Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Church

I am going to attempt to describe something very amazing; possibly the most amazing thing of all history (with the exception of Jesus' coming of course).  With that said, I must also say - I'm going to fail.  Hindsight is 20/20, but this isn't hindsight.  I am going to attempt to describe the newest thing in Christianity, what I call 'New Church'.  That's all I can call it, because this church really does not have a name.  This is an invisible church within the broader Church.  Here goes my best.

Before I describe New Church I must describe Old Church to give it more clarity against a backdrop.  Old Church can be summarized with the big three - Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox.  Of the three, Protestant and Catholic are the most visible.  The Roman Catholic Church is a behemoth.  Of all Christian churches this is the most organized church.  Its also quite clear that the RCC has problems.  Everyone knows about the child molestation scandals that have been going on.  Its really no surprise considering all the evil that has dripped down over that church coming from the Papacy, like sewage on a wedding dress.  The other major church, or group of churches, that I'll describe is the Protestant churches.  I'll be very general rather than trying to detail all the peculiar churches.  The Protestant Church, in general, does nothing much but protest.  It seems that they have never gone past protesting the Catholics to attesting Jesus Christ.  You'll find many different names labeling Protestant churches, but good luck finding the most important name - Jesus Christ.  Good luck finding one Protestant church that is actively carrying out Jesus' commands.  A good word to summarize this church is 'asleep'.  Maybe that's harsh but I could be even more harsh.  I could say what Jesus said: "you are dead".  This is an overview of the Christian churches that this generation has been offered.  Its not good!  Its no wonder that we have so many atheists and agnostics!  But before you fall into a pit of despair, let me describe the ray of hope that is breaking through - let me describe New Church.

New Church is an infant, which is what makes it so hard to notice and impossible to name.  It is not encompassed in a denomination.  It does not have an official name.  It does not meet in a designated building, and sometimes its members do not go to church at all.  However, it has been given an 'open door'.  Just like an infant, New Church is weak.  This church does not have the power to organize a protest.  This church has more desire to give money than money to give.  This church includes sinners (oh no!).  This church is altogether weak and unnoticed, much like a baby in a manger.  But New Church believes the Bible.  Its members are hardcore biblical and demand nothing less - sticklers for the word of God.  We believe that the Bible is the single most powerful weapon in a Christian's arsenal.  When you add this incredible God-given weapon to the 'open door', an incredible God-given opportunity, you start to see that this infant is about to turn the world upside-down.  New Church members love Jesus - simply love Jesus.  We don't care about particular doctrines, especially when they're not true, nor denomination or church membership or church structure or any of those other details that can be so distracting.  New Church will profess her love for Jesus and that's that!  And we're not afraid to say we wholeheartedly love Jesus in a world that hates him - even if any one of us were the only one of us - praise God and be martyred!  We do care about the truth but won't let lies distract us from our primary purpose in life - to worship God.  Instead, we destroy the lies as quick as possible using our gifts from God - the Bible and the 'open door'.

What is the 'open door'?  You're using it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nova Roma

Lots of ideas in the air.  Plenty of art.  A fatigued society that would do something or go somewhere if they just knew what.  You might think I'm describing America, but actually its the Roman Empire.  Many people do not realize just how much like Rome America is.  The product of greatness.  Really Rome was, as America is, the greatest greatness the world has seen.  You could say its the best men can do.  But after men have done their best, then what?  Greatness turns into a blind groping for direction.  After you've climbed Mt. Everest what do you climb?  The atheists would say that atheism is the next mountain to climb.  We've already climbed Christianity - been there, done that.  But have we really?  It was not Christianity that built Rome but paganism.  It was Christianity that gave Rome new life.  You could say that without Christianity Rome would not have lasted for the last three centuries of its life.

At the time when Christianity hit the Roman Empire the Empire was in much the same place America is now: Directionless.  Any decent paganism was deteriorating into demon worship.  The Greeks had added much great philosophy to the world, but then Greece slowly became a whorehouse for any kind of new senselessness.  There was nothing new even when people were always looking for something new.  Jaded is the perfect word to describe such a society.  Then Christianity came like a light in a dark place, like an oasis in the desert.  Christianity was the new thing that Rome needed, desperately needed.  It was fought against, sure, but what people miss is that if it were fought against there must have been plenty of people taking hold of it.  Christianity was well hated even while it was most dear to people.  It was most dear to people, people being killed for it, because there was nothing else that could fill them.  All the pagan gods or Greek philosophies could not fill the soul.  Christianity could.

The atheists say atheism is a new thing but that's not one bit true.  Atheism really is paganism and paganism really is atheism.  Do you think the Greeks were so foolish to actually think Zeus was a real god?  They knew, just as well as we do now, that these were myths.  Sure, they learned something from their myths and they paid tribute to them, but they didn't actually believe these gods were God.  Their religion wasn't a religion at all.  Their belief in gods was the same as our belief in Santa or Peter Pan.  Their belief was basically that there was no God, or that they didn't know who God is, or that they couldn't know.  The Jews were keeping their secret very well.  Then, all of a sudden, with the coming of Christ, that secret of the Jews was unleashed upon the world.  Many people have no idea what an impact Christianity had on the Roman Empire; it turned it upside-down.

Today there are some, consciously or subconsciously, who are calling for a Nova Roma, or a Religio Romana.  That is, a return to Rome before Christianity.  Well, they got it.  There's no need to make a call for it, because its already here.  America is already a very pagan nation.  You could call it whatever you want: atheism, paganism, or you can call it what it really is - paganism with the pretension of Christianity.  They are all the same.  They are all paganism, just like Rome before Christianity.  And just like Rome before Christianity, many Americans, especially young people, are searching for something real.  They're searching for something solid and meaningful; something that answers all the important questions and won't compromise for nothing.  Christianity is it.  There is nothing but Jesus Christ to fill this desire, though its actually a need.  We already live in Nova Roma.  I'm calling for New Christianity.  New, but actually old - the Christianity that the Apostles practiced.  The Christianity that filled the soul's desire of so many Romans.  The Christianity that turned the Roman Empire upside-down.

Love One Another

One of the very great things that makes the Church of Jesus Christ different from any other is love.  Not the fanciful sentimental kind of love, but the real love, the crazy love, the love that sometimes hurts.  We are required to love each other.  We are commanded to love each other.  If anyone calling themself Christian does not love his brother, then that man stands thoroughly condemned.  A good example is the example of the good Samaritan.  In this story love is portrayed as a caring action.  One man is in need and another man has the ability to meet that need.  It is required that he does.  It is not an option to not.  Its not something you do only when convenient.  Its something you must do as a Christian.  Another example of love is rebuking a brother when you see something clearly wrong.  These are the times when love hurts.  This statement sums up the spirit: 'I love you enough to not let you remain evil like you are'.  Its no coincidence that God loves us in the same way.

Now this brings me to a fallacy that must be addressed.  Love is not simply being nice and unoffensive.  At times that is the very opposite of love.  For example: How could you truly love someone, know that their life is leading them to hell, and not warn them?  That's like knowing that someone is going to break their leg tomorrow and not giving them a call to warn them.  Its become such an American idea, and often an American Christian idea, that we must always be nice and try to not upset the 'peace'.  If that is so then why did Jesus clearly upset the peace when he overthrew tables?  Or the simple fact that Jesus said he came to bring division, not peace.  Peace, true peace, is something much different than what many think.  Its something on the inside, in the soul, but that's another discussion.  I just want to make it abundantly clear and dispel this myth of a nice-love connection.  Certainly sometimes love requires that we be nice, but not always.  There is such a thing as 'tough love'.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hollow Morality

What good is it to teach that a person should or shouldn't do this thing or that thing if there is no basis for it?  What if you can't answer the question: Why?  Would you expect the people you teach this morality to to follow it?  Whether you expect it or not, they're probably not going to follow it.

Morality must have a basis for it.  Morality must be filled with something, something to motivate people to follow it.  This has been the problem with so many Christian churches over the years.  Christians have had the idea that all that needs to be taught is the rights and the wrongs.  But without teaching the more important stuff, like why something is right or wrong, this results in an empty set of rules that younger generations are inevitably going to rebel against.  The unfortunate thing is that they rebel against Christ at the same time.  The really unfortunate thing is that the rules which are taught are hardly ever the rules that Christ would have taught.  So younger generations rebel against religion, specifically Christianity, without even knowing that its not Christianity that they're rebelling against.  Its a hollow morality that makes young atheists.  Its a morality that is insufficient and barely even conforms to Scripture.  Its pastors focusing on insignificant things while ignoring the most important things.  In most churches it would be better if the pastor just got up and read Scripture and nothing else.

Now what should morality be based on?  The answer is obvious and easy, but the reason is something that many Christians may not have thought of.  Morality must be based solidly on the Bible.  I say that and I mean that.  If someone says something is wrong but has no Scripture to back it up, I say bullhonky.  We must read the Bible.  We must believe the Bible.  We must understand the Bible, and teach the Bible just as it is, not subtracting or adding anything.  The reason the Bible must be the basis for a real morality, that people really will follow, is that its possible to get a person to believe the Bible.  Nobody really believes the Koran, not even Muslims.  Nobody really believes Confucius or any eastern philosophy, not even easterners.  Good luck trying to find one fundamentalist atheist.  But the Bible - that is something that a skeptic can believe.  Really, an honest skeptic who does an honest search for truth, is forced to believe the Bible.  Apologetics is what I'm talking about.  You can get someone to fully believe the Bible by appealing to their interest in facts and their love for reason.  Facts, reason, a convincing argument - these are ideals that every human being seeks in searching for an answer.  There is no need to do the gimmicky religious stuff, or make use of unreasonable fear.  You could scare someone into searching for the truth, but that's all it takes.  You do not need to scare someone into blindly believing a Christian (though often "Christian") set of doctrines.  You simply need to show them that the Bible really is true, which isn't that hard to do.  From there its a simple matter of teaching morality based on the Bible.  Simple.  Really it is simple.

The Bible is Not Perfect

I'm sure there's many people calling themselves Christians that like to believe the Bible is perfect, that its infallible.  On the other side we have plenty of agnostics and atheists that say if there be just one mistake in the Bible then it is proven wrong.  These two sides seem to be the two loudest voices on the subject, and unfortunately they drown out good sense, along with the correct view.  The Bible is not infallible and the Bible is neither wrong.

First I must show that Bible is not perfect.  This really is a simple matter that anyone with a Bible, who knows where to look, can find unanswerable contradictions.  An easy example is 2Samuel 10:18 and 1Chronicles 19:18.  In Samuel it says 'seven hundred of their charioteers', but in Chronicles it says 'seven thousand of their charioteers'.  There are other examples like this one.  Here's an atheistic site giving you their list of contradictions:  Here's an apologetic site giving you their explanations:  The atheists and agnostics will say that there are all kinds of contradictions.  What they call contradictions, though, are not all contradictions.  There are many paradoxes in the Bible, and many contradictions that can easily be explained.  But not every contradiction can be explained; there are some that are actually valid contradictions.  To say that the Bible is simply infallible makes a person sound simply ignorant.  To say that the Bible is infallible in its original autographs sounds like rationalism.  But to say that the Bible is very good but not perfect, that to me sounds reasonable.

As I have mentioned already (and anyone that knows me will already know), the Bible is accurate and trustworthy.  To a Christian not inclined to call it infallible, calling it the best revelation of God is very close to the mark.  Whatever mistakes there are in the Bible are insignificant in their meaning, just like the one mentioned above.  The Bible has evidential support in many ways.  There is more manuscript evidence supporting its authenticity than any other historical document.  The consistency of all the manuscripts is remarkable, with about a 97% consistency out of thousands of manuscripts.  There is a story and a meaning that stretches throughout all 66 books.  Archaeology has confirmed numerous background details.  And prophecies have been fulfilled.  I could go into further detail with all that, but it wasn't my plan to do so with this note.  Suffice to say, I strongly believe the Bible.  I'm sure, though, some ignorant literalist will think I'm a kind of heretic or whatever.

This leads us to a very important question: If the Bible is true but not perfect, then why would an omnipotent God make the word of His revelation imperfect?  He has the ability to make it perfect, so why not?  There's a very reasonable answer to it, the kind that makes people go 'oh'.  If the Bible were perfect, then people would worship it instead of God.  Only God is perfect.  None of God's creations are perfect, including the Bible.  And we all know that idolatry is a sin of the worst kind.  So it makes sense that God intentionally made it so that the Bible is not perfect, and it makes even more sense when considering a few other relevant facts.  As mentioned before, the Bible is 66 books (the number 6 has meaning in the Bible).  As mentioned elsewhere, the Bible is written by men, fallible men.  God did not write a single letter of even the original autographs.  God did write, by His finger, the Ten Commandments on stone, but those, after being placed in the Ark, were mysteriously lost (at the time of the first siege of Jerusalem).  It doesn't seem like much of a mystery to me, but I'll leave it to your imagination.  I hope I have made it sufficiently clear that I do have good reason to say that the Bible is not perfect.  It seems that many Christians consider it tantamount to attacking Christianity or the Bible altogether.  That is not what I am doing.  If anyone is inclined to suggest that I am, I will be glad to show that I can Bible battle with the best of them (at least put up a decent fight).  I can even use the Bible to show that there are good grounds to say that the Bible is not perfect, nor was it meant to be.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Possibility of Impossibility

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26

We've all heard of the omnipotence of God; that He has the power to do all things.  You may have heard a philosophical question raised about this idea.  You may have heard someone say something like 'Can God make an omelet so hot that He can't eat it?'  To that I answer with 'Yes!'  But of course, if God can do anything then it seems that He couldn't make an omelet so hot that he can't eat it.  The question sets up God's omnipotence to be self contradictory.  But there really is an explanation to my 'Yes' answer, which I will now try my best at.

God is one but not just one.  Its the paradox of the trinity that I am talking about.  God is one, but He has manifested Himself in three Persons.  There is no doubt that the Bible consistently reveals the heavenly Father as being omnipotent.  With the Son, however, that is not the case.  Mark 6:5 reads 'He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them'.  In Matthew 24:36 Jesus says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  And in John 14:28 He says, "for the Father is greater than I".  So we see clearly, even from the words of Jesus, that the Son of God does not have the same omnipotence that the Father has.  This leads me to give this childlike answer to the question above: God the Father can make an omelet so hot that God the Son cannot eat it.  And since the Father and the Son are one (John 10:30), it is correct to say: 'Yes, God can make an omelet so hot that He can't eat it'.

Now I'm sure there's someone out there thinking I just did something sacrilegious or whatever.  People want to believe that Jesus is omnipotent and equal with the Father, but if you just read the Bible and simply believe what it says, you will see that that is not the case.  Really, it doesn't matter which one's greater, or even that one is greater, because they are two in one, or three in one.  Jesus said "I and the Father are one".  So do you think He really lessened Himself by saying "The Father is greater than I"?  If you think about it, you see that for God to be truly omnipotent and infinite, it makes sense for Him to make Himself also finite.  An infinite God can be finite too; that's the essence of being omnipotent; able to do anything, or be anything (even being finite while still being infinite).

Now I must finish with one final word.  This whole thing is fun for the brain, but I don't believe it would be healthy for a Christian to take these things too seriously.  There are going to be plenty of things about God that we humans simply cannot understand.  That is why the Bible must be read with a sense of spirit and not technicality.  Whether this detail or that detail is true or not true really doesn't matter.  The truths that are important, and that God wanted us to understand, are clearly laid out in the Bible.  All the other questions, the details that are not so clear, we can ponder, but should beware of putting too much weight on any conclusion we come to.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Like a Thief in the Night

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  Revelation 3:3

Christians on Facebook are best described as a pack of ravenous wolves.  One wolf would not be very threatening, but when one becomes twenty-one, then the prey should beware.  Christians are like this.  Before Facebook came along and gave every person with a keyboard and a connection the ability to talk to every other such person (efficiently too) each Christian was a wolf without a pack.  Now we are in a pack.  Now we are getting ourselves really worked up.  We're sharpening our fangs and looking for prey.  The thing is, there is so much prey about!  More than we can handle, but that's not a bad problem to have.

Maybe the wolf analogy didn't sit too well.  Ok, let me continue with a tornado analogy.  Everyone knows that a tornado is a twisting menace.  Turning about, it lays waste to anything in its path.  The key to its power is that it moves in such tight circles.  Each breeze feeds another breeze, which then becomes a gust feeding other gusts.  The tornado turns faster and faster, stronger and stronger.  It is a cataclysm of catastrophe, centered on a revolving center.  Christians use their connections, pages or whatever else to edify each other.  By adding every little breeze (not from a mouth but from a keyboard) the Christians on Facebook have created a tornado.  And from a tight fast twisting center the wind goes outward.  But then there is so much air that doesn't get turned about.  Imagine an atmosphere of nothing but tornado!

Ok, so the wolves seem too obscene and a tornado is too destructive.  These are not good ways to describe Christians.  Alright then, I'll try better with this final analogy: a thief.  Christians represent their master on earth, just like ambassadors represent other countries.  We all know that Christ, the Master of all Christians, comes like a thief.  So Christians, at times, come like a bunch of thieves too.  With Facebook being the great big house that it is, Christians have been able to enter without notice.  We have snuck in through an unlocked window like a thief in the night.  We have definite intentions, but it would, of course, be a crime to reveal those intentions.  Just try to protect little Bobby from us if you can.  We do, afterall, fish for men.

Just like a fire, which causes light in dark places, the Spirit of God starts small.  But whenever you have a small fire, even just the flame of a match, and a bunch of fuel to burn, that fire gets bigger.  Before long the fire has consumed everything; the whole forest has burned down.  And the light shines bright when the forest is on fire.  Night turns into day, and it started with just one simple flame.  Of course the fire and the light do not come of their own, but there is a force that drives it.  God's Spirit is an unstoppable force that is invading the world.  The world belongs to Satan, but only for the moment.  God is invading just like the thief invades a house, and this thief cannot be stopped.  What now is Satan's will one day be God's.  The thief will steal the whole house!

Living and Loving

Its quite often that you hear preachers talk about love.  And there's a common phrase being passed around the Christian arena: "Its not a religion but a relationship".  People talk about the Holy Spirit as if its sole reason for being is that you can love God and be in relationship.  People talk about relationship with God as if that's all there is.  I can sympathize with the sentiment, but I believe these people are very clearly missing something; many somethings in fact.

How often does Jesus talk about relationship?  It may be a surprise to some that Jesus never once talks about having a relationship with God.  Let me repeat: Not once in the four gospels or elsewhere does Jesus talk about having a relationship with God.  He talks about being with God a good bit.  He talks about loving God some.  He talks about obeying God's commands a lot.  But he never talks about relationship.  What does he talk about?  Life.  Living, the thing we do every day.  Something much more basic and much more important than relationship.  How can you have a relationship if you're not alive?  And being alive, spiritually alive, means being born again, which is a process.  Jesus teaches his disciples so that they could live in the Spirit.  He gives them the Spirit.  It is with his words and the Holy Spirit that we can have life.  And spiritual life is not opposed to physical life; its an add on.  Just like God, being supernatural, is not opposed to nature, but he made it and he is above it.  Spiritual life is above physical life, but it is through physical life, and physical experiences, that we gain spiritual life.

All of this starts with faith.  You believe the Bible is true?  Good!  Read it.  Learn from it.  Doesn't that progression make sense?  And through reading the Bible, a physical act, we gain knowledge of God, who is spiritual, and thus spiritual life.  You believe that God is real?  Good!  Get down on your knees and pray.  You are not today who you need to be to enter heaven (without entering heaven, relationship with God is impossible), and without God's help you can do nothing.  Prayer is another physical act that starts with faith and ends with spiritual life.  Obey God's commands, that's as important as anything.  Fresh water and salt water do not come from the same spring.  You don't have the spirit of God when your action, or inaction, is serving Satan.  You see, it is through real everyday actions, by a real and reasonable faith, that a spiritual life grows.

Without this spiritual life, relationship is just a word.  And religion, though it may also be just a word, is something much more primal; more oriented towards life (assuming that its true Christian religion).  Religion, and all of God's teachings, are the things we understand first, long before we will ever understand what it means to have a relationship.  And its even part of the relationship, just like natural is part of supernatural.  The dance we dance, the battle we fight, the troubles we overcome, the commandments we obey and the sweet joys we experience are just a small taste of what true relationship with God is like.  At least that's what I think, but I really don't know enough.  It is clear, however, that these are the things Jesus focused on when he came to Earth.  Jesus teaches us how to live.  It is by living that we can then love.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What a Church Should Be

More than words.

To describe this I'm beginning (surprisingly to some) with the Catholic Church.  The best thing about the Catholic Church is that its more than just words.  You won't find a more organized church doing more in the world than the Catholic Church.  And I'm sure many people would agree that if the RCC would drop the R, stop worshiping Mary and lay off some of their particular beliefs (like purgatory), then people would be joining the Catholic Church in droves.  'Why's that?' says the Protestant.  Because Protestant churches are a bunch of yappidy yap and no action.  So how does a church become more than words?

The first thing is organization and leadership
This is where we need to take a page from the Catholic playbook.  On the website of a Catholic church nearby I saw all their organization, and let me say, its amazing.  They are involved in everything from Habitat for Humanity to death penalty reform.  Their care spans all ages, both genders, and every walk of life.  The church is open every day of the week with Mass every day.  And all of this is laid out very orderly on their website.  Its very impressive, and I have to be honest, it makes the Catholic Church very attractive.  The thing to learn from this is that we as Christians can only be effective if we're working together in an organized way.  It also makes working fun.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the pictures I saw on the local parish's website speak for themselves.  People are working and enjoying it.  Now something I must add onto organization is leadership.  Leadership really is being bossy.  If a person is in a position of leadership and has something to get done, that person really should tell people what to do (I know, it seems obvious).  I don't know how many times I've seen a quagmire of uncertainty in Protestant churches.  Leaders are too shy to simply walk up to someone and say 'do this'.  They think the lay people should just know what to do and do it all on their own.  Nope, that's not how it works, and nothing will ever get done without leaders telling people what to do.  If the person does not want to do it, then he simply says he doesn't want to do it and that's that.  Bottom line is this: far too many churches don't get anything done because the leadership is too shy and too nice.  Without doing anything those churches are worthless, and they might as well disband and tear down the building because they give Christianity a bad name.

There must be love
Love is a verb.  Its something you do, not just talk about.  A person could say they love someone, but if their actions don't show love, then they're just a liar.  We as Christians must love each other.  Isn't that clear from Scripture?  We absolutely must take care of those needing care (orphans, elderly, disabled, etc).  We should be putting people in positions where they can shine.  We should be finding jobs for anyone that needs a job (the more jobholders in the church the better).  We should be involved in disaster relief, in preventing abortions, in counseling hurting people, and so much more.  There are so many ways the Church of Christ can love each other and those nearby.  If you're looking for some ideas, I would suggest just simply looking up the webpage of a local Catholic parish; they usually do a good job of it.  I don't agree with all their beliefs, but I do love how organized and active the Catholic Church is.

Finally, I want to give some advice for anyone that's looking for a church to get involved with.  Look for two basic things: 1) Make sure their beliefs are biblical, and 2) Make sure the church is actively carrying out Jesus' command to love one another.  Make sure the church is full of action, not just words.  Everything else, specifically denomination, is not important.  Then get involved.  Be willing to do things and you'll find that being a Christian is fun and rewarding.  Jesus' words in Matthew 11:29-30 really are true: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

The Stupidity of Modern Christianity

To think that the Christian Church somehow needs to adapt to an increasingly 'modern' world is the most bogus idea alive. Besides the fact that what people call 'modern' has been around for all of recorded history, the Christian Church exists to change the world, not to become changed by the world. And to get an idea of the extent to which we are called to not be worldly, just look at Jesus' words. In John 15:19 he says "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world. That is why the world hates you." If you are worldly then you are not Christian, and you will not-cannot-ever enter heaven. You will remain in the world even as it is consumed by fire. That is something that the 'modern Christians' need to realize. If you change the definition of Christian, divorcing it from the Bible, then you are no longer a Christian. You are leaving behind any promise God gives whenever you leave behind any command God gives. That includes the promise of eternal life.

I'm going to continue with one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite 'mere Christians'. That being what CS Lewis said: "Christianity is a fighting religion". Absolutely right he is! Christianity fights and destroys every pretense that sets itself up against it (which also makes being a Christian rather fun). We, Christians, have been given the truth. Not only have we been given the truth, but we have also been given evidence, reason, and many other weapons to fight with. To be shy with those weapons would be just absurd. Paul was never shy about fighting lies, for everytime he preached Luke said he "spoke boldly". God does not want us to sit on our weapons, or to shy away from combat with the thought that we're somehow being nice. How is it nice to remain silent when you know someone is going to hell? No! You tell them they're going to hell. That's the nicest thing you can do. And be bold so that we do win the fight. God will certainly win the fight. The only question is: Are we on the winning side, the losing side, or the side that gets whipped for being lazy? I choose to side with God simply because I know he will win the fight and crush all his enemies. And that means that I'm called to battle. Battle what? Lies like those you find in the so called 'modern Christianity'.

Some have been inclined to say that homosexuality is not a sin. According to the Bible, this could not be further from the truth. In Genesis 'God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve', as some have said. In Leviticus there are the words: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." In Matthew 19:4 Jesus reiterates the design of his Father for marriage. And in Romans 1:26-27 Paul equates homosexuality with the highest level of sin. You just cannot believe that homosexuality is not a sin and believe the Bible at the same time. And if you don't believe the Bible, then you've lost all credible basis for believing in God (I've written elsewhere as to why the Bible is the only credible source for metaphysical truth).

Another 'modern' idea is the idea that women should have equal authority with men, in the family, in church, in politics, whatever. There is good reason, entirely outside of the Bible, why this is an unproductive idea. I'm going to focus on the Bible, however, since my note is directed at those that profess to be Christian. The Bible tells us that the Church of Christ is the Bride of Christ, and that Jesus is the Head of the Church, just as the Church is the Body of Christ. The marriage between a man and a woman then gives us a picture of the union between men and God. Could it be, then, that there is good reason that God does not want this picture to become distorted? And as a matter of pure fact, we have both Paul and Peter in the Bible telling us that man is the head of woman, and that a wife must submit to her husband. I've heard people try to explain these passages away, but the real reason, and only reason, that they're there is because the marriage is a picture of the union between men and God. Maybe its not coincidence, then, that the same people who have accepted feminism have also treated God as though he is not sovereign over their lives. Some have even gone so far as to say, or suggest, that God is not male but female. Who knows, maybe they pray 'Our Mother who art in heaven'. The bottom line is that God reveals himself as Father and Son, both being male. We could discuss the theological question of what God is exactly (Scripture says "God is spirit"), but there is no question that he has revealed himself as 'He'.

Finally, these 'moderns' have called into question things that there is no reason to question (for anyone that believes the Bible atleast). Some have questioned the virgin birth. Some have questioned the resurrection of Christ and the final resurrection. Some have questioned the miracles. All of these things are clearly in the Bible, and if a person is going to believe the Bible, given that the Bible consistently affirms the Bible, then that person has to believe the whole Bible. I'm not saying that every word, or number, has to be believed or taken literally, but the things made clear by Scripture (and there are many things made clear by Scripture) must be believed. For example: if a person believes in a supernatural God, as the Bible describes, then why would that person not believe in miracles, as the Bible describes. If a person doesn't believe in a supernatural God, then what kind of god does he believe? A pretty lousy god, I would say. And I wouldn't be shy about rubbing it in that person's face that my omnipotent God could kick his god around like a balloon (if his god were even real, that is). Or the resurrection: Paul says that if Christ has not risen then all we have done has been done in vain. It would be better to simply be an Atheist than to be a "Christian" that believes Christ didn't rise from the dead. Either way you're going to hell. It makes much more sense to believe the Bible (with all the evidence that supports its truthfulness), read the Bible, understand the Bible and believe all it says. Beyond that its just a whole lot more fun (I think there was even a study that showed 'evangelical Christians' are on average happier than 'modern Christians').

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Practical Faith

In this I wish to show that faith is practical, and it makes a big difference in a very real way.

How to get faith?
To believe in anything you must have reason to believe.  The opposite would be blind faith, and I say that blind faith is the same as weak faith.  My faith - my ultimate faith - is in Jesus Christ as revealed by the Bible.  My reasons for this faith are many.  I did not simply choose to put my faith in Jesus, nor did I inherit that faith from my parents.  I searched the evidence and arguments for and against faith in the Bible (I'll use faith in the Bible as synonymous for faith in Christ).  The prophecies, manuscripts, miracles, testimonies, science, and archaeological discoveries as evidence that the Bible is true.  Those are my primary reasons for believing the Bible.  A person does not have to have the same reasons that I do, but faith must be based on reason.  Maybe your experience is enough reason to believe, or maybe the merits of someone's argument has given you reason to believe.  Whichever your reason, true faith cannot come from ignorance.

What is the effect of faith?
To have faith in anything will dramatically change the way you live your everyday life.  If you have true faith in the Bible, then you would obviously read it because you want to know what it says.  After reading it, you would then learn from it, follow the instructions in it, and believe any promise that it may give.  Of course believing the Bible is not simply believing the Bible, but also the One it comes from.  Having true faith in God, who is omnipotent, would mean that there is nothing for us to worry about except being pleasing to the Lord.  If God can take care of us, and has promised to do so, then there's absolutely no reason to worry about life's troubles.  That's just common sense, isn't it?  And of course Jesus tells us not to worry about those things.  True faith also means that we won't hesitate to act.  The biggest obstacle to someone accomplishing something is the belief that they can't do it.  If someone believes they can't do it, then they won't try.  But if they fully believe they can do it, then they'll try and try until it is done.  This is what the Bible teaches us.  Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit so that we will have the power to accomplish the good things that he has laid before us.  If we believe then we can do it.

Can we have faith alone?
If there is anything that I hope to have shown you, it is that faith cannot stand alone.  Faith is the beginning, the cause, but true faith always ends in things that can be seen.  Just as Jesus said that the Holy Spirit cannot be seen but the effects of it can, so faith is the same.  Of course faith and the Holy Spirit go together like PB and J.  The idea that faith alone is enough for salvation is a bit misleading.  True faith causes salvation.  Salvation is more than just going to heaven; it is us becoming more like Christ every day.  Righteousness is salvation; salvation is righteousness.  All of this is very real, very practical, and makes perfect sense, even common sense.  It is not something that is mysterious or mystical.  There is a difference between being spiritual and being mystical.  Being Spiritual is very real and practical, just like faith is very real and practical.  Being mystical is just a bunch of nonsense that's meant to oooh and aaah people.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Church Age Addition Theory

Revelation 2 and 3, the letters to the angels of the seven churches. In the literal sense these are seven churches that existed in seven cities in Asia Minor at the time John wrote Revelation. However, there is very good reason to believe that the seven churches are figurative for seven churches throughout church history, aslo known as church ages. I'll go ahead and share those reasons with you.

Among the first of my reasoning is the simple fact that it is seven churches we are talking about. In the Bible seven represent completion. The number seven appears in the Bible 481 times, more than any other number. A few of the main examples are: there is seven days in the creation account, seven lamps of the Menorah, seven years to build the first temple, and Pauline letters to seven churches. Seven also occurs several times in Revelation: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls, along with the seven churches. So it is reasonable to think that the seven churches represent the complete Church of Christ. If that is the case, then it would have to be more than just seven local churches that no longer exist. Also, verse 19 of chapter one gives a clear indication that what he has seen, which up until this point is only Jesus with the stars and lamps (angels and churches), is now and into the future. Jesus tells John: "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later." Since John has not seen anything more than the metaphors for the seven angels and the seven churches, it seems quite obvious that these must be what Jesus is referring to when he says "now and what will take place later".

The other reason to believe that the churches represent seven church ages is simply because they align very well with church history.

The Church in Ephesus
This is the church that did well but lost their first love. As for the age, it would be sometime from Jesus to 100ad. Of all the church ages this one is the most obscure. The simple fact is that we don't know alot about the character of the church in the first century, apart from the apostles letters. However, if you read the letter, you can see some correlation. For example: we know they endured hardships, and we know that they tested their teachers.

The Church in Smyrna
This is the persecuted church. We know that for alittle over two centuries, from about 100ad to 300ad, the Roman Empire heavily persecuted the Christian Church. During this time the Church grew rapidly. The letter matches this period in church history perfectly.

The Church in Pergamum
This is the faithful but worldly church. The edict of Milan in 313 ended the vast majority of persecution for Christians, and even gave Christianity power in the Empire at times. This is also the time when heresies and worldly teachings gained influence in the Church. You can see in the letter that the Pergamum church is commended for not renouncing faith during the hardships, which were still lingering from the days of persecution, but is admonished for having some believe false teachings. There were two main groups of heretics at this time: the Gnostics and the Manichees. The letter also makes reference to two sets of false teachings, symbolized by Balaam and the Nicolaitans.

The Church in Thyatira
This church is hardworking, which they are commended for, but they are plagued by evil leadership. The church age would be commonly known as the age of the Roman Catholic Church, from around 600ad to around 1600ad. The Catholic Church at this time, and even today, was full of many hardworking Christians. One of the things that Protestants protested was that they perceived Catholics to believe in salvation from works. Right or wrong, the Catholic Church was hardworking. The papacy, however, has led the church into some evil practices. This would make sense as the "prophetess Jezebel" is clearly a metaphor for something else (the real Jezebel was long dead). Indulgences is one clear example of some of the evil that the papacy has caused. I wouldn't say that every pope has been evil, but the office as a whole has done much evil. The Presbytarian Church even went so far as to call the pope the anti-christ at one time. Also, the verse that says "you are now doing more than you did at first" makes alot of sense when considering that the Church did do more and more as the middle ages progressed.

The Church in Sardis
This is the church that seems to be alive and well but is actually dead. The church age would be from around the time of the reformers (1500-1600) to sometime close to the present. This church is commonly known as the Protestant Church. Just like what was mentioned before, the Protestants had some kind of problem with the works of the Catholics, and the church was based on a strong belief in grace. The letter makes clear that this church has a reputation of being alive; that many would think this church is healthy and well, just like many have thought about the Protestant Church. But the letter also makes clear that their deeds are not sufficient in the sight of God. The Protestants tendency to pay much attention to grace and ignore works would easily explain that. The letter also says that there are a few "who have not soiled their clothes", which can be said about the Protestant Church. There are some throughout the age that have been active.

The Church in Philadelphia
This is the church that is weak but is blessed by the Lord. The church age is unclear, because we are most likely in it. Actually, we are probably somewhere between the Sardis church age and the Philadelphia church age. The only thing that we can say about this church, other than what is written in the letter, is that there is an emergence of Christians all throughout the world that keep the word of God and do not deny the name of Jesus. More practically speaking, these are Christians that do not assign to any denomination, thus splitting the Church, and they look directly to Scripture for answers. The letter tells us that God has opened a door for the church. An open door is broadly figurative for an opportunity. More specificly, I believe the open door is a metaphor for the internet, without which you wouldn't be reading this. If you just take a moment to think about it, you can see that the internet gives massive potential for Christians to gain souls and influence in the world. Quite simply, its an open door.

The Church in Laodicea
This is the lukewarm church. Though I don't think we have reached this church age quite yet, you can see the beginnings of it, particularly in the US and Europe. Since it is not here yet, I won't really bother attempting to describe this church, but I recommend you read the letter.

Now to add to this addition. I call this 'Addition Theory'. What I mean by this is that I believe each church age adds to the previous churches. In each church age one church may dominate, but all the previous churches still have some presence. And it makes sense, doesn't it? As the Chruch of Christ gets bigger, the Church of Christ gets more complex, right? Just as Jesus added Gentiles to the plan of God, so might the churches be added onto one another. In the first century you wouldn't have seen Christians like those described in the Laodicea Church or the Sardis Church, right? But now you can see some, though not many, that fit the descriptions of the Ephesus and Smyrna churches. Sardis, Philadelphia, and Thyatira are the dominant churches, and that is clear to see, but there still lingers some from the churches past. And it makes sense given the language that is used in some of the letters. For example: verse 5 and 16 of chapter two.

You may be skeptical about the whole idea that the seven churches represent church ages, and you may be skeptical about my addition theory, but I ask that you read the letters, study church history, and consider the correllations.

The Manliest Religion

I'm going to show that Christianity is indeed the manliest religion ever.

First look at the stories of Christians and those in the Bible.  In the Bible there is the not so well known story of Ehud (Jdg 3:12-30).  Ehud is an assassin who kills the oppressive Moabite king Eglon.  He did so by hiding a foot and a half long sword on his right thigh.  He then approached the king with tribute and said that he had a secret message for him.  After the king's attendants left him, Ehud plunged the sword into the king, who was so fat that his belly wrapped itself around the sword, even the handle.  Ehud left the king dead with his sword in him, and then locked the doors when he left.  The attendants figured their king was relieving himself, but after waiting to the point of embarrassment, they unlocked the door and found their king dead.  Ehud then leads the Israelites against the Moabites, killing about ten thousand of them, and giving peace and freedom for Israel for eighty years.  Now tell me that is not a manly story about a manly man.
And in Christendom there are some really cool stories about St Francis of Assisi.  My favorite one is the one where St Francis strips down naked and runs through the city, in winter time, with snow on the ground.  He admitted to stealing some of his father's possessions in order to rebuild the church.  At the hearing he disowned his father and told him that he could take back everything that was ever given to him.  He then took off his clothes, declared himself an ascetic, and ran out into the snow naked.  Just imagine that!  Now what kind of religion considers such a man to be a hero?  A manly religion, that's what!  You can find all sorts of crazy stories, just like Ehud's and just like Francis', throughout the Bible and Christian history.

Its really no wonder there are stories like that when you consider Jesus, the one all of Christianity centers on.  He said things like: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple."  He means that you must be radical to be his disciple.  Its like the Marines - "the few, the proud, the Marines".  Plus he said things with supreme confidence (because he is the Son of God of course).  In Matthew 16:18 he says, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  And since gates are always used for defense, what he is saying is that his church will conquer.  Kinda like Julius Caesar when he said "Veni, Vidi, Vici", or in English, "I came, I saw, I conquered".  Furthermore, he said things without always being nice, and never once apologized for it.  In Matthew 15:16 Jesus basically calls his own disciples stupid.  In Matthew 23 Jesus calls the Pharisees and teachers of the law all kinds of nasty things, most notably "snakes".  In Luke 13:32 he calls Herod a fox.  Even more than that, he embarrassed his opponents everytime they tried to catch him.  He outwitted them every time.  Finally he did the most manly thing of all, so manly that he's the only man to do it.  He willfully died on a cross and then rose from the grave three days later.  There are so many things that Jesus did and said but that tops everything.  How can you not consider Jesus to be the most manly man ever?  And since he is, the church, or religion, he created is also the most manly church/religion ever.

Christianity is manly in more than just the obvious ways.  You may think that with all the love your neighbor/enemy teachings that its docile, like a bunch of sheep.  Jesus calls us sheep in the Bible, but Jesus sends us into the wolves and tells us to be as shrewd as snakes, like special ops sent into enemy territory.  The religion as a whole is strong like a lion and sneaky like a lioness.  As C.S. Lewis stated "Christianity is a fighting religion".  The real point is that our peacefulness is actually a mighty weapon against the enemy.  Killing people has never made believers.  Love and peace, however, are potent forces.  And Christians are peaceful in a way, but we are also looking for the next fight.  Its a fight to destroy lies that have eternal consequences.  Christians are a fighting bunch.  To fight is what we are called to do.  This whole design in Christianity, the fighting while being peaceful, the conquering without our enemies knowing it, is completely unique of all religions.  You will not find another one that has this quality.  Its a subtle strength, the best and manliest kind.  But most of all, it cannot be defeated.  Our enemies come after us with the usual methods, trying to scare us or kill us.  We cannot be scared, and everytime a martyr is made, more people are amazed by the courage of Christians, knowing it must be something real.  More Christians are made that way, just as the Christian martyrs conquered the Roman Empire. Christianity is like an unstoppable wall, like a Tsunami.  This is definitely one of the reasons I say its the manliest religion ever.

So now, though Christianity is complex and has different shades to it, it cannot be called even the least bit sissy or girly or wimpy.  If anyone does try to convince me that Christianity is anything less than a super manly religion, I think I'll kick their butt after I punch them in the face.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.