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0161 — Geneva Bible

     Just thought I’d share a little piece of the Geneva Bible and notes with you.  Don’t know how many of you are that familiar with it?

     The Geneva Bible was, well, anathema is probably pretty much the right word, to King James.  As you might suspect, the Geneva Bible was translated and produced in Switzerland, out of the reach of the King of England.  It was not so much the text of the Bible, but the Notes, that drove King James to distraction.  (It was the TEXT of the Tyndale Bible that really bothered the King, but that is for another day.)

    Consider what a monarch who believes (or who at least wanted the people to believe?) that he ruled by Divine Fiat would think about the Notes after each verse of the Geneva Bible below:

 

    

\Exodus\1:19\ – Exodus\2:8\

Exodus 1:19

And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew g women [are] not as the Egyptian women; for they [are] lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

(g) Their disobedience in this was lawful, but their deception is evil.

(Mark’s words: It is ok to disobey the King if he gives an unlawful order.  And the PEOPLE can determine what is lawful and what is not.)

 

Exodus 1:21

And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he h made them houses.

(h) That is, God increased the families of the Israelites by their means.

 

Exodus 1:22

And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall i cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

(i)  When tyrants cannot prevail by deceit, they burst into open rage.

 

Exodus 2:1

And there went a a man of the house of Levi, and took [to wife] a daughter of Levi.

(a) This Levite was called Amram, who married Jochebed in Ex 6:20.

 

Exodus 2:3

And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and b put the child therein; and she laid [it] in the flags by the river’s brink.

(b) Committing him to the providence of God, whom she could not keep from the rage of the tyrant.

 

Exodus 2:8

And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the c child’s mother.

(c) Man’s counsel cannot hinder that which God has determined shall come to pass.

 

(from Geneva Notes, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2005, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

0160 — Context? Context? What is Context?

How can something be “out of context?” Or, how can something said (or written) be taken “out of context?” More particularly, is all scripture always “in context,” or can scripture be taken “out of context” too, i.e., does it sometimes NOT say what it SEEMS to say?

One of my sons has been writing a series of articles on this very thing. I don’t know how many more examples he has before he considers himself finished, but he’s written several already and they are really good. (“I can do all things through Christ,” “I know the plans I have for you,” and others) So I’d like to share them with you here.

 

 

Introduction – “Out Of Context

Have you ever come in on the middle of a conversation? After listening for a little while, did you realize that it was a conversation you should have heard from the beginning to really understand what was going on? It can be frustrating to those who have already been listening from the beginning for you to plead, “Wait, start over from the beginning.” Of course, this can often be an embarrassing request, as necessary as it is. Imagine walking into a class in the middle of a history lecture about World War II, you would miss entire portions of the motives and incentives of each country to go to war or the events that spurred the USA to get involved; all of these things are as important as everything that happens in the middle. In fact, they give a framework for understanding what is going on. Imagine that you walk into an important board-room meeting at work and missed the first 45 minutes that explain the complex situation surrounding a decision that needs to be made. Before you cast your vote, wouldn’t you want to know what the situation is? When people neglect due diligence in such matters, things get taken completely out of context. I was watching The Stephen Colbert Report (a political comedy show) in which the host used short excerpts from news articles about Paul Ryan’s GOP convention speech stating that it was, “misleading”, “breathtakingly dishonest”, and was a “world record for the greatest number of blatant lies.” And used pieces of those words and phrases to say it was “Breathtaking.” And that he would be the “greatest at leading the world.” “In a word, he ‘shone’.” It’s easy to take things out of context to back up our own biases. Have you ever seen this done with scripture? You can take scriptures out of context to say things that would be outright false if you don’t take the context into careful consideration. I’ve seen this done with many different topics, seldom with malicious intent, but typically this is done without considering important perspectives that might change how you view particular passages. Hopefully there will be more on this in weeks to come.

Grace and Peace~

9/21/2012

 

 

Out of Context 1: “Work Out Your Own Salvation…

 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” As promised, I want to bring before our attention a few scriptures in the weeks to come that tend to get taken out of context and thus misused. If a verse I present happens to be one of your favorites and you struggle greatly because I happen to disagree with your interpretation, know that is not my intent. And secondly, do please talk to me that we may each have a better understanding. Regardless, it’s important we recognize that the whole of scripture is a story, and it is easy to take things out of context which seemingly disagree with the heart of the gospel. Up to bat first, from one of my favorite books, Philippians 2:12 (quoted above). This verse is often misunderstood. People read this and take it to mean that they are responsible themselves for doing things which will EARN their salvation from God on the principle of the well-known saying, “God helps those who help themselves” (which, of course, is not from the Bible). That sentiment is completely out of line with what Paul says anywhere else. Read the next verse: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” It is GOD’S work from beginning to end. What Paul is telling this group of Christians living in Philippi is that they need to seriously figure out what this whole “being saved” business looks like IN PRACTICE. The phrase “your own salvation” isn’t a contrast between any work of ours and the work of God; rather, Paul is telling them to be seriously diligent in determining the kind of lifestyle they ought to live in view of God’s gracious gift, ESPECIALLY now that they no longer have their mentor and teacher living among them. And he tells them to do this WITHOUT GRUMBLING or COMPLAINING (vs 14), unlike the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness. This is not about earning salvation with fear, it’s about being serious about what a saved individual’s life ought to look like in his respective time and place; working OUT our salvation, not FOR it.

Grace and Peace~

 

 

Out of Context 2:  “Where Two or Three Are Gathered…”

Have you ever been to a wedding or to a prayer meeting or some sort of gathering when someone recited Jesus’ words, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20)? But is God present when 4 or more are gathered? Certainly, He is! Does this verse mean that God is NOT present with one isolated individual? Of course, not! One of our basic beliefs about God is that He is omnipresent (present, everywhere). Remember David’s words in Psalm 139? “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. IF I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle by the sea, even there your hand will guide me…” And, of course, we learn in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit (fully God, Himself, just like Jesus) dwells WITHIN those who are immersed into the name of Jesus. Matthew 18:20 is one verse that often gets taken out of context, and usually it’s not of too much consequence, but it is important for us to recognize why Jesus said that. He wasn’t talking about prayer. Nor was he talking about worship or potlucks or any particular function of gathering. In this passage, Jesus is talking about addressing sin, and he tells us to do it in steps. Step 1: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault, JUST between the two of you.”(18:15) Such matters should first be kept very privately. If he/she doesn’t listen, go to Step 2: “Take one or two others along.” (18:16) ONLY when step 1 AND 2 don’t work, we go to Step 3: “Tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen, treat him as you would a pagan…” Here then, is the widest circle of accountability, and our opportunity to show love and grace at a brother or sister’s repentance (see Luke 15), if in fact they do. 18:20 shows that God honors decisions that are made about such matters when we go about them in the way He instructs. May you recognize the power of the presence of God within and around you, wherever you are!

Grace and Peace~

 


Out of Context 3:  “I know the plans I have in mind for you…” 

I can’t think of many verses that are misused more often than this very popular Old Testament passage. Most of you know it by heart. I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come to me and pray to me, I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 CEB)

Many people read this verse and memorize it because of this beautiful promise from God, but take it in a very individual way, as if God is somehow endorsing the American Dream of prosperity, peace, health, and maybe even riches. To suggest that this verse is a promise from God to you to that one day you will have your dream job, go to the college you’ve always dreamed of, retire early and buy a Ferrari (or ANY car for that matter), is to hold God captive to something he never said. The word is you PLURAL; he was talking to an entire nation. In fact, it would be more appropriate to read it as “y’all”, seeing as “you” can mean singular or plural. Read the preceding verse: “The Lord proclaims, when Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” (verse 10)  Read verse 14 also: “I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord.” (vs 14)

Jeremiah was God’s prophet chosen to bring his judgment before the entire nation, proclaiming that because they turned from God, gave themselves to foreign idols and did not keep their purity, God would send them into a 70 year righteous, fatherly sort of “time-out.” In fact, only a REMNANT of the people alive at the time they heard God’s promise through Jeremiah would still even be alive to see that promise fulfilled! Nevertheless, God would once again purify His people, and rather than abandon His children forever, show them His mercy and goodness.

Yes, God wants the best for you. But is your definition of “what’s best” and your timetable exactly what God has in mind? God-made-flesh said, “whoever would LOSE his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25). Perhaps if you would demand God’s material blessings on you, and use this verse to substantiate that, maybe you should be willing to go through 70 years of slavery first? Even still, slaves of GOD, those who would seek after Him, will receive the crown of life.

 

 

Out of Context 4: “In the Name of Jesus”

 

Are you a fan of medieval movies? There are several that I like. You know how in those movies a knight, or sheriff or some type of official will make a demand preceded by the phrase “IN THE NAME OF THE KING!” This phrase meant that whatever rule was being enforced by that person held the same authority as if the King himself were to make the demand. Another way of putting that phrase would be “In the INTEREST of the King.” If I ruled some small island and a representative of mine were to say, “In the name of King Bradley,” (hmm, has a nice ring to it) “I demand that Blue Bell ice cream be eaten after every single meal!” well, that would mean that my authority is behind that law, and also that the law would somehow benefit my kingdom.

After our prayers, we make a habit of saying, “in The Name of Jesus, Amen.” Do you know why we say this? Here’s one reason, John 14:13-14 says “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”

Does this mean that we are obligated to SAY “in the name of Jesus?” Certainly, there is power in the name of our Lord. Consider the other contexts in which the name of Jesus was used: Jesus said to welcome children in His Name, and in doing so we welcome Jesus, Himself (Matt 18:5). We are to assemble for church judicial action “in His name” (18:20). Miracles were done and cups of water were given in His Name (Mark 9:39, 41). The Holy Spirit is sent in His Name (John 14:26). Is there a problem with saying “In Jesus’ Name” at the end of a prayer? No, in fact I encourage it. However, if I ask to get rich, or to get a good grade on a test, or for other selfish things, am I asking that for my own sake or for the sake of Jesus in the sole interest of expanding His Kingdom?

To pray “in The Name of Jesus” means to pray for things that are consistent with who Christ is, what He taught, and all He stands for. May you LIVE in The Name of Jesus!

Grace and Peace~

 


Out of Context 5: “All things work together for good…”

 

If God is good, why do bad things happen? To be sure, many Christians don’t know how to handle their faith when tragic things occur or how to explain to others why such things happen. In fact, in light of the experience of most of our lives, verses like Romans 8:28 often tend to just confuse us: “And we know that for all those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

When we read “all things work together for good,” what does that mean? Does it mean that regardless of what, everything is going to be fine? When we’re told she doesn’t have much longer to live because of the disease, do we believe all things work together for good? When your employer says they do not intend to pay you any longer, do you believe all things work together for good? When your spouse of 16 years says they no longer want to be married to you, do all things still work together for good? Romans 8:28 is hard to believe in these times.

Let’s look at what Paul is actually saying in context. First of all, “all things work together for good” for who? For those who love God and are called according to His purpose! This is a promise for Christians, not for every individual on the planet. The more pressing issue, however, is what “for good” means. What is “good”? How do you define it? Financial security? Health? Happiness? Good grades? If God’s definition of “good” were those things, it would seem that Romans 8:28 is a lie, seeing as so much of life is still full of tragedy. So what’s the ultimate good Paul is talking about? Read the next verse: “For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.” We need to let go of our modern, “1st World” definition of what is “good”, and adopt a theological definition. “Good” = Christ-likeness. God’s own Son wasn’t spared pain and tragedy, but God planned something incredible from it.

Regardless of what happens in your life, God is at work. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). The “good work” is God molding us to be more like the Son through suffering and death (Phil 3:10) and ultimately be transformed in both body and spirit.

Grace and Peace~

 

 

Out of Context 6: “Firstborn of All Creation”

 

About a year and a half ago, when we lived off North Main street, I got a knock on my door (…on my day off, the nerve, right!?) A very polite, older lady greeted me with a gentle handshake and asked if she could share a scripture with me. Why would I refuse? She opened her Bible to Colossians 1:15 and, making sure I could see the text myself, read, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” As soon as she said the said the reference, I knew immediately where she was going on what she was about to say. After reading the verse, she proclaimed that since Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation”, that he was the first created being by God, and hence, not God Himself.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, she was a representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that is not the only group that has subscribed to that heresy over the years. Paul had to battle the Gnostic heresy in many of his writings. The Gnostics believe that created/material things are inherently bad, and that the goal of man would be to escape everything that is material, despite the fact that God called ALL of His creation “good”.  Regardless, Gnostics taught that Jesus only APPEARED to be human, but was in fact more of a spirit or angel, which certainly goes against the New Testament, teaching us that Jesus was both fully God AND fully human (John 1:14, 18).

 The Jehovah’s Witnesses suggest that Jesus was actually the archangel Michael, possibly the first created angel, and not God Himself. However, let’s examine the passage: First of all, “firstborn” did not always denote a chronological meaning. David was proclaimed to be God’s firstborn (Psalm 89:27) yet we know he was the youngest of his family. Israel was proclaimed to be God’s “firstborn,” (Exodus 4:22) even though many generations came before Abraham and Jacob (Israel). Let’s examine further that this very verse says, “He is THE image”- not “created in the image of” as we are, but the actual image of the invisible God (Hebrews 1:3- “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”). Now read the next 2 verses. Basically: By Him (Jesus) everything was created, seen or not seen. Everything was created through and for Him, and He is BEFORE ALL THINGS.” The Watchtower’s (JW’s) bible reads “all [other] things were created” multiple times, to suggest Jesus was created; “other” is simply not in the Greek text. John 1:3 says “without Him, nothing was made that has been made.”

Jesus was human. Jesus was God. Jesus IS God.

Grace and Peace~

 

Out of Context 7: No More Than You Can Handle?

 

Last week I brought to our attention the fact that many people’s lives can become very difficult, exhausting, grating, demanding, etc. This makes us feel weak, abused, anxious and worrisome, frustrated, sad, etc. In an attempt to bring some relief into the situation, people often offer this phrase: “God will not give you more than you can handle.” Tell that to the apostle Paul, who experienced beatings, hunger, slander, sleepless nights, imprisonment, being stoned, etc. Sometimes he experienced all of the above in a very short period of time! In fact, at one particular point he wished he were dead, being “burdened beyond our strength… despairing of life itself”! (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Sorry, the cliché phrase that “God will not give us more than we can handle” is just plain wrong. He WILL often give us more than we can handle. Why? Read the next verse. 2 Corinthians 1:9- “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” in John 15:5. People mean well when they say that phrase, but where does it come from? I think it’s a common distortion of 1 Corinthians 10:13- “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can endure it.” This promise is not that we would never feel physically, emotionally, or even psychologically burdened beyond what we can bear. Rather, it has very little to do with your health, your wealth, or your own competency; God will ALWAYS provide a way out of TEMPTATION, but not necessarily out of persecution, hardship, hunger, etc. Of course, seasons of plenty are from God, but followers of Jesus Christ aren’t promised health and wealth in this life. Praise God when you have it, and praise God when you don’t. And of course, when you are pressured to sin, remember that God always provides a way NOT to sin; “he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

 

Out of Context 8: If My people…

 

I have a typically positive response to the “Prayer – America’s Only Hope” graphic. I do believe it is important to pray for our country. However, I also believe it is important to pray for EVERY country (as uncomfortable as it might make us to pray for China or North Korea or Afghanistan). My only problem with the picture above (and there are HUNDREDS of similar posters and bumper stickers), is the scripture reference it invokes.

I recognize this might be a sensitive topic and verse to bring up during post-election season, but perhaps that is exactly what makes it relevant. In this next installment of verses taken out of context, remind yourself once again that to interpret Scripture well, we must consider both literary and historical context. Most of the landscape we are confronted with in Scripture has to do with ancient civilizations, where language, lifestyle, government, and values were all very different from time to time and according to geographical location. A great deal of Old Testament scriptures can be abused when we don’t take this into account.

With that said, let’s take a look at 2 Chronicles 7:14- the “I will hear their land” passage. Is this verse true? Yes. Does God require humility? Repentance? Prayer? Of course! On the surface it seems to be a great verse to use for believers who expect blessings to fall on their country (“output”) given the correct actions on their part (“input”).

Let’s look at context. King Solomon has assumed the throne; he has been in the middle of building the great temple, an incredible offering to God. In the dedication of the temple, he delivers a powerful speech to Israel, in a way, dedicating Israel to God. He prays that God would forgive them if they ever rebel, be merciful in judgment, and bless them in several other ways. It is a beautiful prayer that you can read in 2 Chronicles chapter 6. God hears his prayer and consumes the sacrifices in a magnificent, affirming way. Then God appears to Solomon some time later and says this: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut out the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.”- 2 Chron 7:12-14 ESV.

Consider a few things here: First of all, the Lord is talking directly to Solomon, the King of God’s people, Israel. The “place” God is referring to is the temple itself, the “house of sacrifice.” This particular promise that the Lord gave was to that king, for that people, at that time, and in that place. It wasn’t meant to be a general promise for all nations, for no other NATION could/can claim to be “God’s people.” Furthermore, God promised a healing of physical land, meaning we can’t hijack the verse and use it as a promise of spiritual revival for America or wherever Christians reside; that would misuse the verse. STILL, it would be an act of DISOBEDIENCE for us not to pray for our leaders (1st Timothy 2:1-4). He is pleased when we pray, for ourselves, for others, the Church, our leaders, and yes, our country.

But our foremost concern as followers of Christ is not for our earthly citizenship, but our HEAVENLY one. No “greatest” nation in history lasted forever, but the Kingdom of GOD will!

AMEN!

Grace and Peace~

 

0159 — The Emerging Emergent Church

So just what is the “Emergent Church” anyway? Or is it the “Emerging Church?”  I’ve heard it both ways.  And I’ve been really interested to find out just what it (whichever) is, so that when I was given the book WHY WE’RE NOT EMERGENT, by Deyoung & Kluck, I immediately dropped everything I was doing and read it cover to cover before I retired for the evening.  (Well no, that’s not exactly true.  Being interested is true, but not the cover-to-cover part.  I have distractions.  But that is for another conversation.)

But I did start into it.  I will be honest and say I haven’t finished it yet, but I certainly intend to.

The subtitle of the book is “…by two guys who should be.”  I think what they mean by that is that the two authors fit most of the profiles of who the Emerging/ent Church is tailored for, but they have not bought into the “conversation” defining the EC.  (There, that way I can be vague about whether it is Emerging or Emergent.)

It’s quite readable.  Educated, but not scholastic, if that means something to you.  The authors are clearly invested in the topic.  They believe (as do I) that it makes a difference whether one buys into the EC philosophy.  If you have any interest at all in this topic, pick up the book… and read it!

Here’s a quote from the book where one of the authors is trying to define the “Jell-O” that (he believes) makes up the framework (or “conversation” is a word that gets used a lot here) of the EC.  It is not pithy, but it is informative.  He states,

After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.

Are you Emerging?

0158 — I AM SECOND

Let me recommend a book for you:  I AM SECOND, by Doug Bender and Dave Sterrett.  I remember the first thing I thought when I unwrapped it last Christmas was, “What kind of a title is that?”  Followed by, “I wonder what it MEANS?”

Well, what it means is, that Jesus is First, and I’m not.  In a nutshell.

It goes about making that point in a very interesting fashion.  It is not a long (or short) theological treatise.  Instead, it is filled with many real-life stories of people — some famous, some not — who discovered that their lives worked better when they did not try to be first.

Here’s an example.  I just opened the book at random (not true — I have a special place in my heart for hurting marriages, so I “randomly” selected the 17-page chapter titled THE AFFAIR) and found a story of two people whose lives fell apart, who wounded each other, who, when they let Jesus be Number One were able to function again as He designed.  It sounds a little trite when reduced to 2 or 3 lines, but their story was not trite at all.  Like I mentione earlier, I am really sensitive, or empathetic, or something like that, in the area of struggling or broken marriages, and I was having to wipe my eyes after that chapter so I could provide this little glimpse into the book for you.

Sample:

But our family was still broken.  The holidays were particularly difficult.  If Lauren and Brittany were with me, they wanted to be with Cheryl.  If they were with Cheryl, they missed me.  Eventually, our fractured mess became too much for Lauren.  There was an outfit she wanted to wear for school one day, and the top was at Cheryl’s house and the bottom was at my house.  She broke down and started crying and there was no consoling her.  One of her friends was over and saw the whole thing.

“Mr. Scruggs!” her friend said with all the sternness her ten-year-old body could muster.  Her arms hiked up on her hips and her face scrunched to a scowl.  “This is rediculous.  You two get along better than my parents and they’re still together.  Why don’t you just get remarried!”

Wow!  Could God use a ten-year-old to speak to me? he though in the wake of this young prophet’s scolding  Pride was indeed what held him back…

Another (besides the CONTENT being great) thing that is really nice about this book is that at the end of each chapter there is a 2d barcode your iPhone (or iPhone-equivalent) can scan to see video on the real people in the book, as well as some others with similar stories.  If you don’t have a smart phone/scanner, it also has the web address listed there so you can just type it in if you would like to do it the old(?)-fashioned way.  Here is the code from the chapter I just mentioned; see if you can make it work for you!  I used a program called SCANLIFE, but there are several QR code scanner apps that work just fine.  I just pointed my iPhone at the computer screen you see before you now, started SCANLIFE, let it see the barcode on the screen, and it went right to the video!  How slick is that?

Scan barcode with iPHone or euivalent

 

0157 — Worship not Music?

We attended a 10-hour Christian worship concert today.  I guess there were 10,000 people there, but I don’t know for sure; I’m not experienced at estimating crowd sizes.  Heard a lot of excellent Christian artists.

Near the end, between two groups, we got a sermon.  At least I was guessing it was a sermon, before it turned into a plea to return the Compassion International packets if we still had them.  Regardless of that, it was still a sermon I guess.  And I learned something.

Whoever it was speaking said, “There are 16 Hebrew and Greek words translated as ‘worship’ in our Bibles, and NOT ONE OF THEM implies MUSIC or SINGING.  Not one.  Mostly they address different aspects of SERVICE.”  He took as his text Isaiah’s account of the throne-room of God, and he said Isaiah’s “Here am I; send me” statement was WORSHIP.  Because he gave himself to accomplish God’s will.  THAT IS WHAT WORSHIP IS.

And then the speaker (or preacher, or whatever he was) said, “That is not what I would LIKE worship to mean.  I have degrees in church music, and have been a recording artist for 12 years, and I would like WORSHIP to mean MUSIC — but it doesn’t.”

I thought that was a very significant statement.  I need to think about it some more.

Oh, by the way, as the speaker left the platform they said, “Thank you Shaun Groves for that message.”

0156 — Plague of Patternism

I’ve been saving the following article by Edward Fudge to share with you.  When I “saved” it I didn’t realize it would be years before I shared it, but… that’s ok.  Here it is:

 

THE PLAGUE OF PATTERNISM

Part 1 – Background

Aug 16, 2009

All Christians agree that Jesus is our pattern, and that healthy teaching consistent with trusting and loving him provides a secondary pattern for living as well (2 Tim. 1:13). This short gracEmail series is not about that. It is about an oddity and aberration that has marked the Christian tribe into which I was born and raised, and from which home base I now serve the larger body of Christ as well. That particular tribe is the Churches of Christ. The peculiarity is at once a doctrine, a way of reading the Bible and an approach to “doing church.” We can call it Patternism. Today, many Churches of Christ have left this peculiarity behind, the result of a gospel renewal that began in the early 1970’s. To speak more accurately, the knowledge of Jesus Christ as all-sufficient Savior has rescued these fine people from bondage, just as God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.

The Churches of Christ flowed from the merger of two 19th-century, back-to-the-Bible movements, led by three former Presbyterian preachers. The smaller movement resulted from the work of Barton W. Stone, who had been a participant in the famous Cane Ridge Revival. The larger movement was initiated by the father-son pair, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, who had emigrated from Scotland to America. The Campbells called for the restoration of “primitive Christianity,” which they defined primarily in terms of external details of the institutional church. Just as God provided Moses a detailed pattern for building the Tabernacle, said the Campbells, so he had provided an exact pattern for his people to follow when restoring the first-century apostolic church.

But there was a slight problem. It is true that God gave Moses voluminous and exact details for the Tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 25-40), and for the priests and sacrifices that would follow (Leviticus). It is significant, however, that the New Testament Scriptures do not include a book like Exodus or Leviticus. Indeed, when the writer of Hebrews refers to the “pattern” that God gave to Moses, he is making a contrast with the Christian order. He is not suggesting that Christians also have such a pattern for the church (Heb. 8:1-6).

(continued)


Part 2 — The ‘CENI-S’ jigsaw puzzle
Aug 18, 2009

The New Testament Scriptures contain numerous guiding principles for Christian believers, both individually and together in community. However, if we read Matthew through Revelation, we will never see anything faintly resembling the detailed instructions that God gave to Moses for building the Tabernacle. But pattern-seekers are very serious about serving God, which causes them to be both creative and persistent. “Surely a pattern is in there somewhere,” they reasoned, “even if it is not immediately obvious. Perhaps it is fragmentary and under the surface.”

And with that, they began to scour the New Testament Scriptures for scattered bits and pieces of any pattern that might be hidden there. They gathered a verse here and a phrase there. Occasionally, they picked up an entire paragraph. Then, when they believed they had found all the parts, they carefully assembled the pieces — like some giant jigsaw puzzle — to create their divine blueprint for the New Testament church. But for what did they look in their search? How did they recognize a pattern puzzle piece when they saw it?

Pattern puzzle pieces come in three shapes, according to Church of Christ pattern-seekers. Each piece bears the form either of an express command (“C”), an approved example (“E”), or a necessary inference (“NI”). But the picture on the completed puzzle is surrounded on four sides with a very thick border. According to the pattern-seekers, this means that every detail of church structure, worship, leadership, and ministry must be “authorized” by one of those puzzle pieces, or else it is unlawful. By their reckoning, silence does not mean consent. It means absolute prohibition (“S”). We will refer to this doctrinal system as “CENI-S,” an abbreviation for “command, example, necessary inference” and “silence.”

At this point, it is important for us to point out a crucial distinction. It is always a good thing (and there is never any harm) for anyone to ask sincerely, “What has God commanded?” or “For what has God commended others?” Nor is it bad to use our brains in seeking God’s will. But there is very great harm indeed in creating a human system of doctrine, and binding it on others as a test of Christian fellowship or as a condition of salvation. That is what I mean by “patternism.” That is what turns something inherently healthy into something that is foul and diseased. That is the “plague” that gives this little gracEmail series its name.

(continued)


Part 3 — A necessary plan that never worked

8/20/2009

We had as well face it straight on. The pattern-seekers, well-intentioned as they were, created something that the New Testament does not require, suggest or even envision. It is no wonder that their scheme of commands, examples and necessary inferences, and the underlying assumption that everything not “authorized” was automatically forbidden, has been a horrible disaster. From the very beginning, the “CENI-S” approach was hopelessly ambiguous, completely unworkable, and incapable of consistent application.

For example, most patternists dismissed as irrelevant some commands that were inconvenient (such as feet-washing) or shaped by culture (such as a holy kiss or a woman’s veil). They made other commands, originally intended for limited application (such as Paul’s Gentile collection for poor Judeans), into permanent, universal law. They declared some historical events, however incidental, to be binding as “approved examples” (such as Paul’s weekend bread-breaking at Troas). But they dismissed as unimportant other events recorded in the same biblical context (such as eating in an upper room).

Inferences which one person viewed as “necessary” were considered entirely unnecessary by others. Conclusions based on inductive reasoning were assigned a level of certainty that is logically possible only through deductive argument. Other conclusions, properly based on deductive reasoning, were nevertheless flawed because their premises included human assumptions instead of biblical propositions. The whole approach had been fabricated by uninspired men, and it had no moral power. Its survival required constant persuasion (at best) or political pressure (at worst).

About 35 years ago, I attended a lunch meeting of preachers who considered compliance with their pattern a necessity for faithfulness to God. As they were about to go their separate ways, a wise senior member warned the others, “If all the preachers and elders in our brotherhood suddenly died today, I am afraid there would be no faithful churches left within one generation.” To which I thought (and might have said aloud), “That is because your whole system originates with men. If it were from God, it would not have to be constantly propped up to survive.”

(continued)

 

 

Part 4 — Restorationism eclipses unity

8/22/2009

For Thomas and Alexander Campbell, pattern theology was primarily a way to restore the primitive church. The restoration of the primitive church was a means of uniting believers in all denominations. When believers united, the world would convert to Christ. The world’s conversion would trigger the beginning of the Millennium, which would climax 1,000 years later with the return of Jesus Christ (the Campbells were post-millennialists). But the Campbells’ dream was not to be. Historical events, particularly the American Civil War, proved to be more than their utopian theory could endure.

Without the Campbells’ series of cause-and-effect connections, the goal of restoring the primitive church gradually pushed aside the goal of Christian unity, and restorationism emerged as the reason for Churches of Christ to exist. In the process, pattern theology (“CENI-S”) increasingly became sectarian and legalistic, both in tone and in form. The problem was not a bad attitude or a defective application of principles. The problem was the two-part assumption that God had placed in the New Testament Scriptures a detailed and mandatory pattern for the true church, and that the “CENI-S” principles provided the key that was necessary for its discovery.

Patternism prevailed as the primary mindset for most Churches of Christ until about the mid-20th century. In its wake were at least six (some say as many as 20-25) sub-groups or mini-Church of Christ “brotherhoods,” each usually recognizing only its own members as fellow-Christians, or certainly as the only “faithful” ones. Most of the “regular members” (“clergy” and “laity” were not in their vocabulary) were decent, loving people. Most of their preachers were bivocational, sacrificial and devout. Yet, for members and preachers alike, “evangelism” often meant telling Christians in other denominations about “the New Testament church” (or “true church”), and “conversion” occurred when someone left another denomination and joined a Church of Christ.

By the end of the 1950’s, most larger, white, urban, American Churches of Christ were well into the process of abandoning pattern theology, in favor of a less institutionalized and more personal understanding of their faith. Patternism continued in many congregations that were either smaller, African-American, rural, or the products of church-plantings outside the USA, all of which tended to be dependent, traditionally-inclined and susceptible to authoritarian influences from outside. But an era was about to pass, and things would never be the same again.

(continued)

 

 

Part 5 — A very helpful book

8/25/2009

As measured by the patternism that traditionally characterized Churches of Christ before the 1950’s, the mainstream was on the wrong side of almost every disputed issue. The truth is that patternism’s logic did not really allow the whole parade of “innovations” — Sunday Schools, multiple communion cups, “located preachers,” fellowship halls, church kitchens, or support of benevolent or evangelistic institutions from the church treasury. Of course, if consistently applied, patternism also would have excluded church buildings, traditional “worship services,” permanent church treasuries, and patternistic preachers.

But patternism itself had been wrong from the beginning. It was foreign to the Bible, a distraction from the gospel, and a constant competitor with Jesus for top billing in sermons and debates. Among mainstream Churches of Christ with Sunday morning attendance of 200+ persons, congregations strongly advocating the “CENI-S” principles today likely represent a very small minority. The most diligent continuing proponents of this system of interpretation are a sub-group of churches who identify themselves as “non-institutional” — ironically, as it happens, since their separate existence is justified only by a thoroughly institutionalized view of the church and everything pertaining to it.

I close by mentioning a very helpful new book, titled A Call to Unity: A Critical Review of Patternism and the Command-Example-Inference-Silence Hermeneutic, by Barry L. Perryman (Lander, Wyo.: IRM Press, soft cover, 83 pages, 2009). An associate professor of biotechnology at the University of Nevada-Reno, Dr. Perryman inspects the “CENI-S” hermeneutic from beginning to end in light of the Scriptures. It will come as a surprise to some to learn that Jesus himself rejected the first-century version of patternism’s principles, or that patternism can become what Paul called “another gospel.” For more information about Call to Unity, contact the author directly at bperryman1296@charter.net .

 

Edward Fudge

August 2009

0155 — Teen Cell Phones

This is something I picked up 3rd-hand, so unfortunately I can not properly credit the source – but he (The Source) was brilliant!

 

Picture this:  He was speaking to a large youth event, probably 500 or so teens.  Just after he is introduced he takes the microphone and says:  “Everyone, please get your cell phone.  Once you have them in your hands, go ahead and open them.”

 

[You know what’s coming next, don’t you?  As sure as you know that before you see a movie at the theater you will see an announcement to “please silence your cell phone,” you know that he is about to say, “Please turn off your cell phones so nothing will interrupt  your attention while I talk,” right?  Well, hold on…]

 

So once everyone has their cell phones out, the speaker says, “OK, now be sure your phone is ON.  If it’s not on already, please go ahead and turn it on.  Now, when you hear something about Jesus in my talk that you’d not heard before, or something especially interesting about Him, please text  3 friends about it, will you? Just tell them something like, ‘I heard the coolest thing just now!  Ask me about it tomorrow.”  Then tomorrow you will have 3 opportunities to tell your friends about your Lord.  And hopefully you will hear more things that turn you on about Jesus today than just 3, and you will text more friends than just 3!”

 

Wow, so why didn’t I think of that?  Guess what sort of sermon I was listening to?  No, not a Teen-Oriented one.  It was a, “How to reach today’s culture for Jesus” one.  And the point was that we need to engage the culture where it is at.  [Sorry about that dangling preposition.]   And if you know anything about teens today, you know they are “at” texting.  [Please don’t grade this post for grammer!]  And they are “at” Facebook.

 

Use the technology they use to help them “hear” what you say.

 

Oh, here’s one more:  Set a recurring alarm on your phone to 3:16 PM daily.  When it rings, say a short prayer and ask God to help you see – REALLY see – 3 people who need to know God loves them.  When you see them… TELL them.

0154 — Reasons to Believe

Hmmm, I imagine you are wondering, “Reasons to believe WHAT?” Right? In a nutshell, reasons to believe that GOD exists and that He is the Creator and that science bears testimony to both those facts.

So some of you may stop reading right here, since I said “facts” instead of “hypotheses.” But if you’ll hang in there (here!) a little longer, I’ll make it worth your while… really!

I am a scientist. Not a PhD type scientist, but an MS type scientist. (If you’re wondering, Physics and Math. I started getting job offers once my MS was achieved, and I really just didn’t want to invest another three years or so to complete a PhD, so I bailed. Was that the right decision? I don’t know, but God has blessed me greatly so I don’t look back… much.)

I grew up in the church. Six days in Genesis were, well, SIX DAYS, as in 24 periods of 60 minutes each. Dinosaurs? Oil deposits? Cosmic background radiation? I didn’t see any of that in Genesis. But God made everything. So I guessed he just created “everything” that way, with all that already in place. Was that a challenge to my faith? No, not really. Because I had decided to believe. So I put scientific “facts” secondary to my belief in God.

And here is what this post is about: Science does not have to be watered down to “fit” with God’s word. Science, or shall we say the physical universe, is. And it is as God created it. And it does not contradict His word.

Many people do not believe that. Many scientists do not believe that. (Many DO though — and more about that later.)

I had the first inkling of that when I took an Astrophysics graduate physics course. The professor was expounding on our ability to deduce events closer and closer to “time=zero,” i.e., the absolute beginning of the universe. I, knowing that God created the universe at time=zero and that there was not that much mystery about it (!), raised my hand and asked, “Do you think we will ever achieve the ability to determine actually what happened at time=zero?” He tilted his head a little as he thought how to answer that, and finally said, “That question is a theological question, but this course only deals with what we can physically observe.” There were multiple Nobel-winning professors on this particular university staff, and to hear one of that group acknowledge even that much of God really made an impression on me at the time.

There began to be in the church some who spoke about how to reconcile science and religion. Some of them were professed scientists, but their “proofs” were not convincing to me. It seemed I could argue around and through them, and that they were meant more for religionists who had no knowledge of science than those of us who had formal education in that area.

And thirty years passed. Here we are in 2012. What has changed for me with respect to how religion relates to science?

Well, I have seen marriages break up because one spouse became “educated” in science and decided his Christian spouse was too uneducated and too ill-informed, or too Christian, to live with anymore. I have seen young people go off to university and become enamored of atheistic professors and/or their teaching, and become worshippers of science instead of God. And it breaks my heart.

But I heard about an organization a year ago, and learned more about it this year, which is the best thing I’ve seen come along to have an effective approach to reconciling science and the Bible. The organization is composed of very (may I say “very, very”?) advanced scientists, experts in their fields, who believe in God, and believe that He created the universe, and that He sent His Son to us. I haven’t met them all, but the ones I’ve had the privilege of talking to are humble men — even when their academic credentials tend to blow me away.

The organization’s name is: REASONS TO BELIEVE. Their website is http://reasonstobelieve.org

They are hard-core scientists. They are Christians. They are scholars. They are public speakers. And they have a mission to bridge the gap, to eliminate the gap, between science and the Bible. And they are good at what they do. Here is their mission statement:

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature.

They further state (the highlighting is mine):

Our leadership team has reaffirmed a rather unique set of features that distinguishes RTB from other ministries. It’s not that other faithful Christian ministries don’t share one or more of these same qualities, but RTB embraces all of them together.

  • A high view of both Scripture and science—because the words of the Bible and the facts of nature come from the same Source, from God himself, who chose to make himself known
  • Apologetics for the sake of evangelism—because history awaits completion of the commission Christ charged his followers to fulfill
  • Constructive integration of God’s revelation (in Scripture and nature)—because truth will always be consistent, wherever it’s found
  • Commitment to application––because intellectual engagement should lead to effective evangelism, not merely to winning arguments
  • Ongoing development of a testable creation model—because the world needs a positive, growing case for faith in a caring Creator
  • Readiness to give reasons (1 Peter 3:15a)—because people have questions and doubts that deserve reasonable, well-researched responses
  • Communication of those reasons with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience (1 Peter 3:15b)—because people observe attitude and demeanor as much as they listen to words

If you are not a scientist, you may not “click” with the material you find at their website. But I am sure you know of someone whose faith IS challenged by a belief that science and the scriptures do not agree. Point them to REASONS TO BELIEVE. If they are on an authentic journey to truth, they will thank you for making them aware of this resource.

(How long is too long for a blog posting? I don’t know, since I’m not that great of a blogger, but I think I’ll keep going for a while more, in case I’ve held your interest to this point!)

The organization has a Statement of Faith that members/contributors have to agree to before they are allowed to become active. You can click here to view that.

I have spent only hours, not days, investigating this organization and its material, but it seems to me its underpinning is a belief in Dual Revelation. At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite scriptural, but on second glance, it IS scripture. In particular, consider these quotes for what RTB calls “general revelation”:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. Romans 1:20

“Specific revelation” is written in the Bible; “general revelation” is seen in the work of His hands, and in what is clearly seen.

RTB furnishes excellent material to counter atheism. They also have material to discuss in depth (IN DEPTH!) the differences between Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism, and why they believe that Old Earth Creationism is supported in God’s word. And they also are very willing to send people to YOUR location to help bolster faith in these areas. Just contact them using the information at their website.

I’ll close with one more observation.

The only RTB meeting I have ever gone to was in September. The featured speaker was unable to come, due to her husband’s medical condition, but her story was how, as an atheist, she was educated in cosmology (not cosmetics, but cosmology – the study of the cosmos/universe, ~astronomy if you will) and as she continued to learn about the intricacies of the universe, and the rules that govern it, she was left with the inescapable conclusion that it was created. And if the universe were created, there is a Creator. And therefore she could no longer be atheistic in her outlook. I still am looking forward to hearing her personally. Hopefully she will be rescheduled for early in 2013.  (I may have part of this story wrong, but if so I’ll correct it when I get to hear her!)

And looking back I realize I have left one thing unsaid. I did mention how some early apologists I was aware of in the church left me feeling rather cold, but I never said really what I thought in that same context about the RTB group. So I’ll say it. The RTB organization has it together. Their science is science, not just a waving of hands and a pretending that they understand what they are talking about. They DO understand. They have written some of the books that guide others in their fields. Give them a look/see. And let us know what you think.

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0153 — Behold the Sectarian Pattern

I had thought about using a different title, but in deference to the author I just kept the title of his original article, “Behold the Sectarian Pattern.”

Joe Beam has a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering (when you finally look at your watch) how an hour went by so quickly.  While not the “point” of this post, here are some audio links to Joe’s material.  You will receive a blessing if you carve out some time to listen to some of these:

He Lifted Me from the Ragged Edge Strong Church   Characteristics (#1, #2, #3)
Teen Commitment (good for   ANY AGE!) Strong Church   Characteristics (#4, #5, #6)
Most Churches Are   Wrong on Divorce  For other messages by Joe Beam, CLICK HERE and search (ctrl-F) for “Beam”

Meanwhile, back to the topic at hand — Sectarianism.

The concept that was new to me in Joe’s article below, or certainly the first time I ever saw it put into words, is this:  We say we want to “restore the New Testament church,” but when we attempt to copy the things we read about, what is keeping us from, instead, restoring the sectarianism instead?  I could ramble on some more, but Joe does a much better job than I, so here is his article for your consideration.

 

Behold the Sectarian Pattern

By: Joe Beam

 

For years our brotherhood has preached that to restore the New Testament church you simply find the pattern in the Bible and replicate it.

If that’s true then the same thing could be done to restore New Testament sectarianism.

Of course, no one admits to wanting that. But if we can determine the pattern of sectarians in the New Testament, we can identify sectarians today. As I’ve repeatedly heard, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!” If we can determine how sectarians looked, walked, and quacked in the New Testament, we can know who is a sectarian today – especially since sectarians are the last ones to admit being sectarian.

Convert

An examination of the New Testament reveals three major steps in the way sectarians operated. The first thing they attempted was conversion, convincing someone their sect was right and getting him to join their group to the exclusion of other groups. (Matthew 23:15) The Pharisees, for example, felt that they were the only ones that interpreted the Scriptures correctly and that no one else had the favor of God but them. They considered their interpretations and resulting regulations to be virtually as authoritative as scripture. Their views grew even stronger with each succeeding generation who revered their aging or dead teachers. Therefore, it followed that they wanted everyone to come to the same beliefs as they and attacked any who did not. (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:5-13)

Discredit

If sectarians failed to convert a person, they couldn’t ignore him or live in peaceful coexistence with him if he taught or preached something different than what they believed. So failed conversion attempts were followed by the second step of discrediting the person who didn’t come into their fold if he appeared to be a threat to them. Amazingly, warring sectarian parties joined together to attack a person each sect viewed as a threat. For example, the Pharisees joined with their arch-enemies the Sadducees (Matthew 16:1) and even their enemies the Herodians (Matthew 22:15-22) to try to trap Jesus. All the differences which made each group disassociate themselves from the others were ignored when they felt the need to combine forces to discredit the interloper Jesus.

The first tool for discrediting was the “theological trap.” They knew their own particular doctrines and had studied them carefully for years so they could convert new disciples and refute other sects in debate. Knowing their arguments better than they knew scripture, they tried to trap Jesus with the same polemic they used on enemies who preceded Him. Their intention was not to find truth through honest discussion or study; it was to trap their perceived enemy in a theological contradiction in an attempt to discredit him. (Matthew 19:3; 2:18)

The second tool for discrediting was to slander through inflammatory labels. (Matthew 11:18-19) Sectarians know that people love to hear gossip and believe the worst, so labeling is a powerful tool.

A third way to discredit was to condemn the perceived enemy for the people with whom he associated. (Luke 5:29-32) The reason for the association was irrelevant – they didn’t care if he’d gone to heal or teach them, all they wanted was something to make him look bad.

Destroy

When discrediting failed to stop their perceived enemy, sectarians moved to the last step – destroying. Once they convinced themselves they were right and that God blessed only them, it was easy to do whatever it took to destroy the person they felt was drawing people away from God. Attributing their perceived enemy’s doctrines and motives to Satan made it essential that they stop him. (Matthew 9:32-34; Mark 12:24) They could even violate their own morals to accomplish that task. They lied to the person they sought to destroy (Matthew 22:15-22) in an effort to “set him up” for a theological trap. They lied about him to turn others against him (Matthew 26:59-68), even using those lies to lead people to kill him.

Know Anyone Like That?

Reading through the above pattern I realize that some have successfully restored New Testament Sectarianism. They look, walk, and quack just like those sectarians in the New Testament! And just like their ancestors, they have no clue that they practice sectarianism because they truly believe that they are the people of God and that he blesses only them!

They try to convert everyone to their view, but they have much greater knowledge of what has been handed down to them by those who have gone before than they have of the scriptures. They really do equate their deductions, interpretations, and resulting regulations as equal to scripture. Therefore, they aren’t open to the Word any longer, only to the interpretations of their leaders.

Convinced they are the only people of God, they cannot ignore or live in peaceful harmony with anyone who doesn’t agree with them if they view that person as a threat to them. So sectarians give grace to someone who believes he can kill in war even if they believe God teaches us to be pacifists. After all, killing in war doesn’t threaten the existence of their sect. Therefore, it must be a matter of opinion. But using a translation that doesn’t support their interpretations or worshipping in a way that is different than their traditions does threaten their sect. Obviously, that then must be a matter of faith to them. So they ignore the “killer” and attack the Bible reader or the sincere worshipper!

With smooth words and flattering statements they attempt to maneuver a perceived enemy into a theological trap designed to discredit him. And they attempt to discredit with labels like “liberal,” “Crossroads,” or worse. They even join forces with others with whom they disagree to attack a brother they perceive as a threat.

We’ve witnessed terrible lies and other sins that sectarians justify because they are trying to destroy a person or institution viewed as an enemy of God. I know of instances where a brother said point blank that he doesn’t believe a specific thing only to have the interviewer publish an article or start gossip that states just the opposite. Only a true New Testament Sectarian could justify such evil behavior as being service to the God of heaven.

It’s not service to God; it’s service to the sect. They pay lip service to God but give true loyalty to what the sect believes. (Matthew 15:1-9)

Dealing With Sectarians

It’s time we deal with sectarians in a New Testament manner. For too long we’ve allowed them to flourish undeterred because we feared that if we opposed them we would become what they are. But just as there is a “pattern” for sectarians in the New Testament, there is a pattern for dealing with them.

First, expect them to attack you. Read Matthew 10 to see what comes to those who love and follow Jesus. As Jesus pointed out, if they called him Beelzebub what should we expect them to call us who follow Him? We shouldn’t be surprised at the actions of sectarians anymore than we should be surprised when ducks quack. It’s their nature to do what they do.

Second, keep doing good in spite of their intention to harm you. David didn’t let the giant’s threats stop him (1 Samuel 17:41-51) and proved that God was alive and at work. When Jesus saw what needed to be done, He did it even though He knew it would cost Him his life. He was angry and deeply distressed at the stubborn hearts of the sectarians, just as we may be, but He did the work of God in spite of them. (Mark 3:1-6)

Third, rebuke them for their sectarian sin when you see it. It wouldn’t be right to ignore a brother’s drunkenness or adultery. We’d tell him to stop and call what he was doing a sin. The same is true with sectarians. Don’t emulate their spirit. Don’t go looking for them or trying to set theological traps to make them look bad. And certainly don’t make it your business to try to destroy them. But rebuke them in the love of Jesus with plain language so that they are confronted with their sin. John did it. (Matthew 3:7-12) Jesus did it too. (Matthew 23:1-36) If we want to walk in His steps, we must do the same.

God, in an effort to restore Your church some restored New Testament Sectarianism instead. Show every open heart the way from the sects into Your Way.

-Joe Beam

0152 — I’m Having a Different Experience

Couples (and sometimes churches) experience events in their lives differently and wind up arguing about “who said what” and therefore “who is really right.” I have found it far more productive for couples to acknowledge, “I’m having a different experience of this than you,” and to vulnerably invite, “help me understand yours better.” When Modernism persuades us Reason is the only game in town, intimate relationships suffer greatly. When both members of the marriage can acknowledge they have subjective interpretations of events, including fights, humility that brings unity can prevail.

Quote from SCOTT GREEN, 7/28/2011