‘world’. Remember the world is the field, not the ‘church building’!

(148)‘YOU HAVE CAST MY CROWN TO THE GROUND. YOU HAVE WEAKENED MY STRENGTH. THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH YOU HAVE SHORTENED, AND COVERED ME WITH SHAME’ this is what I like to call ‘the Jesus road to ministry’. The whole process of being exalted and humbled/shamed is from God. These are the exact elements that caused Jesus ministry to be so effective. Recognize that these processes are from God and it will exponentially advance your growth!

(149)‘That which lasts’ These last few days I have been thinking about the ‘thing’ that endures. Gods ‘word’ his ‘seed’ [children] those that you ‘birth’ thru the Gospel. The ‘things’ that last are the people you birth into the Kingdom by the Gospel. Today’s ministry mindset seeks to cause the ‘ministry’ or ‘building’ or simply all the activities that surround what we are doing to ‘last’. God wants to re-focus our mindset. He wants us to be more ‘family’ oriented. Though all the other things serve a purpose in their proper place, Gods chief concern is to cause your spiritual offspring to ‘last’. ‘THY SEED AND THY NAME SHALL REMAIN’ ‘HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOREVER’ ‘I WILL RAISE UP ONE FROM YOUR LOINS AND HE SHALL SIT UPON THE THRONE FOREVER [Speaking to King David concerning Christ]. God sees people and ‘dynasty’s’. We see ‘things and ministries’. May God help us to re-focus! NOTE: What got me thinking about this was I recently passed up a ‘church’ [small building in some side street in Kingsville]. Had a friend that was the ‘Pastor’. Noticed that they ‘found’ some friends to ‘take over’. Now the friends are the ‘Pastors’. This type of handing over the ‘church’ or finding someone to ‘Pastor it’ is common among small congregations. I remember having friends in the old days who either rented or bought or built a small building and then when ‘things got rough’ were frantically trying to get someone else to ‘continue the legacy’. The problem is in a lot of these scenarios the ‘Pastor’ puts tremendous pressure on the people to ‘obey your new Pastor’. The New Testament Churches [In the NEW TESTAMENT!] had absolutely nothing going on along these lines. We must re examine our motivations for doing stuff like this. Lots of times its self-ego that’s behind it. Not every case, but many!

(150)‘I BROUGHT YOU THRU THE RED SEA, AND CAUSED THE ARMIES OF PHARAOH TO DROWN THERE’ just read this in Psalms the other day. It’s a funny thing, the stuff that we go thru as believers advances us to the next level [hopefully!] This same stuff destroys the unbeliever! The last few weeks I have had a good open door with putting our blog in area papers. The lord has used this as an opportunity to reach out in an exponential way. During this same time I have had a lot of resistance! I had an old drug addict friend, who spent many years in jail tell me ‘Brother John, every time I try to serve the Lord the devil comes after me. It’s easier to just ‘not serve God’. This was the father of some of the brothers I was working with. I met the dad by going to the local Kingsville jails to preach and later became good friends with his sons [many!] that were in my age range. By the way I consider one of his sons to be one of our key people in Kingsville. A few of the brothers from this original group are still witnessing and going strong [or at least ‘going!’]. Well the father is now dead. He died right around the age of 50 or so. Good friend, but too many years down the wrong road. It eventually took a toll. Well the lesson is ‘if you are experiencing severe trials and tests, know for a fact that you are making headway into enemy territory’ sure it makes the devil mad, but scripture says ‘THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL CRUSH satan UNDER YOUR FEET SHORTLY’ NOTE; this computer will ‘fix’ the word ‘satan’ with a capitol letter during spell check, but it wont do the same for ‘God’. That old devil try’s to get into everything, doesn’t he! NOTE: In the above scenario we have people that see themselves as a ‘part of us’. Though there is no organization to join, no ‘membership’. No ‘partnering with us financially’ type thing. But like the song says ‘friends are friends forever, if the Lords the Lord of them’. The ‘attachment’ to each other is more along the lines of ‘a band of brothers’. Its not some ‘you are under my ministry, how dare you visit or attend another church’ or commit the worst offense imaginable, GIVE YOUR SACRED TITHE TO ANOTHER CHURCH! All silly stuff that goes on today under the guise of ‘local church’. P.S. This stuff that I just said doesn’t only get the devil mad, but some well meaning preachers too!

(154)‘RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’ A few years back this was a popular rock group. I do like the title, though I don’t think I ever heard their music. A lot of what I have recently written on is ‘raging against the machine’. What I mean by this is in Christian circles we develop ways and modes of functioning that ‘become’ church! Over the years Christians have incorporated ideas into ‘how to do church/ how to be Christian’ and often times the routines or systems that we set in place are necessary practices at the time in order to carry out some Christian function. [501c3/church building/tithing to support clergy/etc.] The problem is when we begin to ‘see’ these functions as the only legitimate expression of church. At that point all the ‘practices/functions’ become ‘the machine’ [the whole system of thought and practice]. Well this is when the revolutionary Spirit of Christ dwelling in the Church rises up [thru prophets and the prophetic Spirit] and ‘rages against the machine’. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERETH VIOLENCE AND THE VIOLENT TAKE IT BY FORCE There’s just no getting around this. To be a true pioneer/revolutionary you can’t shrink back in the day of battle. Recently there has been a lot of talk/gossip about us [or should I say me!] Its funny but you learn to purposely ignore and not defend yourself. I actually had some people that were involved in it over a long period of time who ran into other people who were saying how much the Lord has done for them thru our radio ministry. The person testified of how I am reaching out and doing good things for God. The other friend kind of had to tell me how he heard a good testimony about us. But in this scenario I didn’t defend myself [it takes too much time to worry about the critics!] but someone else who I haven’t seen in 15 years defended me [this was an old Navy friend who knew me in the ‘bad days’ and then knew me when I became a Christian]. Well when you ‘rage against the machine’ the machine strikes back, but be assured that by Gods grace you will win. Remember the song from the reformer Martin Luther [not King] ‘THOUGH THIS WORLD WITH DEVILS FILLED SHOULD THREATEN TO UNDO US, WE WILL NOT FEAR FOR GOD HATH WILLED HIS TRUTH TO TRIUMPH THRU US’

(156)A little more about ‘the machine’. I realize that by us having NO INCOME, NO BUILDINGS, NO STAFF, NO SALARIES, NO 501C3 that this is highly offensive to the ‘machine’. The amount of time and money that go into the ‘operation of the machine’ is enormous. The amount of thought and strategizing on how to raise funds for the machine are time consuming. To simply start a revolution of Christian volunteers who give themselves away for the cause for free is a tremendous threat to the machine. I do not see my brothers who function with all the trappings as evil or deceived. I recognize in some cases the ‘things’ of ministry are simply tools that God uses to effect change. I use radio and books and stuff too. The point I want to make is if you change your mindset from building things to building people your efforts will go a lot further and last much longer!

(167)Just got back [last night] from spending a few days at my daughters ranch. I took my youngest girl and we helped my daughter [Becky] do some stuff. These last few weeks I have made it a point to pick up area news papers and call to see if they will run our blog. When I call I let them know we are not for profit [I mean really not for profit!] and I do explain that we have no building but simply meet as a brotherhood of people. This can be hard to articulate but most people accept us as a ministry. I say most! I called some paper in the Orange Grove area, the lady sounded a little ‘country’ and was a little rude. As I began to explain our desire to put our blog site in their paper I asked if she knew what a blog was [some people who are not familiar with the word don’t know what I am saying when I ask this and I will spell out the word B L O G] well she simply said ‘I am not stupid sir, I know how to spell. If I were stupid do you think I would be running a newspaper’. To be honest at this point it surprised me that she was running one! Its hard enough to explain the concept of ‘church’ as a community versus a building to most believers, I knew I had my work cut out for me with this person. At one point she asked if we had a ‘church’ building or not. I plainly told her we didn’t. I wasn’t hiding this fact, but she simply was unable to grasp this concept. She finally let it be known that if ‘you’re a church with a building who meets on Sunday’ you can run an ad for free, even if the Pastors salary is a million dollars, you run it free because ‘you’re a church’. But if your a community of people who are in society doing the works of Jesus for free you cant run an ad for free because you don’t have a ‘church building’. This lady finally hung up on me. She kept stating she was not stupid and I took her at her word and tried to explain the Greek word ‘Ecclesia’ as ‘the Church’ and tried to give her a crash course in ecclesiology! I knew she didn’t understand a word I was saying, but frankly I was a little tired of hearing her. Well I never placed the ad, I could have paid for one, but this is a little ‘red neck’ newspaper and I really think I would have been doing them a favor to put our ad in their paper.

(168)Now back to my time at the ranch. I got up early in the morning to pray outside. I walked around for a few hours before sun up. This is the first time I was able to pray in this region. I really sensed how God precedes ‘outreach’ to an area with prayer and fasting. The night before I was at work in Kingsville and prayed at this same time over there. The Lord sees ‘prayer, fasting, sacrifice, persecution and difficulty’ as the ingredients for ministry. We often look at ‘finances, facilities, staff, etc.’ we see ‘things’ God sees character developed under fire. I remember hearing a few years back a particular preacher defend his use of private planes. Hey, if you want to use one fine. In his defense he shared that because the anointing is in him, its so valuable [true] that if he goes to great lengths to ‘pamper’ himself with expensive things he is doing it ‘for the anointing’ not for him. Its funny, but didn’t Jesus have the anointing? If I remember he didn’t spend a lot of time ‘protecting’ it, I think he even went to the cross with it! We get into these mindsets that are hard to break. We had a brother come to our area who normally charges [I think he said a million dollars?] to speak, but because the Lord laid it on his heart he would do it this time for free, thanks a lot! The valuable gifts and ‘anointings’ in us ARE VALUABLE, but they don’t belong to us! They are GIFTS! What do you do with something that you get for free, you share it with others for free! Paul said we have this treasure in earthen vessels; the valuable thing we ‘protect’ is not the vessel. We must change our mindsets from the way the world operates. Sure the world compensates its C.E.O s, but we work on different lines as Gods people. I don’t want to get into this right here [salaries and stuff] but I want you to ‘see’ things differently. We are here to get the message out at all costs, we don’t belong to ourselves, God has purchased us. We are ‘slaves’. He has ownership. We don’t get a salary for doing the things we are required to do. Do you get it? [It’s OK to meet the needs of your Pastor financially, I am talking about the mindset of ‘starting a ministry’ and being compensated before your willing to go out and give your life away]

(190)A few entries back I mentioned an article from Christianity today. Part of the article spoke on the clergy’s dependence on the offerings from the people being a hindrance to the prophetic ministry. The article even spoke on the modern phenomena of Pastors/Elders being bi-vocational. That is the trend of certain leaders choosing to work a regular job and not be supported by the church. I know what the New Testament teaches on meeting the needs of those who supply spiritual food. Paul, who said this, also said that he chose to not use this right with the Corinthians. He even said by not using it he was preaching the gospel free of charge, and that was a commendable thing. So obviously there are various ways to approach this. The thing we did not see in the New Testament churches was ‘hired clergy’. This is blatantly obvious. Sure it makes us feel uncomfortable to admit this, especially if you are one of them! But the point is we need to recognize that many modern scenarios of Pastors feeling pressured to speak on topics in order to keep the salary money coming in was absent in the first century church. Much of what we do is out of peer pressure and self-survival. I want to challenge you, try doing it for free! Paul said you can, he also said those who got paid didn’t have the same joy of knowing that they were truly doing it from the heart. It’s OK to receive support, but it’s not OK to see yourself as a ‘hired hand’ who is employed by a congregation to provide services [weddings, funerals, etc.]

(191)CHANGE YOUR MINDSET Over the years as I have learned new things and ways to function in Gods kingdom, I would always think along terms of ‘how do we make this happen, who are the group[s] of people that we are to release the gifts in’ I also have read many other ministry ideas and concepts. Often what we are trying to do is produce some biblical ministry in a limited paradigm. For example, when people began learning about the 5-fold ministry [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers] they tried to ‘make it happen in their church’ the reason it didn’t ‘happen in their church’ is because their paradigm of ‘church’ was limited. They saw ‘church’ as the meeting of believers in the ‘church building’ on Sunday. Though the belief on the 5 fold was correct, it was the limited understanding of ‘church’ that hindered what God wanted to do. I felt like the Lord was saying to many of us ‘why are you always trying to re-produce that which I show you in some building, my gifts are to function freely in society/community and you are always trying to make it happen in some building environment’. So in essence the changing of the wineskin from seeing ‘church’ as the Sunday meeting to seeing ‘church’ as the functioning community of people was the missing ingredient. Many ‘Apostles’ and ‘Prophets’ were struggling on how to get their gift to work in ‘the church’ and they were missing the great excitement of bringing the gospel to the lost world. How did the Apostle Paul’s gift operate? Do you see him going around to ‘New Testament churches’ trying to set up ‘5 day meetings’? He primarily is going into the world preaching the gospel to the lost, and these ‘become’ the churches [communities of people] that he later builds as an Apostle. We need to ‘re-focus’ our mindset from ‘building’ to people. Get your mind off of ‘trying to build your ministry’ and realize that all of our days are limited. Sell out for the cause, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature! Quit trying to ‘find your place in the church!’

(199)Let me try to be nice. Over the tears of seeing a lot of the abuse in the church I recognized that a lot of it existed because good men [prophetic people and others] refused to deal with the issue. Then you had ‘heresy hunters’ deal with it in a way that totally turned off the church. The prophetic people out of defense against the ‘heresy hunters’ would reject any possibility that the ‘money focus’ in the church was getting off track. So on one side you had the old time ‘defenders of the faith’ warring against the ‘prosperity movement’ and the prophets fell on the side of defending the ‘prosperity movement’. Well this whole thing is a mess. The simple fact that it is common to see a Christian preacher, wearing expensive jewelry, telling people that Jesus and the disciples lived extravagant lifestyles. Talking about dreams and visions of Jesus appearing to them and telling them ‘you can have all the money you want’. Guys having dreams/visions of biblical characters telling them things that contradict scripture, and then the prophets in the church actually lining up on the side of this movement is a tremendous hindrance to the prophetic. We shouldn’t be attack dogs, I agree! But at some point Gods prophets must be willing to address these issues. The fact that the prophets have not dealt with it [for the most part] has opened the door for the ‘heresy hunters’ to paint all of us with the same brush. I appeal to you guys [prophets] take a look at what we are doing. Are we letting the true image of Jesus fall to the ground out of fear and being defensive? How can we not see that many of the fathers of this movement [prosperity] have fallen into the category of 1st Timothy 6. Paul said there would be a time when teachers would teach that financial gain is godliness, from such turn away. I too enjoyed the faith brothers for a while. It’s just there came a time where I had to admit that the stuff coming from their camp could not be accepted anymore. I know and believe that the Father wants us to prosper and has a great future for us. But this is different from seeing Jesus the way these brothers present him. This issue must come to the forefront in the prophetic movement or else God will not allow our voices to continue in today’s church. NOTE: Let me also say that scripture tells us to ‘reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine’ Jeremiah speaks of ‘casting up, removing the stones [hindrances], tearing down and building up’. We are supposed to focus on Jesus for sure. There are times where we also bring correction in love. If leaders don’t do this, then many young believers go down a long road of finding these things out on their own. Eventually they will see the shallowness of this movement, but they could have saved a lot of time if their Pastors dealt with it in the beginning. NOTE: In the book of Acts you see Paul receiving prophecies on ‘how much you will suffer for my cause’. You find the apostles praising God that they were counted worthy to suffer beatings and persecution for the name of Christ. You see the prophetic centered around the sacrificial lifestyle that the Gospel calls us to. In today’s prophetic circles it is all to common to hear prophecies on becoming debt free, receiving financial windfalls, money will fall into your hands this year and stuff like this. Sure it’s possible that God is saying a few of these things, but the modern prophetic movement almost has no voice for the prophecies you see given in scripture. The prophetic must come into re-alignment with scripture if she wants her voice to be relevant today.

(201)Just had a bunch of thoughts run thru my head. In the Old Testament the cities were surrounded by walls for protection. On these walls were ‘lookouts’ who would stand guard day and night to ‘see’ things coming. These ‘seers’ were the first to recognize danger, or even an ally coming to help. They would ‘see’ it long before anyone else. This did not make them better than the rest of the community; it simply was their job [gift]. Some seers were higher on the wall than others. You had some actually posted on the wall, while others were in ‘stands’ built off of the wall. This group of lookouts were really seeing far. It was a matter of faith for the community to prepare themselves for what the seers were seeing. Ezekiel speaks of ‘watchman on the wall’ and he says if the watchman see a threat and don’t sound the alarm, then they will be responsible for the results. If they sound the alarm and no one listens, they are not held responsible, but the ones who don’t take action will still suffer. Recently I have been able to ‘speak into’ certain prophetic groups. Many of these brothers do have real gifts, it’s just I feel that a lot of them are not ‘sounding’ the warnings along with the ‘good stuff’. To a degree they also are ‘victims’ of the materialistic mindset that has imbedded itself within the current evangelical church. Many of these prophets immediately reject any talk of correction and re alignment with the central message of the Gospel. They seem to be inundated with the concept of the ‘wealth of the wicked coming to the church’ [which is a true scripture!] to the point of not being able to ‘see’ [which is the prophets main objective!] the writing on the wall. I find it interesting that many of these prophets are on the Elijah list [a prophetic website]. I really like the Elijah list, just not enough balance. Elijah was a prophet in the midst of ‘prophets’. As a singular voice [or so he thought!] he was not in the ‘majority opinion’ of his day. This didn’t mean he was wrong, only that the rest of Gods people weren’t ‘seeing’ as far as he was. I feel there needs to be a re alignment with the current prophetic movement. Too much of it is in alignment with the materialistic gospel. How can God use the ‘watchman’ if they for the most part refuse to ever sound the alarm? Many will not sound it out of self-preservation. Like I have told you before, if ministries are trying to build a support base, there will be a natural tendency to reject any correction along these lines. Unknowingly many prophets simply say ‘I don’t see that’ in the area of all that I have been saying, because without realizing it they are being influenced by a natural desire to ‘bring in the wealth for the end time harvest’. They too have become infected with mammon. I believe the church has a glorious future. I do not hold to an end time fatalistic eschatology, but the future of the church and Gods Kingdom being expressed in the earth is vitally connected to a spiritual people who are not controlled by the materialistic mindset of the day. The prophets must make a break from these things. There is no way the Lord will permit the prophetic to have a greater impact until she learns to distinguish between that which is pure and that which is unclean I remember hearing Paul Cain speak on the 3 dangers to the prophetic ‘GOLD, GIRLS AND GLORY’. He saw the aspect of money as a danger to the movement. The kings of the Old Testament would enlist ‘Eunuchs’ to watch over their bride[s] when they were not around. The Eunuch was ‘unable’ to take advantage of the bride for his own procreation. He could be ‘trusted’ because there was nothing ‘in him’ that could lead to the procreation of his own mind and agenda [thru his seed/offspring]. Many prophets have not passed this test because they are still seeing ‘their future’. This leads them to prophesy abundant wealth year after year to the groups they are speaking into. It is an unconscious ‘self procreation’ [of their dreams and future] that are causing them to do this. I pray the Lord would help all of us [including me!] to put the concerns of the bride before ours!

(202)TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING I have been wanting to use this illustration for a long time. The time is here! I was just taking a bath. When I reached for the shampoo I had a familiar occurrence. I found myself surrounded by many bottles of conditioner, and one bottle of shampoo. There have been many times where I have had 6-8 bottles of conditioner and NO shampoo. I do have 4 daughters and 1 wife. This should explain it. There are times where you can have too much of a good thing. Many times we get inundated as Christians with the message of wealth and happiness to the point where there is no room for the shampoo. The conditioner feels good, it serves a purpose, but sometimes we just need to get clean! There are a lot of great principles of motivation and success in Gods Word. The book of Proverbs has to be the greatest business book ever written. The point is all these things come with the underlying theme of the gospel being the foundation. Simple truths of living for eternal rewards versus temporary stuff. Stories like Jesus talking about the rich man building greater barns, and that night he died. Jesus saying WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN IF HE GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSE HIS SOUL. We HAVE LOST SIGHT OF THESE THINGS WHILE reaching for the conditioner! We want to feel good, which is all right, but we really need some shampoo every once in a while!

(208)I was just thinking about the book of James, I haven’t read it in a few years [?] but sometimes the Lord just brings things to your remembrance. James says that GOD IS THE FATHER OF LIGHTS, EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT COMES DOWN FROM HIM, HE IS NOT PARTIAL BUT TREATS ALL HIS KIDS EQUALLY This is all in context with the fact that James is one of the lead Apostles in the Jerusalem church. [Not the Pastor!] James had spiritual oversight to a large group of POOR believers. These were the same Christians that Paul was taking up the offering for in the Corinthian church. James actually defends these poor believers all thru out the book of James. Yet he makes these statements of God loving all his kids equally. He says God gives good gifts to his children. He also says many of Gods kids are POOR [hath not God counted the poor of this world rich in faith]. These statements in no way contradict the theme of James. James fully understands that the love of God for these Jerusalem saints is not to be measured by THINGS. The New Testament Apostles had a clear understanding of this. They got this understanding directly from Jesus ministry. There is an underlying theme in the New Testament that THINGS are not the way we form Gods opinion of us. You and I measure Gods love and acceptance for us based on the fact that God LOVED THE WORLD SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE US HIS ONLY SON! Paul does say if God gave his son for us, will he not give us freely all things? The implied answer is YES [Romans]. But then Paul ALSO TEACHES HE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT WITH BOTH ABUNDANCE AND LACK. This contentment came from the fact that God already proved his love for us by the work of the cross. There is no other thing that could show you your acceptance with God than this simple fact. So James can confidently say ALL GOOD GIFTS COME DOWN FROM THE FATHER OF LIGHTS, IN WHOM THERE IS NO VARIABLENESS OR SHADOW OF TURNING knowing full well that many of his ‘parishioners’ were dead broke! The father of lights gave us his SON; there could be no question of his acceptance of us based on this reality!

(210)Something that has made me uncomfortable for some time is the dynamic of speaking a strong prophetic word/teaching and then realizing the aftermath. For instance the ‘judiazers’ of the first century were teaching a form of Christianity that embraced legalism. They were doing well for a season until God allowed Paul to ‘blast it’ out of the water. Once the Apostolic authority of Paul exposed the heresy, it was difficult for the Judiazers to continue. They sure tried, but Gods authority was now working against their doctrine. I recognize that there are certain truths that we teach that are contrary to the normal tradition of ‘church’. I do not teach them simply for this reason, in as much as I feel it’s time for certain things to be dealt with [like the judiazers]. After these things are dealt with, many good Pastors will continue to embrace what they have known and are familiar with. This creates a tension in the community. Many of their ‘parishioners’ will embrace the truths they have learned from us and Gods authority always falls on the side of truth. Many of the authority structures that are presently functioning in the church are not really biblical. When you have believers moving in grace in certain areas, and church authorities coming down on the wrong [incorrect] view of the subject, you then have a dynamic where Gods authority is falling on the side of the ‘parishioners’ and not on the side of the clergy. This dynamic was also seen in Jesus ministry with the disciples. It was unthinkable for the 1st century clergy to admit that Gods authority was being expressed thru this rag tag team of unlearned men, as opposed to their theological doctorates! I feel uncomfortable when this happens with us. I used to Pastor, and I do not like people who come to a community just to start trouble and cause division. But sometimes we mistake a true prophetic challenge to the status quoi, as being rebellion [Martin Luther and the Catholic Church of the 16rh century!]

(211)Just got back from an ‘incident command’ lecture. We do these every so often at the Fire Dept. It got me to thinking in terms of organizational structure and command. I think it would help to review some things I have taught over the years. First, the reason I don’t believe the New Testament teaches ‘the end time transfer of wealth’ the way many people are teaching today is because any ‘windfall’ infusion of wealth INTO THE PRESENT SYSTEM would not fundamentally change the way things are. If you poured billions of dollars into the present ‘wineskin’ it would not enable, or release into function the ‘Body of Christ’. For the most part any increase of funds would just perpetuate the current system. God wants a CHANGE in the current system. God wants to ‘release’ the army of people who are sitting in the pews on Sunday. Our current mindset has the army sitting in the barracks once a week, and thinking that this is their main function! Second, the present stage of the Church takes the few instances of Paul [and others] speaking in public forums [in Acts] and tries to duplicate this model, seeming to think that the primary way the church functions in society is by ‘sitting in church on Sunday and listening to sermons’. This is NOT the New Testament model of the first century church. The best ‘view’ of ‘church’ in the New Testament is seen in Corinthians [I did not say they were the best church, it was BECAUSE of their flaws that we are able to read about the way the church should meet!] In the Corinthian model ‘church’ is an interactive experience where Christians come together and share the love of Christ. It is plain to see that the current understanding of church today is not as interactive or ‘corporate’ as the New Testament had. So Jesus model of ‘tasking’ voluntary disciples to GO INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL is now relegated to the ‘clergy’ at the expense of the church and the lost world. This limited mindset hurts all the way around. God will take the ‘small’ seeds of influence from the ‘volunteer’ model and cause the seed to exponentially increase. CAST YOUR SEED/BREAD UPON THE WATER, FOR IN MANY DAYS IT WILL COME BACK TO YOU I just watched the movie ‘pay it forward’ and it gives a good concept of one person inspiring others to ‘pass it on’. This basic principle of all believers living in such a way as to inspire others to voluntarily give their lives away is the Jesus model. All the ‘transference of the worlds money’ will not fundamentally change the limited paradigm in which we function today! NOTE; I was having a discussion with some one along these lines. They innocently said ‘but you have to have somewhere to put all the people [church building]’ It is interesting to see that this concern never came up in the New Testament churches. They all knew that they needed to ‘sleep somewhere’ and ‘eat somewhere’ and ‘meet somewhere’ [houses!] but today’s mindset of ‘I have 1000 people as ‘church members’ where will I put them all?’ This concern is absent in The New Testament. The simple fact that the spreading of the gospel in the first 3 centuries was more of a revolutionary movement in the hearts and minds of people explains this reality. They weren’t looking for ‘places to put people’ they were revolutionizing society!

(213) of my good friends who was part of the original group of brothers called me up at work last night. He asked if I could help him with some money [around $60.00] I told him no problem. I will be getting with him in a few hours when I get off of work. It’s around 4 am, this is one of those days where I woke up at 12:30 am and couldn’t sleep! I was thinking about the reality of this friend [and others] who see themselves ‘connected’ to us in ministry. Even though we don’t have ‘connections’ in the way you would be a ‘member of a church’. If you think about it, I have probably given away thousands of dollars over the years to friends. Feeding guys, doing charity and just helping with bills. I do not see this as ‘paying staff’ but these brothers are faithful communicators of the vision the Lord has given us. No matter how many churches or Pastors they have encountered in the journey, they see themselves as loyal to ‘us’. I find this interesting as to the fact that we really don’t care if people are loyal to us! Our attitude has been ‘if you got blessed thru us in the past, then go bless others’ this mindset that exists in today’s form of ‘local church’ is a type of dysfunctional insecurity. Many good Pastors try to develop criteria to ensure the loyalty of people. We read the book of Acts and try to come up with ‘rules for the church’ that would cause people to be ‘faithful to the vision of this house’. Many times the leaders are well meaning, but this type of trying to teach ‘commitment’ is really not a function in the New Testament churches. They were ‘loyal’ to the gospel and to Jesus. They were to ‘obey’ those over them in the Lord as it pertained to these basic truths. You don’t find Paul setting up ‘systems’ of loyalty that you see today. When you truly reach people for Christ and give your self away, they will be loyal like a son to a father. There will be no need to ‘check up’ on whether they have been faithful to the church and stuff like that.

(214)Let me throw some practical functional stuff in here. Over the years of studying and reading books on the cell/house church movement and Apostolic movements I see the way we are all growing in our understanding as God changes the ‘wineskin’. It was common to transition from ‘seeing’ the church building as ‘the church’ to seeing the ‘house/home group’ as the church. Some brothers simply replaced one structure with another. The true New Testament paradigm was ‘seeing’ the community of people as ‘the church’. Now, I do believe it is more practical to utilize the homes of believers as primary meeting places. If you’re a ‘volunteer’ army of people, you are not trying to raise money for the building and stuff. So practically you use the resources of the ‘soldiers’ being recruited. It’s just that the ‘soldiers’ themselves are the functioning unit that the commander is living in! I know these are not new concepts; it’s just that I feel the people we relate to need to keep this in mind. I do encourage all of our blog readers/radio listeners to sponsor a home group as God directs. Just keep in mind that this is only one aspect of ‘church’ expression. The ‘home group meeting’ is not the church, you are!

(222)Been up since 3 AM praying for you guys as well as a few other things. Was thinking about a conversation I had a few years ago with a ministry leader in our city. He was trying to raise money for his ministry. He attends a great church that I used to attend. The Pastor is a good friend of mine. The ministry leader was asking where I attend church. I told him the church. He then criticized the church for spending money on certain things he thought could be used for other things. I just ignored it. This leader wanted to raise money to build a prayer center building. I guess it’s a worthy cause? Without boasting too much, I have been praying from 2-3 am [sometimes midnight] till around 7- 8 am for more than a few years now. I really didn’t need some ministry building to do this! In my mind the money for so many of our projects is a waste! It seems like we are too often building things to satisfy men’s egos more than anything else. God’s people are called ‘A HOUSE OF PRAYER’. God sees the corporate community of saints [all Christians, Catholics, Protestants, etc.] as a ‘building’ of prayer. Once again there might be a scenario or two where God is calling people to build these types of prayer centers, but most times he simply calls his people to prayer. He wakes you up and you pray! Where? Wherever you happen to be at the time. Religion has ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ divisions that say this is the place to perform ‘religious activity’ and this is the place for ‘secular stuff’. These divisions are contrary to the Kingdom that Jesus preached [I am not advocating a theocracy!] Jesus simply taught that the true worshipers of God would worship [pray] in ‘SPIRIT AND TRUTH’. There is this tremendous liberating aspect to the Kingdom of God that allows it to function everywhere. The church is always looking to start some 501 c 3 that can be the ‘Christian enterprise’ that takes all our time and money when God is simply looking for people to PRAY!

(223)Let me use the above example to show you a few things. As I was talking to this ministry leader we did have a fairly good fellowship. During this day of fellowship I shared many of the thoughts on the church as community versus ‘a church building’. He seemed a ‘little’ familiar with this. He said ‘O I know people who believe that way’. Which showed me the Lord has tried to show him this before! He had difficulty grasping many of the concepts, though they were true! It was later on where he got offended and actually yelled at me. He basically said to me ‘your wrong!’ I nicely told him, well I understand you think I am wrong, but I believe I am right. [I know it’s hard to believe I was calm during this exchange, but I was]. It shows how his later frustration of not being able to raise money for ‘the ministry center’ and things of this nature were an outgrowth of seeing ministry as ‘this thing I need to raise money for so I can run it’. If this person learned the lesson of not seeing it in this limited way, he would not have been so frustrated. It’s like the answer wasn’t ‘a transference of wealth’ in as much as a ‘change of thought’. He needed to see the new ‘wineskin/paradigm’ that God is trying to bring forth. These truths are being seen and practiced on a worldwide basis as I write this! Wolfgang Simpson says ‘God is not trying to start lecture halls across the world’ This seems to be the current understanding of ‘planting churches’. We seem to think ‘setting up buildings where people come and listen to bible words being spoken’ is the local church! We really need to be delivered from this mindset!

(242)Let me share something, a few months back I took a ride to one of the fishing piers where I live. Brought the paper, tuned in to the radio. I was able to pick up a San Antonio church that I like [Eagles Nest/ Rick Godwin]. Some of the things from the message kind of stirred me up [got me a little angry]. I shared this earlier on this blog. A few weeks later some of the things I wrote about it on the blog became widely available to the entire city of San Antonio on a huge scale. At the time of writing the entry I had no desire or inclination of reaching so many people with the blog, it just happened. It was like the ‘prophetic Spirit’ rises up at set times to speak into the church, if you are faithful to a few [small area] God will then launch you to a lot [large area]. At the time of me responding to what I heard from San Antonio, I wasn’t mad at Rick. I was angry at the limited perspective of church that he was embracing in the sermon. Nothing personal, just God wants change. Don’t look for a national voice; be faithful in the small things. If God desires he will promote you, don’t do it yourself!

(243)Now a little overview. The idea of ‘church’ as the place where we ‘put all the believers’. I mentioned how in the New Testament, no matter how many people were coming to the Lord, the Apostles never thought along these lines. ‘O my God, all Galatia is turning to Christ, where will we put them all?’ NOWHERE! I am thinking of the verse ‘THE SEED IS YET IN THE BARN’ Gods people are the seed. We are always trying to build bigger barns to ‘put them in’. We need to understand it is not the responsibility of leadership to ‘find places to put all the people’ it is the responsibility of leadership to FIND A PLACE TO ‘PUT GOD’ [that is to win people to Christ and these people become the HABITATION OF GOD]

(245)A lot of the stuff on this site is ‘prophetic’. That means if you go back and re read you will continue to find new and relevant things that didn’t make sense the first time around. I have quoted the verse THE MAN WHOSE NAME IS THE BRANCH, HE WILL BRANCH OUT OF HIS PLACE [small area of influence] AND BUILD THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD These verses speak of ‘building Gods temple’, literally ‘a place where God can dwell’. In the book of Acts it says ‘God doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands’ [I believe Stephen said this in Acts: 7?] This is a quote from King David in the book of Psalms. David is prophesying the heart of the Father to ‘dwell in humans as the temple’ as opposed to man made ones. The early church had the underlying theme of NOT BUILDING HUMAN TEMPLES This is why you don’t see any ‘church building projects’ until the 4th century of church history. Knowledge can be dangerous, some enlightened people who have seen these truths then used it in a wrong way to condemn all Christians who meet in ‘church buildings’. Buildings are neutral, they are simply tools. You are not deceived to meet in or build a ‘church building’. It’s just that we need a radical re organization in thought and function at this time in church history!

(255)THE HIGHLY MOTIVATED LEADER IS NOT THE PATTERN I was reading from a church site [you can learn a lot by just reading the actual teaching catalog, at least from ours you can!] and the majority of the messages were on ‘overcoming obstacles’ ‘taking your mountain’ ‘destroying obstacles’ ‘crushing the devil’ and stuff like that. We too often present a model of Christian leadership that would be next to impossible for everyone to live up to. I know we don’t mean this, but it happens. In today’s highly motivated mega church environment we often present the highly motivated Pastor in a way that most average believers could never attain too. I think of the grandma who attends the ‘composite’ church that I referenced above [a group of all the highly motivated preachers all rolled into one]. After going thru all the devil crushing, mountain moving, unceasing unrelenting sermons from the above average high achieving mega church Pastors. I think grandma would be ready for the nursing home! Now, I believe and know there are great mega churches out there, doing great things for God. We also need to be aware of that part of the gospel that says ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’. I too fall into the category of ‘non stop’ at times. I am just as guilty as the rest! We need to re evaluate the picture that we are painting for the disciple of Christ. The revolution that I want you to join is the simple reality that we can all effectively live the journey. Not just a few exceptional leaders, but all of us!

(256)BRINGING MANY SONS UNTO GLORY The intent of the ministry of Jesus is to bring many sons to a place of interdependence and maturity. The language Jesus uses in the gospel of John is striking. He tells the disciples ‘I don’t call you servants, but friends, brothers’ ‘you have come to me, but now you can go directly to the Father yourself and ask him’. The present development of the role of Pastor has been understood to not be the ideal in Christian community. It is becoming common knowledge among a broad base of believers that the role of Pastor, as the singular voice of the congregation who is looked at as the hired minister, is not found in the New Testament. Does this mean we are all in rebellion? No. Does this mean that all churches must now close and start from scratch? No. But it does mean that as fellow believers we begin to maturely address these issues of form and function as God directs. The fact that the word ‘Pastor’ is found one time in the New Testament [Ephesians] but yet other words are found a lot [Apostle, Elder, Brethren, etc.] shows us that somewhere along the line we introduced a role that wasn’t the original intent of God. We have a tendency to take biblical words and attach our own definitions to them [Bishop, Pastor, etc.] As we see the progression of language in the New Testament itself, we begin to grasp the heart of God. John’s letters are some of the latest written in the New Testament. In John’s epistles you find the language of children and brothers more than elders and Leaders. This showing that as the early church matured she moved away from authoritarian titles, and moved closer to family terms. In Gods desire to ‘bring many sons unto glory’ there is a necessity of top-heavy leadership models to come down. Jesus washing the disciple’s feet and images like this. Blatantly telling the disciples that in the world leadership is based on being in charge, but in the church it is based on not being in charge. Being a servant who grasps the admonition of John the Baptist HE MUST INCREASE AND I MUST DECREASE. As the church progresses down this path the natural result will be for the ‘many sons to come to maturity’. I am sure it felt strange for Jesus to tell the disciples ‘you came to me before, but now you go to the Father yourself’. This is a true act of biblical leadership. People in the beginning depend on leaders a lot; it is incumbent on Godly leadership to let them come directly to the Father.

(281)Lets jump out of character a little. During a discussion I had with a ministry leader in our City, I shared the function of the church at Corinth and showed him how during their gatherings they all shared and functioned. I showed him this to explain that I felt the Lord is changing the practice of church from an environment of people who come and listen to a Pastor preach, to an environment of all Gods people sharing together. This doesn’t mean there will never be an instructional time where a Pastor or Apostle or another gifted person can share or preach a sermon, but it shows that the original intent of God for the church was one of interactive involvement of all it’s members. My ministry friend disagreed and said that Paul was just dealing with the ‘home group’ here, and the ‘regular church’ was another thing/place. The mistake my friend made was ‘seeing’ scripture thru the paradigm of church as we practice it today. He sincerely took scripture that addressed the ‘church at Corinth’ [all the believers at Corinth] and read his own mindset into it. The scriptures in Corinthians that deal with how the believers were meeting IS THE CHURCH AT CORINTH. There was not ‘the home groups’ and ‘the main sanctuary meetings’ now if your church has this distinction, fine! The point I was making to my friend was Paul was addressing THE CHURCH when he gave them instructions on how to meet practically. When believers meet anywhere and share the love of Christ and mutually build each other up, that is church in its most simple form. To read Corinthians and ‘see’ another sanctuary service ‘down the road’ is a good example of how we read scripture thru the ‘lens’ of our own understanding. Let me also say it’s a common mistake among modern cell church movements to read the meetings of the Church at Jerusalem at the Temple [actually they ‘held’ services in Solomon’s Porch, which was an outside courtyard!] and to read into this that the early Christians had ‘sanctuary’ services and ‘home meetings’. This isn’t so. The only Christians that had ‘temple’ services were those at Jerusalem. All the gentile churches [Ephesians, Corinth, etc.] met in homes. This is a fact that doesn’t change. Does this mean all gentiles must only meet in homes? No. I am just showing you there was no pattern of ‘temple’ and ‘home’ groups. Also some advocates of radical reform see Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in the book of acts as a warning against the modern clergy system. Paul told the Ephesus church that AFTER MY DEPARTURE, WOLVES WILL RISE UP FROM AMONG YOU [from the believers] and will draw away disciples after themselves. Some see the rise of the ‘singular Pastor’ as a fulfillment of this scripture [I don’t necessarily hold to this view, but I do see some credence to this speaking of the strong personality worship that exists in the church today] Others also use 3rd John and the example of Diotrophes as one who ‘loved to have the preeminence’ and would not receive the brothers. Some see in these examples a strong warning from the early Apostles to avoid strong singular authorities who are looked to as the authority of a local church. I do believe there is some truth to these insights. My goal today is to simply challenge your present understanding of ‘going to church on Sunday’ to seeing yourself as the actual ‘temple of God’ that moves and interacts in the world around them. God brought his presence out of a Temple made with hands and put it in his people, we must not lose sight of this great reality! NOTE: In the book of revelation it says the ‘City of God’ is ‘as a bride adorned for her husband’. We also know that the New Testament calls us ‘the New Jerusalem, the Zion of God’ basically John is writing prophetic imagery in Revelation. It also says ‘there was no temple in it, God himself and the Lamb are the temple’ [we dwell in God] but it also says the Lamb is the light of the City. The only logical way to fit all these images without contradicting is to see the City/Temple being the Church of the living God. As the ‘body of Christ’ we are a real extension of ‘the Lamb’ so the Lamb can be the City, the Temple or the Light of the Temple. Jesus is the light of the Church, he illuminates us by the Spirit. It’s important to grasp this major change of thought from the earthly Jewish Temple, to the heavenly spiritual one. If you don’t rightly see this you will not interpret scripture properly! [By the way I do believe in a literal heaven!] NOTE: A common mistake amongst Apostolic ministries is thinking that it is a biblical mandate to have ‘a spiritual Father’ [and Mother]. I was reading from an apostles site and it gave some testimonies from Pastors Who said the reason they now have a spiritual Father and Mother [speaking of the Apostle and his wife] was because the bible teaches we have natural ones, therefore we should have spiritual ones. The ‘spiritual’ father is God and the mother is the ‘church’ according to Paul. He says ‘THE NEW JERUSALEM IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL’. Paul does tell the Corinthians that he is their spiritual father. But he is basically saying ‘I birthed you guys into the Kingdom; you are the fruit of my Apostolic ministry. Listen to me for correction, not all these others who are trying to bring you under their authority’. Paul was not advocating for people to go out and find Apostles and make them and their wives their ‘spiritual father and mother’.

(286)When God wants to do a reform/revolution he does it at many levels at the same time. The difficult thing for the reformer[s] is you get those ‘being challenged’ all mad at you at one time! It does take ‘guts’ to be a pioneer. One time when Jesus was rebuking one group, the other group said ‘don’t you know you are offending us too’ [Pharisees and Lawyers] Jesus said he didn’t care. Let them get offended. Every plant that the Father didn’t plant will be uprooted. It’s funny because we have a lot of Apostles/Prophets upset with us. Though we all believe and function in these gifts together. Then we have the whole crowd of old time churches who simply think we are heretics because we believe in Apostles! It can be funny at times [or if you don’t have boldness you could describe it like the Governor of California says ‘girly men’ it wont be ‘funny’ you will be scared! I would attempt to spell Arnolds name but I don’t have time to spell it right!] So lets do a little ‘reforming’. Recently those who are feeling challenged in the whole area of ‘going to church’ have resorted to the classic verses to defend ‘going to church’ FORSAKE NOT THE GATHERING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER AS SOME. HE THAT SEPARATES HIMSELF SEEKS HIS OWN DESIRE lets put some context. Those in the radical ‘out of the church building on Sunday’ movement for the most part practice the ‘assembling of themselves together’ in a more scriptural way than ‘Sunday church’. Also Paul wrote this to the Hebrews, the Jews had a custom of meeting on Sabbath; Paul is simply saying when you transition into this New Covenant keep getting together! You are forsaking old sacrificial ways and law, but keep assembling. This is also why you find the ‘congregation’ and assembly mentioned in James. The Jewish context of those being addressed required them to deal with ‘assembling’ because they already ‘assembled’ as Jews. Also to use these verses to ‘push back’ against the Body of Christ finding freedom and maturity is simply a result of Pastors responding to reform out of insecurity. You can ‘go to church every Sunday for the rest of your life’ and still be ‘separating yourself’ from the purpose of God. When old time preachers do this kind of defense, I know they are sincere, but we must be willing to change!

(83)I had a couple of thoughts that ran thru my mind. Jesus was being praised by the people at one time in the gospels. The religious leaders were jealous and said ‘tell them to stop’ Jesus responded ‘if I stop them, the rocks themselves would cry out’. This response was primarily to the 1st century religious Jew. Their whole destiny was at a critical point in history. They were created for the sole purpose of revealing God [and ultimately Messiah] to all the ‘rock’ nations around them. Scripture uses images like ‘precious stone’ ‘wood, hay, stubble’ and things like this to denote value and worth. The religious Jew of the 1st century saw themselves as ‘precious stones’ they derived this from their Old testament books [Isaiah, etc.] The prophets referred to Israel as ‘special and precious’. Jesus response to them by saying ‘if these don’t praise me, the rocks will cry out’ was a prophetic image. He was in essence saying ‘Israel, if you withhold the rightful praise due me as the true Messiah, there will rise up another Temple made of all these gentile stones, they will give to me the honor that I deserve’. Also I was thinking of the judgment verse where Jesus says ‘when you didn’t feed me, clothe me, visit me, etc’ and the people said ‘when did we not treat you well’ and Jesus responds ‘when you didn’t do it to the least of these, you didn’t do it to me, depart from me, I never knew you’. We often read that to mean Jesus is in heaven, we are here on earth and these outcasts of society are number 3 on the list. When Jesus says ‘I never had a friendship/relationship with you’ he is saying this to those who ‘prophesied’ and did many wonderful religious works. He is speaking to those whose experience of God is truncated from social justice issues. Those who ‘see’ God and their Christian responsibility as a separate culture that is to be enjoyed ‘outside’ of society. Jesus response wasn’t saying ‘I didn’t know you because you didn’t help others’ he is saying ‘the only way you could have truly known me was THRU these people; I was represented in society in these outcasts. You had a whole lifetime to have in some way reached out and gotten to know me, you never did, therefore I NEVER KNEW YOU’. This should change our mindset of church and ministry, it should compel us to come out of our safe cultural environments and touch the world, for in doing this you touch God.

(84)The other day I was listening to a good preacher on the radio. Sort of a ‘reformed’ thinker who frequently calls the church back to the Puritan days. I love Puritan history and writing. Many of these brothers would agree with some of the stuff I teach in the area of the church being self centered and materially minded, but they would absolutely reject our prophetic stuff. God’s intent for the church is more than ‘the church’. Jesus spoke on the Kingdom over and over again, very little on the church. The reason we exist as ‘the church’ is to invade and impact all areas of society until Christ returns. There are certain ‘old time’ defenders of the faith who cant get past ‘church’ being ‘the old time model’. They stumble over the current ‘mega church’ expression. Many have gone after Rick Warren and his ‘purpose driven church’ model. Our radical teaching on the church being the actual mobile community of God ‘journeying’ thru every generation till now, leaves room for the unique expressions of ‘meeting’ that would go from the simple ‘home based model’ all the way to the ‘mega church’ and even to the Catholic brothers! Our purpose isn’t to meet and argue over the many ways to meet, our purpose is to advance and communicate the gospel of the Kingdom into every arena of man. Some confuse my strong preaching against materialism with a call to come out of the market place. Nothing could be further from the truth! When Christians are able to live above the concerns of the unbeliever, and to do it in a way where they are so intricately involved in society, this itself is a testimony to them. Over the years I have had Christian friends try to tell me ‘why don’t you leave the Fire Dept. and get a building and be faithful to your calling’. I see now that some of them were saying this out of self-guilt. Many of the other Christians in the market place were feeling ‘threatened’ that a so-called ‘preacher’ [to which I hold no claim!] would be working and holding a job like them. Sort of ‘well if this guy can do it, then I am responsible to be more than just a fire fighter’. Then you would have those in ‘full time ministry’ who would get offended that we didn’t take offerings or money. After all they would make the ‘offering time’ 25% of the Sunday meeting. The fact that we weren’t even doing it was offensive [we did take offerings at one time, but I never took a salary from day one]. These examples show you that society is comfortable with secular/holy divisions ‘just keep the church in the church’ and they will be happy. Now to the point of the believer being highly involved in all aspects of society, even economically. It is most definitely Gods will for believers to excel in the stock market, real estate world and all other avenues of finance and influence. Its just we need to distinguish between a message of ‘the Kingdom invading society’ and making the Kingdom about money. This is a real distinction that needs to be taught and understood. Many prophetic people who advocate these things are not yet able to articulate this distinction in an effective way. They will read so far on this blog and think that we are against being progressive, which is not the case. Jesus instituted the Church so the Church would be the key vehicle for expressing the Kingdom in the earth [as well as the whole universe!] We are about much more than which particular style of church or meeting we should have. The style or methods are really un important in my mind. The goal is to harvest enough people who we can then turn out into society to affect it for Christ. The Kingdom starts as a little seed [our small church mentality!] and eventually moves out to cover the earth!

(308)Just remembered something that I wanted to share. I heard a brother speaking on Revelation. One of the rebukes to the 7 churches is they held to the ‘doctrine of the Nicolatians’. There have been different ideas about who they were. Most commentators agree that it speaks of ‘those who would rise above the saints’ or the rise of both early ecclesiastical offices [Bishop, Priests, etc] as well as later protestant titles [Pastor]. Some feel that the unscriptural foundation for the way these offices function are what this ‘doctrine of the Nicolatians’ is about. You can interpret many of the passages that deal with authority in either ‘family’ terms or ‘authoritarian’ terms. A famous, well respected evangelical scholar [reformed] actually did a whole book on the King James translation and how they chose to interpret many of the words in authoritarian language as opposed to family language. OBEY THOSE WHO HAVE THE RULE OVER YOU and other scriptures that could have said FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE OF SPIRITUAL ELDERS IN YOUR MIDST. Some feel the reason the most popular version today [King James] opted for this way of translating was for political necessity. The Church of England chose to use this terminology to reinforce the mindset of ‘submission to authority’ that is the authority of England and it’s ‘church’ as they were blatantly moving out from under the ‘authority’ of Rome. Sort of ‘you can have your cake and eat it too’ type deal. The historical background to the political motivation of this is no secret. I usually don’t approach it from this angle because it challenges the strong ‘King James only’ crowd a little too much. I believe exposing the simple fact of the New Testament not showing the modern role of ‘Pastor’ as we practice it today is enough to cause us to ‘re think’ the ‘ruling’ offices in the church. I do believe the Lord has Elders/leaders that function in the Body of Christ, but I also see truth to the fact that many modern offices have been ‘developed’ outside of the original intent of the Spirit of God.

(319)The enemy uses systems and structures of speech and thought that are closely related to godly avenues in order to sidetrack people. When the serpent came to Eve in the garden, he is using speech [confession] scripture [the words God spoke, though distorted] and the form of communication that God initially established for his purpose [by the way, those involved in Christian TV networks, many of you do broadcast very good stuff. I was just watching God TV last night and enjoyed a Rick Joyner meeting, also I like the I.H.O.P. meetings with Mike Bickle and many other good prophetic ministries. It is the enemies strategy to ‘mix’ the good stuff with the ‘bad’ wheat/tares strategy] The fact that the enemy uses the means of communication that God initiates should cause us to be more selective in discerning that which is holy [good] from that which is not! Pastor[s] can feel like I am ‘threatening’ their livelihood. I understand this. This is a direct result of the modern day phenomena of the ‘full time minister’. Paul and the other New Testament leaders were not trying to ‘defend their jobs’ they were laying their lives down for truth. Sometimes literally! True reform is difficult. People are happy and comfortable with a steady income stream. Regular supporters who are really blessed by other ministries who might broadcast thru the station. All the natural feelings of being threatened and loosing that sense of security are involved with reform. Many Catholic Priests were shaken during the reformation. It was a time in history where God said ‘I am going to change some things permanently in the history of the Church’. I am not saying everything the reformers did was right. But the time had come for a shift to happen. Shifts are very uncomfortable. They cause you to re evaluate all that you have known and held onto in the past. Shifts are necessary. No chastening at the present time seems to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it produces right things as well as peace. To some it brings destruction. That’s not the purpose of chastening, but some are steeped in rebellion to the point where they have staked their lives on it. NOTE: Let me try to help some of you who are sincerely worried. The reality of God being our provider. The truth behind all the scriptures of God wanting to prosper us and God being a good God and all of these things are true. They were true for Paul who said ‘Preachers will rise in the last days, preaching that gain is godliness. From such turn away’ they were true for Jesus who said ‘be ware of covetousness, a mans life doesn’t consist in the amount of things he owns’. These scriptures of God being our provider teach us that God is good and will most definitely meet our needs. This is a far cry from the other stuff I am trying to ‘root out’. God being our provider is one thing. Making the entire gospel and kingdom about money is something forbidden in scripture! Discern this guys. Especially you Pastors and Leaders, you cannot keep getting away with letting this slip thru to your people. Ideas and wrong teachings have long lasting results. Don’t let your people go down this road! Teach them about the goodness of God, but don’t let them get ruined by this stuff! NOTE: The serpent actually accomplished his goal thru the speaking of Gods word in a distorted version. He ‘marred’ the image of God that was in man. Man continued to exist, but his ‘image’ was not the complete original intent of the Father. This is what I showed you earlier about idolatry. Many in this movement ‘believe’ in Jesus, but the true image of Christ is ‘marred’ by the distorted view of scripture!

(380)‘Truth trumps authority’ [or actually ‘truth and authority co exist’] Many years ago when I attended a Fundamental Baptist Church they viewed the ‘Assembly of God’ church down the block as a cult. They had speakers come in and give revivals and they would say that the ‘tongues talkers’ are a cult. They would give examples of people who were speaking in tongues and some one who knew the language actually said they were cursing God [by the way this is possible. There very well might have been a ‘demonic’ infiltration like this. There are incidents of possession that have had a type of demonic thing like this happen. The problem is you can’t paint all ‘tongues speaking’ with this brush. Many ‘tongues speaking’ people are the ones who brought these things out] the point is when I eventually left this church, they were a little ‘cultic’ in their mindset. They challenged leaving their group. But when the Pastor [a really good man who I respect today!] saw that I was going to leave to start a church, he also knew I couldn’t go along with the ‘anti charismatic’ stuff anymore. He then appealed to ‘authority structures’ to challenge my decision. He basically said ‘well if you are leaving to become a preacher, and you think the charismatics are OK, then even they agree with us that you must follow the guidelines of bible school and ordination and all these things. You cant just go and preach!’ I found this interesting, though they viewed the ‘assembly of God’ as a cult, they then resorted to the mutual agreement that they all had that said ‘how dare you try to function outside of the standard norms of authority’. They all saw authority as a process you go thru to gain legitimacy. The simple act of being equipped with truth and declaring that truth [The Gospel] wasn’t really sufficient, unless you ‘jumped thru the hoops’. In scripture you do find ‘lines of authority’ biblical mandates to ‘obey those who care for you’ and things like this. Paul himself taught stuff like this. Paul also challenged the ‘normal lines of authority’. Paul became an Apostle after the original 12. The early church had a hard time with accepting his authority. The Jerusalem leadership actually had the mindset of ‘we were in this before you. You don’t have the legitimacy to preach this gospel to gentiles. You have gone ‘outside’ of the accepted norms to be ‘ordained’ and recognized as one who has authority.’ You read this in Acts chapter 15 as well as Galatians chapter 1. Paul eventually says ‘I don’t care who these guys think they are. It doesn’t matter to me. I am sent to preach the gospel, and if their ‘authority structures’ have been by passed, then the ‘authority of truth’ trumps them’. This is the same reformation spirit you see in Luther in the 16th century. Basically we all have times of growth and development where we learn to respect Elders and those whom God has been using. They have truly earned biblical respect. It’s when these guidelines of authority and leadership try to ‘trump’ truth that truth trumps the ‘structures’ [both the protestant reformation going over ‘Rome’s’ head, as well as what Paul did in the 1st century]. Paul will actually rebuke Peter face to face in the whole area of Gentile acceptance by faith. The fact that Paul was right in doctrine, made him right in authority. The challenge from the Fundamental Pastor sounded good, but it was fundamentally flawed. He basically tried to say ‘even if we view the other church as a cult, we all agree that you cant preach/ start a church without going thru the accepted structural procedures’. Basically if you are called of God and are walking in truth you have authority. If you ‘depart’ from truth along the way, you lose authority. Though Gods giftings and callings are permanent, when you step out of truth you are ‘temporarily’ setting aside your authority. I feel this is important for those who feel like they have really learned truth from us this past year. Don’t stay faithful to systems of thought and belief that are operating on the ‘fringes of truth’. You have the right to walk away from that stuff. Keep loving the people, they are good people [Jerusalem church] but you have a mandate from God, walk in it!

(384)‘You have been faithful over a little, I will now give you authority over 10 cities’ Jesus says this to the disciples. Sometimes in our minds we picture the Apostles as ‘city managers’ over future cities. Remember in Jesus teaching ‘authority’ was not ‘being over people’. We know Jesus taught stuff like this, yet we read him saying stuff about authority and we see it as ‘being in charge’. How did the apostles ‘have authority over cities’? By bringing the gospel to these regions and the people who believed became their ‘spiritual children’. Paul told the Corinthians that he had apostolic authority ‘over’ them because he birthed them thru the gospel. Being ‘faithful’ over a little. What’s this? Many of you who have made it this far on this blog have read things that you personally knew to be true before you heard me say it. Yet until you heard me say it you never really were able to truly make the break. It’s like we go thru a process of hearing and seeing before we are ‘faithful’ to what God said. Some of the things I have shown you guys are obvious mistakes that even a child could see was wrong. Yet the peer pressure of being in an environment where others hold to certain things, though obviously wrong, is hard to break. Once you learn to ‘be faithful in the little areas of hearing and obeying’ then God allows you to ‘have authority’ over 10 cities. That is he gives you influence in his Kingdom for his purpose. Many times we seek to have a voice/forum in the Kingdom. We do things to ‘make our voice heard’ but God is primarily looking for people who will speak truth when they see it. Learn to be faithful to the things God is plainly showing you, then he will ‘put your feet in a large place’ [of influence]. NOTE: In my own life I have gone thru stages where the Lord will ‘increase my area’ of influence from the present one to ‘another place’. When these events happen I can tell before hand. It’s sort of like the excitement from the present region ‘wanes’ a feeling of ‘this present parameter is too small, don’t despise the ‘days of small things’ but I am bringing you to a larger place’. When this happens with me it’s like a feeling of ‘the people we are presently reaching are still valuable, but you are moving to another place. That which I have done thru you and for you are ‘seeds’ that will continue to bear fruit long after you’re gone. You have been faithful over ‘this little area’ and now move on’. Even if the ‘area’ seemed big a few years ago, when I sense this type of transition, it seems ‘small’. I also make it a conscious point to NOT DESPISE or think condescending towards the previous ‘land marks’. I feel this in itself enables me to gain authority in a larger region. Also the amount of ‘pain’ associated with the larger area of influence [for as MANY as were astonished at thee, so shall you touch MANY nations] keeps you from lusting after the influence. Scripture says Jesus ‘despised the shame’ associated with the Cross [Hebrews] but endured it realizing that the ‘regional impact’ would be directly related to his suffering. The MANY who were astonished equals the MANY who you will have influence with! Also in Isaiah it says the children that you will have, after you have lost the other will say to you ‘this place is too small for me’ and you will respond ‘who birthed all these children, I was in captivity, I was going back and forth, I was suffering. How in the world did I gain such a following?’ It’s almost like the fact of the extreme difficulty was actually producing the children/converts. This is an amazing thing that you will see thru out scripture. ‘More are the children of the desolate, than of the married wife’. Look at the covenant women in scripture, they are for the most part barren [forsaken] and yet give birth to these tremendous prophetic people [Samuels mother, John the Baptist, Sara].

(400)‘Its not the perpetuation of our personas that we are looking for, it’s the impartation of the gift, in order to bring to maturity the Body of Christ’. A crucial aspect of this is the season of recognizing that you have effectively planted the seed. Then to purposefully withdraw your image and ‘preoccupation’ that people will have towards your gift, and to allow Christ to increase as you decrease HE MUST INCREASE, AND I MUST DECREASE [John the Baptist speaking of Christ]. As Jesus ‘increases’ into maturity thru the Church becoming more self sufficient, we must decrease in proportion. If we don’t properly make this adjustment then the people of God will never fully develop. This means ‘Christ didn’t increase’ [as being fully formed thru his people] as a direct result of our not ‘decreasing’. NOTE; There are many modern scenarios where the Pastor is totally frustrated with the inability of his people to grow. They fall into a ‘trap’ where they see this year after year and this develops a ‘dysfunctional family’ where the well-meaning Pastor begins to berate the ‘children’ for never rightfully transitioning into adulthood. The saints ‘come to church’ and the ‘Pastor’ basically yells at them for not growing. They don’t seem to see that the reason they are not growing is because the system depends on them to stay the same. The system [modern church] needs them to be faithful tithers in order to fund the system. Before there can ever be any real change, there has to come a paradigm shift of what ‘being the church’ really means.

(401)One of the hindrances to the development of the Body of Christ is the present mindset of ministry. Most good men who feel God has called them into service usually wind up in a scenario where the main thrust of their life is preparing messages to preach on Sunday. All good men, I too have been there. There are many prophetic people who have had the same types of experiences that you have read on this site. Many leaders who have seen greater things than me. Why aren’t you as familiar with these brothers as me? Why aren’t you growing thru their gift as was intended? For the most part it’s because the average Pastor is consumed with the functioning of his ‘church’ [Christian business]. He sees his responsibility as primarily servicing the people. Marrying, burying, getting the message ready. Stuff like this. Nothing really wrong about it, its just too much time is spent with these things and he never sees himself primarily as a vision implanter into people. Now some Pastors have written books and have done some long term planting. But for the most part the average Christian Pastor falls into this role of ‘full time minister’ that is to be found nowhere in the New Testament! Think long term my friends. If God is revealing things to you, write them down. Give time and attention to the specific areas of revelation that he has shown you. You don’t have to come up with something new to preach every week. Just allow the Spirit of God to use you to shape people into what God has for them. Try to break out of the mold of the modern Pastor who for the most part spends his entire life speaking to the ‘laity’, while spending 1% of his life hearing them. This is not a biblical model! Well that’s all for now, felt this word was for someone [I have no one in specific in mind]. NOTE: As this blog becomes known, I kinda sense the feeling from some Pastors who ‘hear’ about us thru their ‘parishioners’ that they feel ‘we have a web site too’. Sort of in a defensive way. ‘Why don’t you go to our site? I don’t get into this type of competition stuff; I want all people to go to all web sites and every other thing the Lord is using in the church. The reason why some of these ‘church web sites’ are not as popular is because many of them are geared to either promote a book [I am thinking of an out of town site] or to invite people to ‘church’. People are hurting and starving for real truth. See your web site as a radical means to get the message out. If all you are doing is advertising for church meetings, people are looking for more. This might be the reason that some Pastors are wondering why their sites aren’t as popular as they want.

(402)Let me clarify something. It is hard to fight too many battles at once. There are financial planners and other good Christians who absolutely disagree with me on tithing. Some misunderstand what I am saying. Also as humbly as I can put this. The ‘teaching authority’ that God has placed in various ‘elders’ [Apostles/ Prophets] absolutely trumps the best intentions of Christian counselors. I know some are mad, o well? Many well meaning Christian counselors say ‘it’s too late to convince me that tithing doesn’t work, I have been counseling people for years as a responsible financial planner, it works!’ Without rebuking you guys too much, here’s what you are wrong about. First, the ‘tithing’ as taught in the bible is not what you guys are teaching in the first place. So when you appeal to Malachi [the Old Testament book that says Gods people are robbing him by not tithing] you are not even speaking of the same thing. Go do an Old Testament study for ‘crying out loud’ and realize you are not teaching Christians tithing! Number 2, what you do teach works because YOU ARE TEACHING GIVING! Giving always works. The simple fact that you guys [Pastors and financial guys] are teaching Christians to give of their first fruits unto God works. Now if you give a lot [more generous] God returns a lot. If you give a little [cheapskate] then you get a little. Got it. In no way, shape or form is this the biblical doctrine of tithing. This is giving! It works not because you are teaching tithing, but because you are teaching giving! Well brother we teach it has to be 10% or you are under the curse. Well you asked for it. You guys are 100% wrong on this. Good theology trumps financial planners authority, sorry. There is NOTHING a believer can do to actually ‘get cursed’. Theologically impossible. Go read Galatians. Now its possible to go back to the mindset of law, and bring upon yourself the judgment of legalism. Feeling guilty and condemned if you don’t live up to certain standards. But this is what the so called TITHE does, not giving! In general all Christians should give. If its 8-10 or 20 percent, that’s between you and God. But for sure you are free from the curse because of Christ. Well to all my Pastors friends and Christian financial planner friends, sorry to have ‘trumped’ your authority on this one, I know it hurts! NOTE: Many preachers use this verse in Malachi to teach if you don’t put 10% of your income into the offering plate on Sunday that you are ‘robbing God’. Remember Jesus taught in his judgment scenarios that when you didn’t feed the poor, or visit those in jail, or clothe the naked. That this was how you were ‘robbing’ God. So in effect the way a person ‘robs God’ is by not ‘giving’ to meet the needs of society/brothers in need. This is also what Paul was doing in 1st Corinthians 16 when telling the Church to ‘take up a collection on the first day of the week’. This collection was to meet the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. So to ‘rob God’ is to not give to people [who are the New Testament Temple]. NOTE; there is a very popular Christian financial counselor on Radio today. I like him, most of you would know him. He is basically OK. I have a real problem when he says ‘this program is about making gobs of money’. He also uses language like me! He says ‘crap’ on the air. I kinda put his statement on ‘gobs of money’ in this ‘crap’ category. I actually think that some of his financial advice is wrong. Not even talking scripture here, just basic financial advice. The point is there are lots of experts in many fields who are Christian and for the most part do a good job. As believers we all have the right to question and come up with our own ideas on how to approach subjects. Take what’s good from these guys, and leave the rest alone.

(410)I want to talk about the reality of gifted Prophetic/Apostolic people in church history who had real gifts, but embraced false doctrine. This is an area of stumbling for those who are trying to break away from false movements. The Mormons are good people, whenever they come to my house I have real good talks with them [a little too good, after a few visits they go back to their elders with questions and they never come back!] I actually become real friends with them. I honestly discuss their movement’s history and I give an honest evaluation of the Prophet Joseph Smith [the founder of their church]. I do not demean them in any way. I simply acknowledge that the giftings of Joseph Smith were tremendous in the area of pioneering a religious movement. I also challenge the belief that Joseph was the prophet that the Lord chose to restore the true church. I find agreement that the true church are all those who have come to embrace the sacrifice of Christ [which they believe in] and then I explain how Jesus said the gates of hell would never totally prevail against the church. If Jesus words were true [they were!] then there never was a time since the 1st century that the church didn’t exist in some form. The gates never prevailed against her. Therefore Josephs teaching on him being the restorer of the church to the degree that God supposedly told him there was no true church left, has to be wrong. I do make headway with the younger guys. Once you honestly become true friends with people, you can have influence. My position on all the extra biblical doctrines and visions and other so called supernatural things [finding gold plates in the ground!] I simply ‘compromise’ to the point of saying ‘it is possible that Joseph [or any other leader of any other movement] had visions or experiences that they felt were true. They might have actually saw someone/something’. But we go back to the reality of Jesus being the way to God, and we put these other things at the foot of the Cross. The history of the pioneering Mormons is tremendous. The people are all good people [for the most part] there are strides being made right now to influence certain key leaders of this movement and to bring them back into alignment with historic Christianity [like what happened with the seventh day Adventists on the west coast. A few years back some evangelicals established relationships with key leaders and certain seventh day groups came back to the historic church- The worldwide church of God group [not the Pentecostal church of God] had a total reformation from the top down!] The point is, it is possible for certain religious groups to experience great success. In some strange way the fact that there is a small degree of the gospel present within the system [remember the leaven affecting the whole lump?] enables a certain degree of success until the time comes for true reformation. This approach can be seen with the more extreme word of faith/ prosperity teachers. Many were good men who did good things. We should not allow this to be an open door for the other doctrines and stuff that are wrong. Acknowledge the good, and honestly face up to the things that went off track. God requires all of us to do this at certain times. NOTE: After a few talks with these Mormons they see that I am a Christian; I know the bible and am even aware of their history. I use this fact as an example of God revealing himself to people without them joining or identifying with some religious group or organization. One of their beliefs is God has a true real church in society [true] and therefore which one is it? I try to show them that I too believe there is ‘one true church’ and that this church [society of people- not an organization or denomination] is actually made up of all those who have come to the reality of God thru Christ. They will challenge this view [as do some Christians!] and say that it is wrong. That how could people just come to a true knowledge of God unless they are in the true church [which to them is Mormon] I then bring them back to the fact that we have spent hours discussing and sharing many truths about Jesus. We all know many of the same verses [to be honest I usually know more by memory than them] and we have been discussing all these truths of God and his purposes and redemption thru Christ. And yet I have never met you before. I am not Mormon. How did God break thru to me and show me all these things that we have been sharing? It wasn’t thru some organization; it was the fact that God is revealing himself to mankind thru Christ. All who have come to this reality ARE THE TRUE CHURCH. Therefore everyone who worships the Father thru the Son are the true church. This leaves room for them and all others. I don’t whitewash the many wrong teachings of Mormonism, I simply try to bring them to the reality that even if Joseph Smith never existed that the reality of all of us [I include them] right now believing in God and the sacrifice of his son would qualify us as the ‘true church’ you don’t need Joseph Smith for this!

(415)I want to talk a little about ‘Local Church’. As I am reading on movements who ‘plant’ Local Churches, it is reminding me of some things. First, nowhere in the New Testament is the command given to ‘go and plant New Testament churches’. Now I don’t want to be picky here. I want you to see why this is so. Protestantism has developed an understanding of ‘Local Church’ that is really unbiblical. I recently read about a movement that ‘sends out churches’ to cities as opposed to ‘sending out missionaries/evangelists’. They see the sending of a person to get a building and preach on Sunday and get the tithe and for people to be ‘faithful’ to the ‘local church’ as the right way to evangelize because ‘this is Gods plan’. Then another group says ‘we are a ‘local church’ with a worldwide vision’. The more extreme brothers will teach ‘you are not in right relationship with God until you submit to his plan, which is ‘the Local Church’. All these brothers mean well. They are just expressing views that are un biblical. The ‘local churches’ in scripture were all the believers living in a ‘locality’. In these ‘communities of believers’ there were gifted men who God placed there for the growth of ‘the local church’ [all the Christians]. Today’s idea of every city having 100 to 200 local churches, all with the office of ‘Pastor’ who is the authority over that specific group is no where to be found in scripture. Now all the brothers doing these things are not heretics [notice I said ‘not all’]. But when you take this limited view that sees ‘the local church’ as the separate organization that you start in your area. And then you teach a form of ‘being in submission’ as tithing to that thing, you are in essence usurping Gods authority that is being released thru a wide diversity of gifts in your area. God sees ‘the local church’ and its ‘members’ as those who are called out of the world unto Christ who reside ‘locally’. So you are ‘part of the local church/group of Christians in your area’ by virtue of the fact that you are all ‘partaking spiritually of the Body of Christ’. The outward sign of this is the Lords Supper. So for you to view your ‘membership’ with a particular group [among 100’s] and then to say ‘I am faithful to ‘my local church’ [the Sunday meeting I attend] and to not see the reality that all the believers in your area are ‘local church’ actually harms the church. Most Protestants do not realize how this limited view ‘colors’ the way they read scripture. In the book of Revelation you find the letters to the 7 churches. These ‘churches’ are once again all the believers living in different locals. God is speaking to the ‘Angels’ of these churches in this book. ‘To the Angel of the Church of so and so’ the word for angel is ‘messenger’. You have the majority of Protestants teaching these angels are the ‘Pastors’ of these ‘churches’. There was NEVER a Pastor over all the believers in these locations. Sardis, Ephesus, Thyatira, etc. When I do the radio ministry. It is not a ministry ‘to the radio’. When I speak into the cassette recorder, I am not ‘speaking to the recorder’. In scripture Angels are messengers. They receive and transmit the message from God. These ‘angels’ of these 7 churches were simply that! God is speaking to the ‘messengers’ and saying ‘if you don’t repent I will remove your candlestick’. These are not messages to Pastors over churches [see how your view colors this!] these are Gods words spoken to his ‘transmitters’ and therefore he is saying it ‘to the angels’ just like I preach ‘into the radio’. Now all of this is for the purpose to show you that God doesn’t send people or movements to go and ‘plant churches’ per se. He sends people to preach the gospel to people groups [Gods idea of ‘churches/ communities’]. These ‘groups’ of people who believe become the ‘local churches’ of the New Testament. When Paul writes to these ‘churches’ he is addressing ‘all the believers’ in the locality. If there were an ‘office’ of Pastor like we practice it today, there would be no way that these letters would not contain strong instructions and rebukes ‘for the Pastor’ [by name if they were singular authorities]. For the ‘churches’ in the book of Revelation to have had ‘Pastors’ over these entire regions, and for us to not know their names is unthinkable! All the major figures [Paul, Peter, John, etc] were well known leaders in the first century church. To have had ‘Pastors’ as the singular authorities of entire regions, and for them to have remained anonymous till this day would have been impossible! So in essence you are not going around setting up some type of organization that people need to submit to in order to be in ‘proper order’. Gods ‘proper order’ is to be ‘under Christ’. This does carry with it the humility to accept and receive the gifts that God has placed in our communities. The Pastors and Prophets and all the other gifts. These are gifts to the entire community to build the people up. When you have ‘church planters’ who are going around [with a good intent] teaching believers that they must ‘submit to the local church, because this is Gods program for reaching the world’ they are seeing ‘local church’ in a way that is really unbiblical. God is sending all of us out into the harvest field to preach the gospel. I don’t see all the ‘Sunday Local Churches’ as wrong or in rebellion. I see that overall we are all Gods kids who are doing our best to please God. When we deal in grace with each other God works. When we use limited forms of church to the degree of seeing those who don’t fully operate in that mindset as being in rebellion, then we are not truly building each other up in love. NOTE: One of the faults with these strong authoritarian church planting movements is they use verses like ‘follow me as I follow Christ’. They use this to push back against their critics who say they are too authoritarian. ‘Hey, Paul told people to follow him’. Yes he did ‘as I follow Christ’. How did Paul ‘follow Christ’ well he certainly wasn’t setting up ‘local churches’ with Pastors ‘over the people’! NOTE; The first 3 centuries of Christianity you didn’t have ‘church’ as the place you go to on Sunday for religious worship. This mindset developed over time. Our Catholic friends developed a way of doing church that saw the ‘priest’ as the ‘minister’ empowered by Christ’s grace to ‘oversee’ the Mass where the Eucharist becomes the means of grace whereby God ‘infuses’ grace into the souls of the faithful. Basically the Catholic ‘chapter’ for their belief is centered around John chapter 6 ‘unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood you have no life in you’. While I do not hold to the doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’ I do not see my Catholic brothers as wicked ‘devil worshippers’ for this. I see it more as an historic belief that did develop out of an ‘infancy stage’ of Christianity. Holding to Jesus words literally [which Luther himself held to in this area of disagreement with Zwingli, the Swiss reformer!] with a childlike belief that many Christians embraced. During the ‘reformation’ of the 16th century you had many doctrines questioned, but for the most part the Protestants simply changed the office of the priest with the office of ‘the Pastor’ as the ‘clergy person’ who will administer this ‘protestant office’. This ‘office’ does not exist in the New Testament! So today we are seeing the Lord move in an area of ‘reformation’ [a process, not a one time event] concerning ‘church form’. Something that really wasn’t adequately dealt with in the 16th century movement. So we move on to maturity as we accept the good things of the church Fathers [even the Catholic ones!] and we ‘move away’ from forms and styles that are not mandated in scripture. We should not be ‘anti Sunday church/Pastor’ as much as we should be ‘pro Body of Christ’. Wanting to see the people of God fully functional under the headship of Christ. NOTE: This causes us to deal in grace with our fellow Christians. I have heard Protestant preachers say ‘the Catholics teach for doctrine the commandments of men’ while all the while they are declaring a ‘form of local church’ as THE SINGULAR TOOL OF GOD TO CHANGE THE WORLD that is nowhere to be found in scripture! NOTE; ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent and LET THEM stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations’ I spoke on this verse from Isaiah a few entries back. The LET THEM speaks of releasing your spiritual offspring to continue the growth of the spiritual lineage that God permits us to ‘birth’ into the Kingdom. This ‘letting them’ is a voluntary act of leadership releasing people to continue the journey on their own with Jesus becoming their ‘Chief Pastor/Shepherd’. In today’s ‘Local Church’ environment we do not practice the ‘letting go’ part well. NOTE; I have taught the term Ecclesia in our books. Let me mention that the way we view ‘Local Church’ rides heavily on how you interpret this word. The word ‘ecclesia’ is the Greek word in the New Testament for ‘Church’. In the early centuries we see how the believers understood this to mean a ‘called out community of people’, not necessarily ‘those called to the building on Sunday’. Later Christians [and theologians] began to develop a type of ‘ecclesiology’ [church form] that fit into the limited mindset of Church being the place where Christians go on Sunday. While it is true that the word ‘Ecclesia’ can describe a ‘city council meeting’ or other types of public assemblies. The true intent behind the ‘called out people’ are those who have been called out of society [separated in the biblical sense] and have become citizens of another country/Kingdom. So to limit the ‘church’ to the actual place of meeting is really not scriptural. The term for church was simply the best word to use at the time. Words are limited. It takes the Spirit of God to truly convey the meaning of them. We do not contradict the words that are used in scripture to make up our own definitions [which is a common hobby today] but we allow the Spirit of God to reveal to us things that the ‘surface reading’ can’t fully show us. NOTE; You never had a scenario where Paul would address the ‘church of Corinth’ or another area and say ‘and to you who live in Corinth, but are actually members of the church at Ephesus, because you have chosen to have membership there’ You were part of the church at Corinth by virtue of the fact that you lived in Corinth and were a believer. You didn’t have the idea of joining a separate entity [group] like the ‘Elks’ lodge or something of this nature. We have developed a way of seeing church that seems to tell believers you must join a specific ‘church’ in your city, out of the 100’s of ‘churches’ that exist there. While it is fine to ‘go to a church on Sunday’ we must not see them as actual ‘local churches’ in and of themselves, this cause’s a division to the Body of Christ that is not seen in scripture.

(418)There were a couple of things I felt like sharing, but I was waiting until I cover the book of Hebrews. I hope to overview it on this blog. But I just had a prophetic dream and it dealt with sharing it. The dream was I was on a roof with a friend of mine from the Fire Dept. This friend has learned stuff from me over the years. He wouldn’t be what you would call ‘a real active Christian’. Just a friend who has been kind of interested in all the stuff I do. Well while we were on the roof [sort of like a roof you might be on to ventilate during a fire] there was an authority figure [a military guard] that was keeping him on the roof. Not like he was breaking the law or being in a judgment type situation. Just the sense that the ‘authority’ figure was not permitting him to leave this post yet. I shared a few things and repelled down with a rope. I then was teaching some stuff [the stuff I was going to wait till I got to Hebrews to share] to one of the younger firefighters. He was sort of a rookie and was just beginning to learn some stuff. He had to go and I was not able to finish the teaching. I told my friend [who was now on the ground] to finish teaching him. He was not the type of person who would normally share his faith. But he knew exactly what I was teaching the other guy, and sort of said ‘yea, I’ll tell him John. I know what you mean’. Well let me share the stuff and maybe get back to the dream. The other day I spoke on the concept of ‘Sunday church’ and how we get this from Paul telling the Corinthians ‘upon the 1st day of the week take up a collection’ [1st Cor. 16] The early church began to practice meeting on the first day [as well as every day!] in memory of the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing wrong about this. As the church ‘lost’ her family/community mindset and digressed into a ‘Sunday church building’ mindset, it just became natural to develop ‘Sunday as the New Covenant’ Sabbath. This is not a biblical doctrine. There is no ‘New Testament Sabbath’ in this way. Now there is tremendous truth to what God wants to teach believers thru the Sabbath, but when we simply teach that God changed one religious day to another [Saturday to Sunday] we lose the truth. The mature believer does not ‘hold’ one day above another. It’s fine to ‘go to church on Sunday’ but to see Sunday as the old covenant Sabbath, and all the blue laws and stuff associated with it, is to not ‘see’ the truth behind the shadow. All people who are in Christ, who are new covenant believers have entered into a ‘place of rest’ where they have ceased from their own works [efforts to make themselves righteous before God]. This ‘place’ is the ‘Sabbath’ rest of God. It is not a day, or a mode of religious worship. It is an eternal ‘age’ of rest that comes to all those who are in Grace. Now Paul actually teaches this in Hebrews. I can’t do it now, but scroll down to the tape/book catalog on this site and read the descriptions on Hebrews. I cover some of it in there. Paul teaches that God created all things in 6 days, and rested on the 7th. He tells the 1st century Jewish community ‘you must cease from your own works too [the law, and trying to please God legalistically] and come by faith to the Cross’ Paul teaches it in a way where he says ‘if God rested on the Sabbath, so you must enter into this rest’. He does do a lot of spiritualizing of scripture. But it must be right, it is inspired! So basically the ‘Sabbath rest’ is entering into the New Covenant. The ‘age of Grace’. But as the church lost the family mindset, it just became easy to teach that Sunday is now the new day for religious things, as opposed to Saturday. You then have all the 7th day groups [7th day Adventists and others- there are whole regions in this country where the Baptists are 7th day Baptists. They hold to Baptist belief in every area, but they believe the same way the 7th day Adventists believe. That the Catholics changed the ‘Sabbath’ to Sunday, and that in so many words this is the ‘mark of the beast’] using scripture to prove that Saturday is the Sabbath and not Sunday. Now Saturday has always been the Sabbath Day. This has not changed [It’s just that in Christ the law has been fulfilled and we are not under any legal requirements in this way. We are in grace and not under law]. The issue isn’t ‘what day is church day’, the issue is once you enter into Gods grace and rest [the Sabbath] you are fulfilling the Sabbath by resting in him. In essence you have found Gods rest. This isn’t saying ‘church day’ is Saturday, or Sunday. ‘Church’ day was every day in the 1st century church. But you see how easy it is when you function out of the ‘going to church on what day’ paradigm, it becomes natural to go thru the bible and try to find ‘the right church day’. We do this with the tithe and all sorts of stuff. Well in the dream I felt like the Lord was saying that many of my friends over the years, even the ones that usually don’t view themselves as ‘preachers’ are going to be used to pass along some of these truths that they have learned from me. The ‘authority figure’ was simply God saying to these friends ‘you are to remain here [at the fire dept?] after John leaves and you are going to be responsible to pass along these things’. I also felt like some of my buddies at the dept have felt like the lord wanted to use them in a greater way, but maybe they felt constrained to be working there. To these friends, let the Lord use you by doing the things you have seen me do in ministry over the years. Use this blog. I share some stuff on the Kingsville fire dept. this will give a sense of purpose for the guys who feel ‘stuck’ at a menial job. The older brothers can use this blog and any other tools to pass stuff along to the new guys. In essence you haven’t missed your chance to have an impact in the Kingdom, maybe the Lord left you there by Divine appointment! NOTE; The 7th day brothers will make some arguments like ‘as believers we keep all the commandments, why not Saturday?’ They also point to the fact that one of the Catholic fathers actually taught that the proof that the Catholic Church has the authority to change ‘laws’ and establish new ‘commands’ was the fact that they changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. This is a true argument that a Catholic scholar has made. So this re enforces in the mind of the 7th day brothers that they must be right. Look at all this proof! Well to be honest, if the issue was ‘what day is church day’ as far as what day has God ordained as ‘the special day’ I think the 7th day guys would win. But I believe the truth on this is in the new covenant there is no ‘special day’ because ‘church’ isn’t a ritual at all. Paul actually told the Colossians that the Sabbath day[s] were shadows of truths that were seen fully in Christ. Sort of like what I just told you. The 7th day brothers say Paul was talking about ‘days’ not ‘day’. The point is when you are resting in Christ you don’t kill, steal, and all the other stuff mentioned in the commandments. Well what about the Sabbath? If Christians are ‘keeping’ all 9 commandments, how do you justify not keeping this one? We are keeping it! When you are in Christ you have ceased from all the religious works of the law and are being made righteous by faith. You are keeping the Sabbath like all the other laws. It is a natural outgrowth of your new nature In Christ. It is not ‘going to church on Sabbath day’ you silly Christians! It is daily walking in Gods free grace, being in right relationship with him by faith. You are in essence ‘keeping Sabbath’ because you have ceased from you own works. It is not some type of ceremonial thing you do on Saturday! NOTE: To all my radical readers [Apostles, Pastors, etc] I too believe that the kingdom involves radical continuous action. There are times where we are ‘non stop’. There are others [not like us!] who lay back and experience their Christian life by really not doing anything. They sort of justify it by ‘entering the Sabbath rest’; they think God requires no action. Let me put some perspective. When God entered into the 7th day of rest in creation, it was a time where he initiated 6 days of tremendous SELF SUSTAINING life and then allowed that creation to reproduce as he ‘sat back’ and enjoyed his heritage. So Gods ‘rest’ is not a ceasing of activity, in as much as it is a period of watching the things you ‘planted’ grow. So for you radicals, lets operate in grace and see the things we are planting ‘grow on their own’. Don’t think you need to be involved in all the ‘re producing’. Jesus said faith in the Kingdom was like planting seed and as you sleep and rise the seed is growing, but you DON’T KNOW HOW THIS IS HAPPENING. So be faithful to plant, and let God nurture and sustain and cause to grow [Paul said some plant, others water but only God can cause actual growth]. NOTE: Let me say a few things on cults. Most true Christians see the major cults as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witness groups. I must admit I too see them as cults. The Jehovah’s primarily because of their denial of the deity of Christ. Their bible translation purposefully misinterprets the passage in John chapter one that says ‘in the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God’ they change it to say ‘the Word was a god’ a big no no! Simply put, this puts you on the ‘cult list’. The Mormons [Latter Day Saints] are a little more difficult. Their main reason why they make the list is because of the extra biblical book [book of Mormon] as well as the unbelievable amount of extra biblical doctrine that can only fit into the characterization of ‘fantasy’. A lot of Christians do not realize the amount of truly weird stuff they teach. They teach God was like us at one time. He basically ‘evolved’ to where he is now, and we are on this journey. Eventually we will be gods populating our own universe with the many wives [therefore plural marriage was originally part of the plan, but not any more! The only ones who still embrace plural marriage are the fundamentalist Mormon groups who believe the church ‘apostatized’ when it officially rejected this doctrine]. So besides all the other historically un true stuff [the whole so called civilization that Jesus appeared to in the Americas] the group has way too much extra biblical stuff to fall into the class ‘Christian’. The one caveat is they do believe in the sacrifice of Christ for man, it’s just how do you balance that with all this other stuff? Sorry, I do call them a cult. Now, I like Mormons and Jehovah's Witness as people. I do not personally demean them! But the facts are there. What about the 7th day Adventists? Too many evangelical friends of mine have classified them as a cult too quickly. I am aware of the few strange teachings they hold to. Nothing even close to the Mormons. I am concerned about the credence they give to certain past ‘founders’ and stuff. Overall I see them as Christian, though they fall into legalism with the classic belief that they are the true church because of the 7th day observance. They say all others who ‘go to church on Sunday’ have received the mark of the beast. Basically I do have disagreements with them, but I do not see them as a ‘classical cult’ the way I see the other groups. I find it troubling that I have had evangelical friends who classified groups as ‘cults’ because they didn’t believe in the Rapture. They don’t even realize that the ‘Rapture’ is basically false! At least the way they teach it. So you can see that it is easy to label groups as ‘cults’. I don’t want to judge any of these groups, I just needed to be honest about these groups and try and share this stuff in love. I am grateful for all the Mormons and any other groups who read this site. I don’t want to lose you guys! God bless you all.

(422) watched a special last night on the gang ‘MS 13’. I have seen it before and felt like the lord wanted me to speak on it. I do realize that there are things that I have spoken on that are not safe. I advertise this blog in North Bergen, N.J. This area is full of Muslim radicals. The type of ‘brothers’ who would kill you for speaking against Islam. I basically have taught that Allah is a false god. And Muhammad is his prophet. I have to be careful if I get an invitation to do a ‘cell’ group in this area. It might be a Muslim cell wanting to ‘fellowship’ with me! I also have mentioned the ‘Mexican Mafia/Texas Syndicate’ on this site. I had a good friend who was a member [he is dead]. This ‘gang’ is one of the most serious gangs in the prison system in Texas. They make these ‘kid gangs’ look like punks. So speaking on these groups is dangerous. The show I saw last night showed how the gang MS 13 started in L.A. as an innocent young gang. It expanded from L.A. to other parts of the country [Texas] and when the prison system deported a bunch of them back to El Salvador, it spread like wildfire. Gangs are the enemies’ imitation of what the Ecclesia was supposed to be. A group/family of people [brotherhood] who would find identity as a family. Many gang kids see their membership ties in a stronger way than they see their family. The gang is their family. The rapid spread of these gangs is an organic thing that is out of the control of their founders. The church was intended to spread this way. They have no ‘gang houses’ that they call ‘the gang’ [Christians call the ‘church’ building the ‘church’]. Their strength is in their identifying as a family. When we first started our ministry in 1987 I had some of the original group of friends [addicts] that wanted to extend the ministry with ‘outreaches’. We were grappling with the way the Victory Outreach does it. We actually bought an old lumberyard building and were going to set up a drug/outreach type thing. All good stuff. I feel one of the reasons these things never got off the ground was because the Lord was going to change my understanding of church to the family/brotherhood mindset. I was too ‘building centric’. Trying to start programs instead of seeing our guys as a brotherhood. It’s OK to start these types of things, but as the lead vision implanter I felt the Lord wanted to transition my vision into one of rapidly spreading the Kingdom by influencing people as a brotherhood. Today I have friends who see themselves as a ‘part of us’ even though we don’t identify around any particular building or ‘church meeting’ environment. If you study movements like ‘the local church’ which is an apostolic movement started by Watchman Nee, you see some good stuff. Watchman Nee was a Chinese Apostle who got a hold of many of the things you see me write on. He spread the ‘local church’ movement thru out China as an underground church. No official denomination or recognition of ‘clergy’ but a movement that was persecuted by the communists. They spread worldwide and have many churches in the U.S. today. They also erred [in my opinion] on the side of strong authoritarianism and began to see themselves as ‘the Local Church’, that is they viewed their group as the true restoration of the Local Church. While I do not view them as a cult [like other cult watchers do] I do see the mistake as seeing their group as the true group, as opposed to all the other ‘groups/churches’ in a city. The sectarian mindset. The true power behind these apostolic movements is the instilling of vision into people. People see the church as a brotherhood [like the gangs] and they are not identifying with programs that their ‘church building/business’ is doing. They are identifying along the lines of a ‘gang/brotherhood’ in a noble way. The same thing that the Victory Outreach or the Door does. Things that I see as good. Recruiting people into a brotherhood mentality. The danger is becoming ‘cult like’ in your view of seeing your group as ‘thee group’. These underground churches cannot be stopped thru persecution or the ‘closing down of their churches’ like other denominations have experienced. Communist govts. have been able to oppose the organized church because all they had to do is shut down the church building and remove the Pastor/Priest and the functioning would stop. You can’t do this with a brotherhood. Just like the gangs. They will thrive whether you put them in prison, shut down their ‘meeting houses’ or anything else. Their secret of survival is in their brotherhood mentality. Jesus obviously knew the power of this, that’s why he said ‘the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against the church’. He knew the movement that he was founding would have the allegiance of a brotherhood. It would not simply be a social club. When human govts came against the 1st century church, it couldn’t stop them. Rome even said that as they spilled the blood of the early believers, it was like seed falling into the ground [a bit prophetic, Jesus did say that martyrdom was like planting seed ‘Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and DIES it abides alone, but if it dies it will produce much fruit’] so man could not stop a true movement of people. Man can stop a denomination who needs the ‘church building’ and the clergy to function!

(446) A few years ago I had a Pastor friend who kind of competed with me in ‘getting’ the addicts/ex-cons to ‘go to his church’. I knew this brother for years. He got saved in his 50’s [?] and started preaching at the jails when I was going in my 20’s. Eventually he left the Pentecostal church he attended and ‘started his own church’. I knew he would talk about me every now and then, and to tell you the truth, it really didn’t bother me. It’s like when you go thru rumors that your are having a gay relationship with an ‘ordained minister/sorcerer’ who started the rumors himself, you kind of don’t mind about the regular normal gossip. I chalked it up to his immaturity in the Lord. Even though he was a good 25 years older than me, he meant well and was going thru the silly games preachers play when they first start out. He did invite me to preach at his church once, and we had a good service. But being he would gossip to me about the Pastor and church he had formally attended, I knew it was only a matter of time before he would get to me! I never even confronted him or anything, I just let it slide. One day he saw me at a restaurant with a brother [ex-con/addict] you could tell he was a little jealous that the brother was with me and not him. I don’t even ‘have a church’ but in his mind he was at the childish stage of ‘why don’t you come to my church’ type thing. This Pastor read my first book ‘house of prayer or den of thieves’ and I think it might have been a little strong. I never gave him my 2nd book, and as we went to the parking lot to get it, he started gossiping about the ex- addict brother who we just left to go into the parking lot! Well I gave him my 2nd book, which challenges the whole concept of ‘local church’ and the role of ‘Pastor’. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he would read it, and more than likely I would become the talk of the town by this Pastor in his 60’s who would probably call me a heretic. I just didn’t worry about it, I figured I would give him the book and just leave it at that. We did have a mutual Christian friend and I finally asked him how Pastor ‘so and so’ was doing. In a nice way, I kinda figured the Pastor might have already gotten to my friend and told him what a heretic I was. My friend said the last time he saw him he was in the hospital and it looked like he was going to die. I don’t think it was because he more than likely talked about me, it was just something that happened. I later thought about it, how so many of us [Pastors/leaders] see people as simple tools in a big game. To try to challenge the present mindset of ‘Pastor’ and ‘church’ is a difficult thing. To be sure all Pastors don’t fall into the category of my friend, but the system itself has a way to bring this type of stuff out of us, even the best of us. NOTE; he died a few months back, the same day I read of his death we had a strange phenomenon in the gulf where I live. We had a real clear ‘water spout’ that the local channels picked up. It was a perfect ‘tunnel’ type spout that showed the water going right up to ‘heaven’ thru this tube. I took it as a beautiful sign of my friend’s home going. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

(447) It is difficult for the American church/Pastor to ‘reform’ his understanding of church from one of ‘the 501c3 organization that raises funds to do projects and support ministries’ to that of a free community of people whom Christ’s Spirit dwells in to ‘reform and effect’ society around them. I remember hearing defenses of the ‘Local church’ from the fundamental Baptists that said ‘some people speak of the ‘invisible church/universal church’ well the bible never speaks of a church ‘you cant see’. While there is some truth to this, what these brothers were saying is ‘the local church is this ‘church building’ and all the functions that surround it’! God has his people strategically located all over the earth. When the Bible speaks of ‘local believers’ versus ‘the universal church’ it is not speaking of 2 different things. It is speaking of Christians who reside locally and to the believers who reside ‘universally’. They are the same thing, just in different locations. We have a tendency as Pastors and leaders to want to do some project, complete some goal. This is good. But it becomes ‘not good’ when we view Gods people at large as the primary ‘funders’ of the ‘big project’. This ‘projects’ a mindset into the people of God that is contrary to the function of the church. Moses, Paul and all the other biblical leaders were men with vision and destiny. Moses did ‘collect funds’ for certain godly purposes [the Tabernacle] while leading the people, but the primary thing they were doing, their ‘vision and destiny’ if you will, was bringing the people of God along a journey that led them to a place of self sufficiency/rule under the headship of God [Christ] that released them into a functioning society of people. You never see Paul or the other Apostles primarily relating to the people along the lines of ‘God has given me this vision, if you Galatians, Ephesians, etc. were simply obedient to fund it, then it would happen’ the vision was not some project or thing apart from their own function and growth. They were not following Paul’s leadership to accomplish something apart from them. What Paul [Moses] were doing was bringing them into the reality that God wants to express himself and who he is thru a people that bear his name. The fact that Israel [or the church] were being governed by God and representing him in the earth gave God ‘opportunities’ to act and show himself strong on their behalf. Society around them were not going to be influenced by the great things they were to build [Babel mindset] but they were to be influenced by who they were and their real relationship with God as a nation. So when we ‘see’ the church as ‘this visible 501c3 organization’ and the people as ‘taxpayers’ [tithers] to the projects and goals of the organization, this causes both the Pastors and the people to fall into roles that are not the primary expression of what God really wants. The people are faced, week after week, month after month, year after year, with leadership saying ‘you are not obedient enough in the area of raising funds’ and the primary challenge to the average saint in the pew is ‘I will give more diligently this time’ and his whole function is measured by this rule. Then leadership reinforces the ‘scriptural mandate’ of this dynamic by appealing to the few areas in Paul’s writings that speak on giving. Though Paul was not primarily dealing with it in the same way. We truly ‘see’ the function of the motivated minister to set goals and somehow inspire people to fund these well meaning goals. This is a very small part of what New Testament leadership was doing. In the very verses we use to justify ‘giving on Sunday’ in a legalistic way, Paul actually says ‘take up the collection before I get there [Corinth] because when I get there we have real important things to do, I don’t want to waste time dealing with the money stuff [1 Corinthians 16]’ so we take these verses that are teaching the small role that finances play in the functioning of the church [to support laboring elders/Pastors and to meet the needs of the less fortunate] and we turn these verses around and teach them in a way that giving becomes thee number 1 measurement of a persons faith. We give the mindset to the average believer that his main function is to ‘attend church and give money’ and he measures his faithfulness this way. And he is taught ‘God highly values the ‘local church’ if he loves it so much that he gave his life for it, how much more should you value the local church in your life and give it priority’ But we seem to be telling the poor people that the ‘it/local church’ is the organization and all that surrounds its ‘corporations life’ [versus corporate life]. Yes God does love the 'local church’ [community of believers] and he did give his life for it [them and you!] and this is why you see biblical leadership so unfocused on some ‘vision to accomplish something’ and so focused on ‘seeing the people of God come to maturity’. They were giving their lives for the thing of value, which were the people of God [the LOCAL CHURCH!] NOTE: This is why you can see Paul in prison, writing letters to the churches and being totally fulfilled while doing this. His purpose was not to be in such a ‘state’ of outward self sufficiency and having all the money to accomplish some goal, he was actually doing the purpose of God by building the church, even though his outward man [and all of its expressions] were ‘passing away’. NOTE: the materialistic mindset in the church, along with the confusion on what [who] the church is, causes us to be unable to grasp how Paul could be ‘fulfilled’ even though he was not ‘building’ a ‘ministry or organization’. Paul was the one who said ‘we look not at the things which are seen, but unseen’ also ‘Abraham believed that the things that God said would come true’. We use these verses to bring us to a point of ‘making things seen’ or building outward stuff. In these verses God was defining faith as actually living in such a way that you knew after your departure that your ‘seed/lineage’ of spiritual children would ‘inherit’ the land. In essence ‘faith’ in these stories is the ability to die without actually seeing or possessing the physical promise in this life. The patriarchs are defined this way in Hebrews 11. They died as they blessed their offspring, believing that God would make a great ‘family/dynasty’ from their offspring. So Paul in prison is ‘unstoppable’ because he knew the Word of the Lord would have free course. He knew ‘by faith’ that these outward things were not really where the Kingdom was at. He knew by faith that after his death the ‘everlasting gospel’ would prevail and that by Gods grace his ‘spiritual seed’ would go on forever. That’s why I am writing about him now, and you are listening!

(448) I read an article the other day that illustrates this stuff. It was about a ‘bi-vocational Pastor’ who was ‘Pastoring’ 3 churches at a time, because the churches were too small to ‘afford a fulltime Pastor’ and there was a need for someone to ‘administrate the ordinances’ so what else could they do? The well-meaning Pastor was in his fifties and was a fulltime military man. And it showed a picture of him innocently ‘manning the pulpit’ as he fulfills this ‘office’ every Sunday for these 3 churches. It showed how much our present mindset of ‘church’ and the protestant office of ‘The Pastor’ is really an unbiblical role. I know this sounds ‘mean’ but for heavens sake lets move on with the program. God has been dealing with the Body of Christ for quite some time. He wants to release/empower us to ‘be the church’ [the mobile community of God functioning and flowing in all areas of society] if we can’t get past ‘how can our church function unless someone is pastoring it?’ then we still have a long way to go! NOTE: My ‘spell check’ is prophetic. When I wrote the word ‘unbiblical’ above, it actually fixed it on it’s own to say ‘umbilical [cord]’ we cant seem to ‘break’ the ‘childish’ connections that we have towards these ‘lifelong ties’ to a ‘Pastor’. God never intended any of his gifted ones to be the ‘lifelong’ overseer of anybody. These gifts [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers] were all given to play a role at various times in your development to bring you to maturity, none of them were to fulfill the co-dependant role that the protestant office of ‘the Pastor’ has become! I think ‘umbilical cord’ was probably the right word! [Sorry, but I just couldn’t help it!]

(450) I was listening to a preacher telling his testimony. I have seen and read his writings before, but never heard him speak. The opinion I had from seeing/reading him was one of a very motivated professional minister. Nothing wrong, just the ‘jet set’ highly mobile successful mega church image. An image that often times is hard for the average person to relate to, though they are still very successful and accomplishing good things in the kingdom. As I finally heard him speak he sounded so much like me. He shared how he grew up in the 70’s, got high, listened to rock music and went to ‘deep purple’ concerts; it was a very real sounding testimony. You almost had the feeling of the voice not fitting the person [I know people feel this way when they see me too. I do not look, or come off as someone who teaches on radio and writes books and stuff]. The point I am making is sometimes the ‘environment’ of professional ministry hinders the ‘realness’ that God intended for the gospel to have. Jesus was very real and human in his lifestyle. Very different from the image/persona of religious leadership. There was no sense of ‘watch what you say, the Pastor is here’ type thing. I think it would do us good if we can be real people with real struggles with real friends. The unbelieving world has so many questions, but the ‘church world’ is so unapproachable that they look elsewhere for the answers. NOTE; In the early church Christianity was not a separate field or vocation like it is today. Today Christianity is a ‘world/business’ unto itself. While God did intend the church to influence all areas of society, he didn’t intend the church to have its own ‘culture’ of Christian things [Christian restaurants, Christian mechanics, Christian bookstores, and on and on] while these types of things are well intentioned, we unconsciously create a separate culture when we do this. The early believers lived and functioned as real people in society, even the Apostles! [Tent makers]. We sort of have developed a society within the church that has young believers seeing ‘the ministry’ as a profession. ‘God has called me to start a [some Christian function] ministry’ and then you have an entire sector of society whose profession and identity becomes defined by ‘full time Christian service’. The New Testament teaches whatever a person is doing as a vocation, he is serving Christ. It does a disservice to the testimony of believers when we make these secular/holy divisions. Christians are to discern between what is evil and what is good, but this does not mean we withdraw from the marketplace of influence, it also does not mean that we influence the market place by ‘Christian stuff’ [holding huge Christian festivals that draw millions of dollars, trying to show the world that we have influence. This really isn’t influence. Though millions are being spent, it is money basically generated by a ‘vacation/tourism’ mentality. While it is beneficial for believers to have times of refreshing, this type of economic impact is not the same as believers actually being owners of the motels and the other establishments that are benefiting from the festival type atmosphere]. I hope you can see what I am saying. It’s OK for a T.D. Jakes to do a ‘mega fest’ but this is not primarily what the scriptures are referring to when it speaks of believers affecting the world by ‘remaining in it’. We affect it by actually being the ‘prime movers’ and shakers in all areas. We carry the Spirit of God within us, we speak the gospel of hope to those around us, and we interact successfully with society, we don’t ‘withdraw’ into some ‘full time ministry’ mentality that causes the church to always appeal for funds [when I say church, I mean believers] because we feel like God has called us to not be employed and instead to make our living by offerings, this really is not a viable Christian

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