.CAN WE WEAR SHORT, SHORTS?
.THE ATHEIST KNEW
NEW NOTES BELOW-
. ON EATING MEAT [I wrote this commentary years ago- so I added some recent notes below].
.DAVID KORESH- KING CYRUS?
.RETHINKING HOMELESS MINISTRY.
.TIMOTHY CHAPTER 6]
(869)ROMANS 14:1-9 Paul discusses Christian convictions. Things that are personal habits of discipline where the scripture is silent on. Some believers abstain from certain types of food. Others see certain days as ‘more special’ than the others. It’s important to see that in this discussion Paul is not concerned with ‘who is right’. Though he will describe the legalistic believers as ‘weak in the faith’. And he himself will say he is convinced that ‘nothing is unclean in and of itself’. He is speaking about the convictions mentioned above. When I first became a believer I attended a good church. It was a Fundamental Baptist church that was a little legalistic in these areas. I remember a funny story, some of the brothers went on a canoe trip. We had a blast. One of the guys was wearing these old cut off shorts that looked like ‘blue jean hot pants’ [who wears short shorts, we wear short shorts!] the pants were old and the ‘fly’ kept unzipping. We told the brother ‘hey James, your gonna get us arrested or something if you can’t keep your shorts on!’. He got mad and called us a bunch of legalists! As you can see there are times where this accusation can simply be an excuse. But seriously the church was old fashioned [though well meaning]. I had another friend of mine that I led to the Lord and he asked ‘what’s wrong with the Christian rock, I like it’? He had heard some songs from the group Petra and he thought they were great. He also questioned why it was wrong for his boys to play mixed sports in public school. He was taught that the boys and girls wearing shorts in mixed company was wrong. So things like this are personal convictions that believers should not use to judge others. I want to stress that Paul does not condemn the more legalistic brothers, but he does make it clear that this is a sign of ‘weaker faith’. A faith that looks at the insignificant things and makes them significant. Many ‘Emergent’ church folk [of which I am one to a degree] seem to have had this type of background. Or at least are familiar with the classic evangelical message and preaching. Some have found a revolution in their thinking by re-organizing their lives around the actual lifestyle and teachings of Christ [which is a very good thing!]. But some seem to despise the older type churches and expressions of Christianity that they experienced while growing up. Some even cast away the good with the bad! Though many of the more legalistic churches practiced this type of Christianity, yet I commend them on spreading the gospel of Gods grace. Taking seriously their faith in the Lord. And being historic defenders of the faith at a time when the more liberal universities were throwing out the baby with the bathwater [the 20th century fundamentalist movement].
(870)ROMANS 14: 10-23 ‘As I live…every knee shall bow and every tongue confess’. Paul teaches that we will all give an account of ourselves to God. He shows that one of the proofs that ‘he lives’ rides on this fact. How? The context of every one giving an account of his life is speaking of a future judgment day. But we also see the reality of Gods existence in the fact that most people [even atheists!] have at one time or another ‘spoken to God’. I was listening [or reading?] a testimony of a woman who was an atheist. Her child became critically ill and as the days went by in the hospital she had a conversation that went like this ‘I cant pray to God now. I would be a hypocrite. I have denied him my whole life’. The point is she actually knew that in time of need you should pray to God. This universal reality that most people on the planet have at one time or another ‘confessed to God’ is proof of his existence. Paul says because of this fact that we all will give an account to God, therefore don’t judge other people [motives] before the time. If you have the freedom to ‘eat meat’ [less legalistic] then by all means do so. But if this freedom causes another to stumble, then your first priority as a Christian is to live your life in an unselfish way for the benefit of others. So do not let your freedom become an offence to those who have ‘weaker faith’. Do all things with the benefit of others in mind. When Paul says ‘don’t judge your brother’ he is not saying there is never a time for correction and reproof. Paul used very harsh language when dealing with the Judaizers. These Jewish legalists did believe in Christ, they just mixed the law in with the gospel. Paul rebuked them harshly [just like Jesus and the religious leaders of his day]. But when dealing with new believers, those who are ‘weaker in the faith’ you don’t want to overload them with too much stuff. You want them to grow and mature in the proper time. If you used to be legalistic [not going to movies, not eating pork, all types of stuff] and now are more mature in your thinking [though some movies are bad and pork isn’t real good for you!] you should not despise those who still see the practice of their faith thru this lens. Paul said ‘he that eats, eats unto the Lord. He that abstains does it also to the lord’. In these less important restrictions that some believers abide by, most of the times their motives are pure. We shouldn’t demean them. We should try to live peaceably with all men as much as possible, we will all give an account some day.
IS EATING MEAT OK?
The question of food and Holy Days are a subject that the Apostle Paul deals with more than one time in his letters to the churches.
For us today- it might not seem like a big issue- but for various reasons it was an issue for the 1st century church.
When he wrote the church at Corinth- their issue was whether or not it was ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
Corinth had a tradition [non-Christian that is] where the town folk would sacrifice animals to various ‘gods’.
Now- the priests who dealt in this trade- would take the leftover meat from the animal- and either eat it- or sell it to the local ‘butcher’.
These sacrifices were to false gods [also understood to be demon entities by the 1st century Jewish/Christian communities].
So- the question was- is it ok to eat the meat?
The apostle Paul tells them that we know there are no other gods but the true God- and meat in general is ok for us living under the New Covenant [he also says in the End Times some will command to not eat meat- and that God gave us all animals to be received with thanksgiving].
So- in general- the meat was fine.
But- if doing it offends a weaker brother- then don’t eat it.
Meat also played a big role in another sense- the Jewish converts to Christianity were indeed taught kosher rules for food/meat.
Were these converts not to obey their old religious rules about food?
We read of this type of debate all thru the New testament- not just about meat- but about the whole transition of the Jewish believers- and their relationship to the Old Law.
In Acts chapter 13- and 15 you can get a good feel of this debate.
There are Christians today who still struggle with the Old Law- and how we today should relate to it.
Paul says he is persuaded that there is nothing unclean in and of itself [here talking about food- not things like adultery- which some of my friends think is ok- I can’t stress enough that when the bible says ‘nothing is unclean in and of itself’- it is NEVER TALKING ABOUT BREAKING THE 10 COMMANDMENTS].
So- in the end- if in areas of what we call Christian convictions- it’s simply a matter of choice-
If the bible is silent on an issue- then lean towards grace-
But- if your freedom hurts your brother- because he thinks it’s a bad thing- then be willing to abstain from it- like eating the meat that was sacrificed to the idol- at least while their around.
Some see a contradiction in Paul's teaching- at one point he says ‘meats ok- even if part of it was used as a sacrifice to idols’- yet he also says ‘don’t eat at THE TABLE with devils [demons]’.
Ok- one of the practices at the city of Corinth was you ate in a sort of ‘demonic’ Eucharist- those who worshiped false gods had a sort of meal like Christians celebrated- which we call Holy Communion.
These idol worshippers did sort of the same thing- they ate together at their own TABLE_ in a sort of celebration of their gods-
So- Paul did forbid this practice- he told the church at Corinth you cannot eat at the table of the Lord and the table of devils-
If you were actually participating at the Table- eating the meat there- in celebration of the false god- then it’s wrong.
But- if you simply bought some of the left over meat- at the local butcher- that was fine.
No contradiction at all.
KING CYRUS- DAVIVD KORESH?
Paul uses a quote from Isaiah 45 ‘every knee shall bow- tongue confess’ – talking about God using a pagan king- King Cyrus- to restore Israel to their land.
We read about him in the book of Ezra and Daniel-
He gave the famous decree for God’s people to return to their land [2nd Chronicles 36, Ezra 1].
Josephus the historian indicates that Cyrus was shown the prophecy about him [written by Isaiah about 150 years before].
It’s possible that Daniel himself showed this to Cyrus- being he held a high position in the Persian empire- at this time.
David Koresh- the infamous leader of the branch Davidians [a breakaway sect from the 7TH day Adventist church] took his name from Cyrus-
Koresh is the Persian name for Cyrus the Great.
.IS THIS ABOUT US GETTING STUFF?
.WHO ‘RAN’ THE CHURCH?
.WHAT WAS PAUL’S SERVICE TO THE CHURCH?
(871)ROMANS 15:1-7 ‘we then that are strong [more mature] ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves’. In Philippians we have the ‘KENOSIS’ the act of Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not something to be used for his own advantage. He did not see his purpose in the kingdom as one of ‘let’s find out our rights in the covenant and posses what’s rightfully ours’. A few years back it was common to hear ‘God told me his people don’t have a problem with giving [oh really?] but they need to learn how to receive’. While there might be a ‘speck’ of truth in this, the overall ethos of the kingdom [according to Jesus and Paul] is ‘we are not here to please ourselves, but give up our rights and blessings for the purpose of pleasing others’ [building them up, edifying them]. Paul makes this statement right after the chapter on Christian convictions. He shows us that even if we are right on a particular issue, it is ‘more right’ to not offend or put a stumbling block in our brother’s path. It is possible to ‘be right’ in a particular doctrine or truth, and yet ‘be wrong’ in that we might have used it in a way that destroyed the purpose of God in building others up. Many in the church [at large!] have unwittingly ‘tore down’ the poor and oppressed by seeking ‘their own pleasure’. Many overseas countries have been hurt by the amount of pleasure seeking doctrines that went into their countries. Many 3rd world Pastors gave sacrificially out of their extreme poverty to rich American ‘pleasure seekers’ and their poor people suffered greatly when they did not get a literal 100 fold return as was promised. Paul said ‘we that are strong ought to help the weak, and not please ourselves’.
(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.
(873)ROMANS 15: 15-20 Paul appeals to his apostolic authority as ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’ in defense of his strong letter. He also says ‘I dare not use any thing that Christ has not wrought by me to make the Gentiles obedient’. Was Paul saying he would not speak about his past testimony and struggles with sin? I don’t think so. He already spoke of these struggles in this letter [chapter 7]. If you keep reading he says ‘thru mighty signs and wonders, by the power of Gods Spirit’. If you read Galatians, Paul says ‘how did you receive the Spirit, by the works of the law or the hearing of faith’ [P.S. for those still stuck on chapter 10 of Romans, see here how Paul saw the passive hearing as the only outward sign of receiving the Spirit- not calling!] here Paul appeals to the Galatians and says they received the Spirit and God wrought miracles among them [mighty signs and wonders] thru faith. In Acts we saw how the primary purpose of the charismatic signs and wonders was for the proclaiming of the gospel. The signs testify of Jesus being the Messiah. So here in Romans I think Paul is simply saying ‘I will not resort to the preaching of the law’, the main tool used by the Judaizers to try and gain ‘obedience’ among the Gentiles in order to make the Gentiles obedient [these are the things that Christ has not wrought by him. They represented Paul's past experience in Judaism]. But instead he will declare the gospel of God’s grace. He will lean on the Cross of Christ as the functional tool to ‘bring obedience to the Gentiles’.
(874)ROMANS 15: 20-33 ‘Now I go 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
.HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE?
.DID THE EARLY CHURCH BELIEVE THE RAPTURE?
.SHOULD WE ‘PREACH’ AT ALL?
(875)ROMANS 16- Some debate the ‘canonicity’ of this chapter. They feel that all the personal greetings from Paul are too personal. Let’s talk a little about the Canon [inspiration of the scriptures]. First, I am a ‘bible believing Christian’ who holds to the historic doctrine of scripture. But you do have varying views on what the historic doctrine is. I hold to the idea that God never intended for the letters that were written in the first century, which have become our New Testament, to be writings that were pulled out of time. That is the writers had to have been writing with a contextual purpose in mind. The recipients of the letters had to have had some type of practical instructions that they could wrap their minds around. So for John to say something to the seven churches in Asia Minor [Revelation] it was just common sense that the actual recipients of the letters would expect something practical for their day. This of course does not mean there are no further applications or instructions for us today, but we need to have a more personal understanding of the give and take between the Apostles and the people they were writing to. So this is how I think we should view the personal stuff in the Canon. This also needs to be understood when interpreting scripture. I have made the argument before for the 1st century belief in Christ’s literal second coming. I have also taught how the early church had no concept of a Rapture that was separated from the return of Christ. The event spoken of by Paul in Thessalonians chapter 4 is a real thing that takes place at Christ’s return. We get ‘caught up to meet him in the air’. Now how confusing would it be for the first century readers of Paul's letters, to have one letter that speaks of a second coming, and another that spoke of a rapture? It would be next to impossible to have any coherent view of scripture if they did stuff like this. You could then make an argument for any doctrine. There would be no coherent thinking if you were living in Thessalonica and read a letter from Paul that used the same terminology about the return of Christ as he used in a letter to the Corinthians. And if you relocated to Corinth and said ‘Oh, yes. Paul wrote to us about the resurrection and return of Jesus. But when he wrote to us he was speaking of the rapture, but when he wrote to you he was talking about a different event called the second coming’. This type of thinking would have been disastrous for the early church. They were all receiving letters from Paul that contained basic truth. The fact that these letters were not included in an entire collection [as we have today] leads us to believe that the basic message had to stay the same in all of these letters, or else you would have had havoc in the early church.
(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.
RETHINKING HOMELESS MINISTRY
SUNDAY- On the way to church I figured I would stop for gas at the station where I used to help with the halfway house.
I pulled into the Stripes off Laredo Street- kind of a bad area in our city- known for drug problems.
I saw 2 homeless guys at the coffee area-
I offered to buy them their coffee- they said thanks, but they had the money.
So I thought it might have sounded a bit strange for me to offer to buy- I said ‘I worked with the homeless for years- that’s why I offered’.
Sure enough- one guy said ‘Yeah- I know you from the mission’.
I didn’t even know these guys.
About a month ago the same thing happened when I went into a discount store- an older guy said ‘hi John’.
‘Do I know you’?
‘Yeah- I’m Paul- I know you from the streets’.
Jesus in his ‘end time’ judgment scenarios says he will say at the judgment to those who have done right- you get in.
How did he describe the righteous?
‘If you have done good to the least of these- you did it to me’.
As he tells the story- he says the righteous will say ‘when did we feed you- help you- visit you’.
He says when you did it to the least of these-you did it to me.
They didn’t even know- remember- that they did what he wanted.
In the video I talked about my last incident that happened last week at the mission.
Yeah- I have been struggling with moving on from the many years of street ministry- but it is time to move on for various reasons [not just what I shared in the video at the end].
Ministries that serve the homeless- they do a good thing- I’ve done it for 25 years or more.
Yet- these last few years I have told the guys- up and up- that the problem is they need to stop using drugs- drinking- stealing- all the criminal stuff they do- on a regular basis.
Now- Jesus and the New Testament speak a lot about the poor- and defend the poor.
But- the bible also says ‘If a man will not work- he should not eat’.
The poor that Jesus and the bible defend are those who are in need- not because they are committing crimes- or are too lazy to work-
But in need because of circumstances beyond their control.
In Paul’s pastoral letters [Timothy- Titus] criteria are given for the poor who are ‘worthy’ of assistance.
These are widows and children and those who are in poverty because of no fault of their own.
These are the poor that the bible teaches us to help.
But what I see in my 25 years of working with homeless ministries- is they are simply enabling these guys to keep on sinning- or enabling them to not work.
Many receive disability- and are In better shape than me!
Their checks go to drugs- out and out.
The bible does not have a type of ‘ministry’ that preaches to drug users- criminals- etc.- year after year after year- without also preaching repentance.
It might feel good for the homeless/street preachers [of which I am/have been one for 25 years] to keep doing it.
Because it keeps us occupied- and feels good.
But- we have to re-evaluate if we are simply enabling the street guys to continue living criminal lives.
In the end- they too will have to give an account for their lives- and it would be wrong for us- the street preachers- to have not made a real effort to tell them that something needs to change- and fast.
On the video I mentioned a talk I had with a guy at the flea market- I quoted from this chapter below- thought I would paste it to this post-
It really gives a good balance for us today.
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work , neither . 2nd Thes.3:101Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
1Timothy 6:2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
1Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
1Timothy 6:4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
1Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
1Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
1Timothy 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
1Timothy 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1Timothy 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1Timothy 6:13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;
1Timothy 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1Timothy 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
1Timothy 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
1Timothy 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
1Timothy 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
1Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
1Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
1Timothy 6:21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John.#