There is a modern idol which our society has created which I will call “the non-judgmental Jesus” that is highly desired today. This Jesus was inclusive to people regardless of their lifestyles, accepting everyone in the way they chose to life their lives without judging them.
Consider this: just because someone uses the name “Jesus,” that does NOT mean that they are referring to the person we read about and see in the Bible. Consider the Jesus of Islam for a moment. Do Muslims know Jesus? They would say, “certainly we know Jesus, we love, honor, and respect him as a prophet of Allah!” But since they deny that in Jesus God was being a man, they cannot be referring to the actual Lord Jesus.
The fact is this: a Jesus unconcerned about sin cannot be the Jesus of the Bible. Any Jesus unconcerned about sin is an idol.
If people want to talk about Jesus, that is fine, but don’t confuse talking about Jesus with LISTENING to Him, and reading his biographies in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!
As we look at Jesus’ interactions with sinners, we are immediately struck with the reality that the notion of a God unconcerned with our sin is absolute nonsense. The reality is that Jesus, far from affirming people’s lifestyles, actually told sinners to their faces to “leave your live of sin” and continually told all people that they had to “repent,” which in modern lingo would be “you must change your lifestyle. The way you are living is wrong and self destructive!”
I can hear the critics now “are you saying that I have to give up my lifestyle in order to follow Jesus? I can’t believe in a God who would judge how anyone chooses to live their life!”
Recently, those practicing homosexual acts while claiming to follow Christ, use this argument to say “how could you try to impose a different lifestyle on anyone!” But the reality is that Jesus imposes a new lifestyle on everyone who sought to follow Him, not just those with same-sex attraction, but truly EVERYONE!
People have re-interpreted the places where “Jesus receives and eats with sinners” to suggest that Jesus’ eating with people was to affirm them, to say that God accepts them just as they are. This may sound nice, but it is not true.
There is not one instance of someone who came to Jesus and was told “I love you just as you are, keep on doing what you’re doing. That is how I made you to live.” The fact that Jesus ate with sinners in NO WAY suggests that He accepted their sinful lifestyle as an acceptable way of life.
Look at Jesus love for sinners in Luke 15:1, and then notice how the chapter is not about accepting sinners as they are, but rather about calling them to change their lives and come home to God!
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”… v.7 “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” v.10 “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And in the Parable of the lost son, the Father does not go embrace his son in the pigpen, the son comes home.
The message is HUGE! God wants EVERYONE to come, no matter what you’ve done and become, but God’s call is not “live as you like” but rather “come home to Me! Let my heart be your heart, let me show you how life was meant to be lived! Surrender your life to me!”
This is exactly what Jesus says just a chapter before in Luke 14 & also in Matt 16.
Luke 14:25-33 “…If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
From the beginning of the gospels, Jesus’ good news message about the coming Kingdom was “change your life and come join God’s Kingdom come to earth!” As Mark 1:14-15 records: “…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
The good news was not that God wants to affirm any “lifestyle” we choose to live, but that God’s invitation is for EVERYONE, regardless of whatever we have said, done or become, that we can all share in God's Kingdom by being born again into this new reality! Thus a New Life, a New Birth into God’s Kingdom, a total change of lifestyle (repentance) was the theme of Jesus preaching!
Jesus exposes the sinful lifestyle of the woman at the well as a wake-up call to offer her Spiritual life, and guess what, it works! She was amazed to see that God’s Messiah cared deeply for her in spite of all of the sins of her previous lifestyle; that was good news! John 4:16-20, 29 - “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’… “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”
Jesus again focuses on the transformation of life that God desires and his intolerance for sinful lifestyles after healing the crippled man in John 5:14: “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
I challenge you to read the Gospels and see for yourself how all of Jesus’ interactions with sinners sought to transform their lifestyles to ones that practiced righteousness rather than sin. Does Jesus say we must choose between living our lives however we want or following after Him? Yes. YES! Absolutely!
Which will you choose?
“Because whoever has a desire to keep his life safe will have it taken from him; but whoever gives up his life because of me, will have it given back to him.”
“Then man created gods in their own image. In their own image they created them, and some even called them ‘father’, ‘jesus’ and ‘spirit.’ And they said “let us make them love the things we love, and value the things we value, want the things we want, and think the way we think. In this way we need not change ourselves to worship them.”’
What are the idols of today? To whom are our modern children being offered as a sacrifice?
America's idols are understandably being associated with the most common existing understanding of the supreme being in America, namely “God” and “Jesus.” The result is that people of all stripes and beliefs are pouring their own idolatrous desires into characters they name as "Jesus." You hear this whenever someone speaks about the character of Jesus without actually having studied the Jesus revealed in the New Testament documents. You hear it all the time when people say “the Jesus you are talking about doesn’t look anything like the Jesus I believe in!” Or saying “Jesus was just about loving people, NOT telling them how to live their lives” and the like.
Abraham Lincoln supposedly has remarked “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.” I love that guy, such a clear thinker.
Today, more than ever before, people are calling idols which they have crafted according to their own desires and image by the names of "Jesus" and "God". The use of the name "Jesus" in no way ensures they you are talking about the God who revealed himself in flesh and left a written testimony (the New Testament) for future generations through inspiration of His Spirit.
Satan’s attempt at deception is very simply to return to lying about Jesus. This is nothing new, of course, as most of the New Testament letters were written in response to lies that were going around about Jesus. The funny thing is, those letters which were originally used to ensure people of the truth and refute the lies about Jesus are the very same letters which today are now being pushed aside and ignored because “they don’t look like Jesus to me”! Astonishing! History has literally repeated itself and most are too engrossed in their idolatry to realize the supreme irony.
Jesus predicted such days would come. “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” — Matthew 24:4-5.
Pluralism encourages the false belief that all variations of "Jesus" are equally valid, but such a view is entirely incompatible with the Bible itself. At the end of the day we have a simple choice. Will we believe in Jesus as He is presented in the Bible, including the parts we don't like today, including the parts which dash to pieces our notions of what it means to be a human? Or, will we erase the challenging parts and instead carve a new Jesus using only the parts that we want to be there,a Jesus who approves of our “identity” as we are without calling us to something greater, a Jesus formed in our own image?
The choice is ours. God gives you and me the ability to choose Him freely so that those who truly love Him would find Him, and those who truly love self would stay in their own delusions and though ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand' (Luke 8:10).
If you still are not convinced that we can create idols using the name of Christ check this out. “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” — 1 John 5:19-21
John 18:33-38 — Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
This brief exchange shows the reality that Jesus' words are, at best, confusing to those who have already rejected the idea of truth.
Imagine for a second a person who believes the only reason ISIS exists is as a cover-up US government operation intended to force American to become a dictatorship. Could anyone convince them otherwise? What if another person was just as adamant that ISIS is really just a bunch of run-of-the-mill Muslims that are simply following the Qur’an and no other factors whatsoever are involved in their actions other than attempting to further Islam. Could they convince anyone of their idea? Throw a 3rd idea in the mix of someone who is absolutely certain the ISIS can only exist because of the reality of the violence of Islam, but that it is not that factor alone. It is also related to their sense of victimhood identity in which they cannot see any internal flaws in Islam itself, but are taught that all of their problems are caused by outsiders from the West. These people all have something in common: all have made up their minds that their personal perspective about an extremely complex issue is what they will stick to come what may, even without any one of them truly having a full comprehension into the situation.
Ideas are powerful, and the ideas people believe determine how they will live. Ask a member of ISIS, for example, what they believe in and why they act as they do. Ideas shape people, families, cultures, and civilizations. But are all ideas equally valid?
Nowadays, everybody has an opinion. Social media (Facebook, etc.) champions the idea that you have a voice which deserves to be heard, even if you have not read the article you are commenting on, and even if you have not actually studied Primary Source material, and even if you are just sharing your opinions, you feel as though what you have to say should be just as valuable, and has just as much claim to truth as anybody else that comments, even if your ideas don’t stand up to logical scrutiny, and even if you’re proven wrong “well, that is just what you think…”
We have a problem as people in America right now. We are so inundated with information that we have forgotten what truth is amidst the flood of ideas in the market place of intellectual exchange (the internet).
At most colleges, impressionable young people are taught there is no such thing as “transcendent truth.” Consequently, any point of view is encouraged as though they're equally valid since Humanism says that by all of us working together we can achieve perfection as a species. “We can figure it all out if we just put our heads together.”
Of course, not all ideas are equal. We have to have a way to measure, to test, to decide which ideas are objectively better or worse than others. In short, we must judge the ideas that exist in the world today. Our culture hates the idea of objective truth, that some things are a certain way no matter what anyone, including myself things about them. To avoid this uncomfortable reality, our world does everything it can to say, “don’t judge others,” or even “who are you to determine what is ‘true’ for someone else! Let them decide to believe whatever they want to believe. You have no right to judge their ideas.” But even “not judging” is judging in a different way, it is judging that all are equal, but such a judgment ultimately becomes self-contradictory upon inspection. So we are brought back full circle to judging all ideas again anyway, even the idea of “not judging” which must be ultimately rejected.
So, in the mess of ideas out there today, you and I must come into the debate saying this “I could be wrong about this.” If I am wrong, I will accept it like a man, or woman, and own up to it. I won’t keep fighting for my pride, I will accept that I was wrong. Everybody is wrong once in a while. This takes humility, a Christian value, that isn’t very widespread in any circle.
To dialogue and seek truth also requires critical, but clear and logical thinking. You cannot afford to simply accept whatever is told to you from any source, and that includes our own preconceived notions; we must put those on the scales of truth as well.
Michael Shank in his book Muscle and a Shovel recounts his biographical experience of learning from a co-worker that he should “let the Bible interpret itself.” For most members of a church of Christ, this sentiment is one that makes us feel comfortable and at home, but is this idea a reality? Can the Bible speak for and interpret itself, or is interpretation required on the part of the reader? In truth, Shank has it wrong; Biblical interpretation is essential every time anyone reads the Bible, even with seemingly simple and straightforward texts. Since much of this happens on an intuitive and unconscious level some even decry the need for Biblical interpretation altogether. But to do so is a grave error indeed, as the meaning of a text can be completely changed by several literary factors that must be considered. The impact of such literary features as structure and genre on a few example passages from the Old and New Testaments can sufficiently demonstrate the case that Biblical interpretation is absolutely necessary to understand the meaning of any Biblical text.
The literary structure refers to the organization of thoughts and phrase within a work that serves as the framework which an author uses to organize the flow of his work. We take for granted that authors intended something to be understood from their writing and deliberately structured their work to get their points across. Even though the author may not have created an outline before writing his own work, as we analyze it we will often outline it to help us discover his intended meaning. Changes in topic and even speaker during the dialogue of a text have tremendous affect on the interpretation of any verse. Meaning is not just conveyed by words and sentences, but by how words and sentences relate to one another as they occur in a passage. Any word or verse on its own might appear to have a “simple meaning” but no verse of the Bible is meant to be understood in such a way that it ignores all of the surrounding structure! This is my biggest complaint against Shank's book, and he is just as guilty of this as those he attacks in the book.
Consider the example of the apparent meaning of the message of Amos 2:4-5, while ignoring the structure of the book and surrounding chapters and verses. Without this structure, these verses in Amos appear to be a striking pronouncement of judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. But when the structure of the book as a whole is taken into consideration, the focus of these verses actually changes from Judah to Israel. Amos 1:1 reveals that the prophecy is concerning not the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Further study reveals that Amos begins his prophesy about Israel by repetitious condemnation of six of the nations surrounding Israel in 1:3-2:3 and then condemning Judah in 2:4-5 before finally turning to Israel in 2:6 through the end of the book. The structure reveals that the condemnation of Judah is not necessarily meant to be a prediction of the fall of Jerusalem so much as it is a warm up before the rebuke begins against his audience in Israel. In light of the structure of 1:3-2:5, Amos 2:4-5 is less about condemning Judah and more about “buttering-up” his audience to pay attention to the Lord’s word before he turns to give them a message calling for their repentance. So, even though Judah appears to be the subject of 2:5-6, the meaning of these verses actually becomes more about Israel when interpreted within the structure of the text.
The book of Ephesians provides another example of the importance of structure in Biblical interpretation. The book is clearly divided into two sections with the break occurring with Paul’s “therefore” in Ephesians 4:1. Before 4:1 Paul uses almost exclusively the indicative mood (with only one imperative mood exception), but from 4:1 through the end of the letter the imperative is used forty-one times. The impact that this structural division has on the text drives home a theological point. From Paul’s introduction until 4:1 he employs the indicative mood to teach the truths of who God is and what He has done, summarizing all that preceded 4:1 as “the calling of which you have been called.” Paul then makes a theological turn from the nature of God’s gracious call to the human response expressed in obedience to the various imperatives which constitute a “a life worthy of the calling.” Theologically this structure says something important, namely that the goodness of God calls for a human response, and not the other way around. So the structure of a book, such as Ephesians, influences not only the meaning of the book, but can also have an effect upon the whole of New Testament Theology.
Just as the structure influences the meaning of a text, the genre does also. Genre has been pictured as an unspoken contract between author and reader that guarantees the message will be understood as intended. The genre of a Biblical text is about comparing it with contemporary works to see if it was composed concordantly within an ancient genre. Letters, biographies, and wisdom literature and apocalyptic are some of the genres that appear in the Bible. Assuming a text is within a genre when it should not be of vis-a-versa can have disastrous results. The book of Proverbs in the genre of ancient wisdom literature provides a solid example.
Many believe that all of Proverbs was written or dictated by Solomon, before even examining the internal evidence of the book for itself to find its literary genre. While several passages, such as 25:1 do suggest Solomon was a source, others parts, such as 24:23 suggest no particular source and rather appear to suggest that various sources were compiled together. This might trouble some people to think any Bible book contained quotations from other sources, but this would make perfect sense if the book of Proverbs was properly interpreted as being in the genre of ancient wisdom literature. Such works were not meant to be read like history or law, but rather as sagely advice, being something like the modern equivalent of self-help books or even Oprah. Evidence that Proverbs was written in this genre abounds.
Transitional language found in passages such as Proverbs 24:23 and 25:1 suggest the compilation of various sources, as does also the repetition of identical phrases in different sections such 14:12 and 16:25. Direct evidence of parallels passages in other ancient wisdom sources is also now available. An example is seen in the translation of a curious word that appears in Proverbs 22:20 that English translations do not bear out. While the ASV reads “Have not I written unto thee excellent things of counsels and knowledge [emphasis mine),” the word here rendered “excellent” is actually the word “captain.” Translators tried to make sense of this word this way until Instruction of Amenemope an Egyptian work dating near 1200 BC was discovered. It parallels Proverbs 22 and 23 to such a degree that it is hard to deny a connection between the two. Modern translators, realizing that Instruction of Amenemope is probably the source for this section, render the word “captain” as “thirty” in reference to the 30 sayings of Amenemope. The genre of wisdom literature copied all useful sources and so if Proverbs did use Amenemope as a source, this would be totally appropriate. These clues are understandable and predictable if the genre of Proverbs is understood to be that of ancient wisdom literature. However, if the genre is ignored or misunderstood, these facts could trouble the faith of some when such is clearly unnecessary. Pinpointing the genre of a Biblical text ensures that the ground rules are in place to allow it to be understood in the manner that the original author intended.
Probably the most striking example of the necessity of genre in Biblical interpretation is the book of Revelation. People of just about every generation have looked to this book as though it was written to predict the world and events of their time before Christ’s second coming. The wild popularity of the Left Behind series, as well as the hesitancy and superstition with which most the book of Revelation is due to incorrect interpretation stemming from failure to recognize the literary genre. Revelation is not the only contemporary book written in apocalyptic style, in fact, there are 14 Jewish and 23 Christian apocalypses outside of the Bible. Apocalyptic literature was characterized by a presupposition that the natural and the supernatural worlds of spirits interact and influence one another and that the destiny of these two is intertwined. If that doesn’t sound like a dead ringer description of Revelation, what does? While most think the term apocalyptic refers to end times it actually means uncovering. This genre of books is always about revealing something, just as Revelation declares itself to be doing in 1:1. John reveals a supernatural conflict that is occurring between Christians, the Roman State, and unseen spiritual forces battling behind the scenes. The book uses figures to illustrate this truth in many ways to show encourage the church in their resistance against what may seem to be just a small physical thing of engaging in emperor worship, but is actually a spiritual war against the forces of Satan.
Taking the scenes of the book as literal leads to some of the most absurd interpretations imaginable, and misses strongly the point John was making to his readers of revealing this spiritual conflict. The story of the woman and the dragon from Revelation 12 illustrates John’s usage of apocalyptic style to reveal the spiritual conflict. The text explains in verse 9 that the dragon is clearly identified with Satan. The background for this particular story comes from the greco-roman story of the woman Leto, pregnant with twins Artemis and Apollo, being pursued by the red dragon Python who, being sent by Hera, knows that Apollo would one day kill him if he did not kill her. Zeus comes along, however, to save Leto, who was pregnant with his children. This story was well known to represent the struggle between good and evil to a first century audience. The obvious parallels between these stories could not be more obvious, and John appears to have simply reformatted this mythical story to fit his own purpose and needs to represent the struggle of Christ and his church against Satan. This does not mean the story in Revelation is uninspired, but rather this parallel reinforces strongly the reality that the book of Revelation should not be understood literally, but rather according to the genre of apocalyptic language. This and other evidence jumps off the page to say that Revelation should be understood as other apocalyptic books, not literal, but symbolic. These symbols would be things known to the original recipients, and so any interpretation requires thought to be given to the symbols used in the book as the first century audience would have understood them.
Returning to Michael Shank’s book, does the Bible interpret itself? Perhaps not in the way that many assume. No, the Bible does not tell us directly what the author’s intentions were. No, the Bible will not tell the reader if he has ignored the structure or genre of the author’s work. However, the structure and genre are already within the text, it just takes some work to dig it out. There is work to be done, and it is not as easy as simply opening the Bible and reading it from our own 21st century perspective. A correct interpretation does come from the Bible itself, and in that way does allow the Bible to interpret itself, but not without the church’s hard work to reach a correct interpretation. As Michael Shank observes, muscle and a shovel are needed to discover these literary elements in order to arrive at a correct understanding of any Biblical text, not by putting verses together which support your case, but rather by entering a much slower process of actually studying the Bible one book at a time to correctly understand what the author originally intended.
Spiritual Giftedness is possibly one of the least appreciated and thus one of the least heeded teachings of the New Testament church function. In recent time there has been a resurgence of people seeking to discover their giftedness. However, seeking to individually discover and exercise giftedness as a personal pursuit is not at all what the New Testament speaks about. In fact, this “Lone Ranger” approach is condemned in scripture when it happened in Corinth in 1 Cor 14 because it missed the point. Spiritual giftedness is not about the personal satisfaction of having “done my part” or even “satisfying my Christian responsibilities of service.” Rather, it is about accomplishing the purpose for which Christ created His body.
There are several non-miraculous gifts mentioned in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12: Leadership, service, showing mercy, giving, exhortation, evangelism, pastoring & teaching, administration, and a non-miraculous form of prophecy (If you’re are unsure about non-miraculous prophecy, shoot me an e-mail about it & I’ll tell you more).
A great analogy to get how these gifts can be used together in harmony has only come along a few thousand years after the N.T. in the form of a road trip. The way the New Testament speaks of these gifts working together in order to accomplish our purpose as a church is a little bit like what it takes to make it to your destination on a road trip.
Leadership - this is the GPS device (or road map), it sets direction for all to follow; points us down the path of following Christ and bringing others to follow Him. Everyone should know that a GPS without a correct destination plugged in, or without constant contact with the satellites is useless. So it is with leadership that does not stay connected to Christ, the head. AS soon as leadership starts going wherever it wants, the GPS horror stories begin. Leadership is essential for the church, but these leaders are not dictators, but more like a GPS that can be reprogrammed, courses are never in absolute control and can be corrected as needed. Thus leaders are themselves directed by the instruction of Christ and instruction and guidance of shepherds and evangelists.
Administration - is like the driver of the car. I say this because this person guides every knob, control, petal, etc. This gift organizes every other part of the trip following the direction of the leader. Effective administration ensures that each one does their own job, without having to worry about picking up the slack of other jobs, which enables each one to do their own job more effectively. If a church lacks administration, it will lack organization and will often have many people working hard, but often the most important things will forever be slipping through the cracks. For example, someone gifted in evangelism might be out doing an act of service or showing mercy while contacts who need to be engaged slip out unnoticed. The administrator can organize to make sure mercy showers and servers are on target with that need so that the evangelist can focus on those contacts who need to be evangelized.
Servants - are all the pistons, engine block, pedals, knobs, tires, gas tank, and most pieces of hardware of the vehicle. Bottom line, if you don’t have these, you don't have a car (or a church). These are those who will accomplish each and every detail along the way to make sure the car drives and can even move forward. There are many diversified areas where hands-on service is needed, and thus there are many in the body gifted in this way. Everything from preparing the Lord’s supper to cooking meals, cleaning the building, and any other behind the scenes action.
Mercy showers - is the brake pedal, needed to pick those up who fall or stumble along the way. They say, “man overboard, put on the brakes and lets get this guy up!” If I had to choose a car part for this, it would be a mechanic that rides in your back seat, and who carefully monitors each part to focus on those that need maintenance.
Givers - these are the gas in the tank, through their liberality, these provide the necessary resources to arrive at our destination. We all have a calling to give, but these are mature in the grace of God and gifted to provide extra resources for the Kingdom. They are essential!
Pastors & Teachers - this is the car manual/ driver’s ed coach/mechanic! Except a little different because they are needed along the way to provide continued training and knowledge of how each one can use their gift in following Christ. So, this coach is an experienced driver, who has been there and back, and is in the car to coach all the others so they can maximize their gifts to reach the goal. Their experience and closeness to the Lord means they can diagnose and repair many car problems with the Lord’s toolbox.
Exhortation - this is the radio station (or the Energy drink). It encourages you, keeps the spirit’s up & fans them into flame! It makes sure nobody is sleeping on the job, & keeps us going strong. A good example here is someone who shares encouragement thru words in writing notes, making visits, sharing messages, etc. This person gets to know others and is concerned with how to spur them on in their Christian walk.
Evangelism - this person convinces others to jump in the car as we head toward our destination. He has a close relationship with the car manufacturer and knows its optimal performance. He thus can help direct others into use their giftedness, getting people on board and plugged-in in such a way that newcomers become active participants.
Prophecy - this is the warning lights on the dash, that tell us if something is going wrong, if part of the car is out of line with the production manual. They are easy to ignore, especially by the admins and leaders if they think the journey is going well, but to ignore those who say, “the scripture points us toward another way…” are making a huge blunder.
Having a body that works perfectly is different from having a car that runs perfectly, however. A car must have perfection from the mechanics, but the body can run even with imperfect people! Because the body of Christ is a self-healing, self-correcting body. When someone falls into sin and need restoration, or experiences hurt or discouragement and needs healing or encouragement the body is equipped for that, and it doesn’t get off track of break down.
The ministry car only breaks down in a failure of the following:
Otherwise, as long as members are walking in the light and offering themselves to the body for service, this car will flat out run! God sure does know what He is doing with His designs doesn’t He?
I voted today… if that bothers you, I challenge you to keep reading till the end.
I voted today for the first time since 2004. If my decision not to vote in the past bothers you, I challenge you also to keep reading till the end.
For these past 10 years I’ve struggled, questioning myself about whether or not I should or even could vote as a Christian.
Is voting democratic really an approval of the murder of unborn children? Or does voting democratic actually care for the poor and needy? Is voting republican an approval of the greed of the super-rich and greedy large businesses? Or is voting republican really an approval of Biblical authority? Is non-partisan voting even worth my time?
People line up on both sides to defend why, “you can’t be a Christian and vote for ______.”
So where do you find yourself in this argument? If you’ve ever struggled with whether or not you could vote while sincerely trying to follow Jesus Christ with your life, perhaps you understand where I am coming from.
For 10 years I was confident that God was in control, whether or not my leaders cared about Him. When I chose not to vote, I trusted that the world was not careening out of control, but that God was truly at work to do what He wanted most done. Furthermore, I trusted that my vote would neither diminish nor enhance God’s control over His own universe.
But I never believed, not even for a minute that what God wanted most was the preservation of American way of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is far too small a thing for YHWH, the Creator and Owner of the cosmos, to focus on as His main concern!
Is God more able to work in a society that has laws that somewhat support His moral nature?
Is God less able to work in a society that hates Him?
Is God only able to work when our politicians or laws seem to support His views?
Is the USA under God’s control only when our laws support His morality?
Is God bound to bless our nation if we place the 10 commandments or any other commands from the Bible in front of our monuments?
Is God’s desire for Christians to try and to fix their nation through politics?
Or would God rather Christians give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?
Bigger question here: is God’s main concern for a nation about it’s laws and politics, or is it always on the small segment of it that belongs to His Kingdom, and how He will use them for the redemption of as many others as possible?
What if terrible, sinful politics are exactly what God will use to make His grace of redeeming sinful mankind to increase 10-fold?
What a tragedy when Christians’ vision is more concerned more with this nation than with YHWH’s Kingdom! YHWH is working things out things for His Own Kingdom, for the liberation of slaves to sin, to rescue those who were dying eternal death.
When some people think about God working out His plans, they cannot seem to imagine it happening unless it is being enforced by our government. When we seek for a solution to sin issues like abortion or homosexual marriage through governmental routes, we MISS the big picture! Whether or NOT our politics have ANYTHING to do with God changes NOTHING for our responsibility towards Him! Our concern must always be to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
I voted today, because God has put me in this place, at this time, and gave me this opportunity to point the world toward Him. But make no mistake, I put no confidence in that vote, nor in the fact that I live in a place where my vote counts, but rather in the One who controls the fate of this nation and every other nation whether or not their leaders even care.
I’ll trust Him, and I’ll give to Caesar what is Caesar’s by casting a vote. I’ll do it by faith, but more importantly, I will live by faith when I walk away from the booth, and I won’t allow the concerns of Caesar to cloud my vision of God’s Kingdom, and THAT is how I’ll give to God what is God’s.
My hope is that a little research into ebola can help calm some of the hysterics going on about this right now, so here is what I have been able to dig up with a little research.
Ebola Virus History
- Fruit bats are believed to be the original carrier for this virus in nature.
- First identified outbreak occurred in 1976 in South Sudan and Zaire, so this is not a new disease, and from then through 2013 there were only 1,716 total cases reported.
- In the 2014 West African outbreak, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have had most of the 9,216 cases from which some 4,555 people have died.
- Incubation period — how long until symptoms begin show up — is 2-21 days (average 8-10). People are not contagious during this incubation period. So, even after contracting the virus, it cannot be spread until the person begins to show symptoms.
- Symptoms include: Fever of 100.9+, Sore Throat, Severe headache, Muscle pain, Weakness, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Abdominal (stomach) pain, Rash, Unexplained bleeding internally (bruising) or externally may occur 5-7 days into the symptoms.
- These symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
- Death from ebola occurs from low blood pressure, usually from 6-16 days after symptoms appear.
- In order to confirm a case, samples of suspected cases are sent off to the CDC for testing, which takes a total of 2 days to confirm whether or not it is ebola.
Confirmed Cases within the United States
- Dr. Kent Brantly - flown from Liberia to Emory hospital in Atlanta, Georgia Aug. 2 where he was successfully treated in isolation by 5 doctors and 21 nurses for 19 days until his release on August 21st, 2014.
- Nancy Writebol was flown out of Liberia on Aug. 5 to Emory hospital in Atlanta, Georgia where she was successfully treated and released.
- Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man, was treated unsuccessfully at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and died October 8th, 2014.
- Nina Pham (infected by Duncan) is being treated at a National Institutes of Health isolation unit in Maryland.
- Amber Vinson (infected by Duncan) is being treated at Emory hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
How Ebola Spreads
- Ebola is classified as a bio-saftey level 4 agent, and
- Ebola spreads either from person to person through bodily fluids, or from animal to person. Mammals can contract ebola, and bats in Africa are suspected to be the original source of it.
- The virus spreads when fluids (blood, vomit, saliva, diarrhea, etc) from an infected person’s body enter another person’s body (thru any bodily orifice: mouth, nose, eyes, ears, etc.) the same as with the flu or cold virus. However, ebola can be transmitted sexually by male survivors for up to 2 months after the virus.
- Example: a patient could vomit on the floor and someone cleaning this up without proper precautions could get some accidentally rubbed into their nose and become infected. This is isolation and proper decontamination for nurses and Drs coming out of here is essential. This is also why the spread in Africa has been so problematic, because of lack of facilities and procedures to handle true isolation with decontamination.
- Before you panic however, consider, for a moment the spread of those who have been infected in America. Two American citizens, Dr. Brantly, and Nancy Writebol both were flown to the U.S. without infecting anyone along the way because precautions were taken. They were treated successfully without any spread of ebola, and have no been released from the hospital with no infections. One Liberian man, came to the U.S. while infected with Ebola; he shared a plane with many people, apparently saw people in relatively close contact in airports all before his symptoms showed up. He returned to his place of residence where he stayed in close contact, living with 3 other people as his symptoms began to develop: fever, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. He went to the hospital a first time and was sent home, again having close contact with many people. He then later returned to the hospital, was admitted, finally tested for Ebola, confirmed and then treated. During this time he contact closely MANY people, and even lived with them, but only 2 nurses out of all of these people he contact along the way have become infected. This shows that it is transmitted through bodily fluids, and infection is avoidable if proper precautions are taken.
Stopping the spread of Ebola
- However, anywhere that takes proper precautions to prevent contact with the fluids, and to appropriately decontaminate caregivers after contact with patients can successfully avoid spreading to others. A good example is a Firestone plant turned hospital in Harbel, Liberia that has successfully treated many with no further spread by simply using their own chemical hazmat suits and a simple but powerful decontamination process. 
- The bottom line is that while Ebola has spread rapidly in Africa it is the caregivers, including: family members, Doctors and Nurses who are the most at risk as they have continual contact with fluids and so careful decontamination processes are necessary to ensure no further spreading. Obviously, this is impossible for many families in Africa as there are not enough quarantine units available and so the sad situation continues as it has.
- What about the two nurses infected at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital? So far, there are two claims going on to explain this, and each needs to be evaluated to see which is most likely to be true given circumstances. The CDC has claimed that they did not correctly follow protocol and thus became infected. However, anonymous statements from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurses tell a different story. They show that basically no one was prepared for this and they received several changing CDC messages that were confusing at best. The end result was that these 2 nurses were indeed following CDC protocol as they knew it (which at the time didn’t include full face masks) and thus they were risk at a critical time when Duncan’s bodily fluids were all over the place. So, essentially, negligence and lack of preparation is what caused 2 nurses to become infected in Dallas.
- Emory hospital is Atlanta, where Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol were treated is a good example of how adequately prepared facilities can successfully quarantine the spread of Ebola.
- “Ebolaviruses can be eliminated with heat (heating for 30 to 60 minutes at 60 °C or boiling for 5 minutes). To disinfect surfaces, some lipid solvents such as some alcohol-based products, detergents, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) or calcium hypochlorite (bleaching powder), and other suitable disinfectants at appropriate concentrations can be used.” 
- Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care (IV’s for fluids, etc.) and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
- Antiviral drugs have been used effectively in some places. Favipiravir, an antiviral flu medication was used to treat a French nun, but actual effectiveness of this drug in treatment is currently speculative. BCX4430 is a broad-spectrum small molecule antiviral drug that still needs human trials.
- An ebola vaccine is undergoing human trials currently with 60 volunteers testing it for side effects. GlaxoSmithKline has already produced 10,000 injections in preparation for getting it approved. If it is approved, it will help tremendously in West Africa as it is given to health-care workers. It would also be streamlined for use in other countries soon after as well.
- Experimental antibody drug ZMapp an antibody cocktail (made by MAPP biopharmaceutical - a business with only 9 employees) was used to treat Dr. Kent Brantly & nurse Nancy Writebol. The actual effectiveness of this drug in their treatment is currently speculative.
- A serum has been made from the transfused blood of an ebola survivor to help treat victims with some success, but quantities of such blood are in very limited supply.
The bottom line about Ebola is this: it is not the I Am Legend virus that cannot be stopped. It can be, it has been and new treatments seem to be coming along that will help to stop the spread tremendously in the next year.
 Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola In Its Tracks. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/06/354054915/firestone-did-what-governments-have-not-stopped-ebola-in-its-tracks>
 Statement by RN’s at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital as provided to National Nurses United. <http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/blog/entry/statement-by-registered-nurses-at-texas-health-presbyterian-hospital-in-dal/>
 Ebola Virus <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_disease>
 First British volunteer injected with trial Ebola vaccine in Oxford <http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/17/ruth-atkins-first-british-volunteer-injected-trial-ebola-vaccine-oxford>
Enough is enough.
I’m so sick and tired of hearing or reading Muslim attempts to deceive people about the true nature of their faith.
1) The example all Muslims are called to follow, Mohammad, advanced Islam through violence against those who did not immediately submit to him.
2) The book all Muslims are called to obey, the Qur’an: authorizes, justifies, incentivizes, and rewards violence against unbelievers.
3) The history of Islam shows that the religion only was able to get off the ground at the point of a sword, and its history continued in that way until after it conquered all of the world within its reach. The “peaceful” time that followed was only achieved by either killing all those who disagreed, or forcing them to 1) pay a special tax for non-believers and 2) agree to never attempt to convert to spread their non-Muslim view. Should anyone attempted to convert a Muslim, they would be killed. Should any Muslim choose to convert, they too would be killed, and then “peace” would return. Hmmm… does that sound like peace to you?
Muslims invariably respond to these facts in any combination of the responses below, none of which are legitimate.
1) Deflect any attention away from Islam to Christians or others by labeling them as equally violent and thus as hypocritical. This deflecting tactic works amazingly well in our culture that is becoming post-Christian as it plays off of the ignorance and outrage of most Americans against heinous deeds of the past (such as the Catholic inquisitions or Crusades, etc.) and disagreements with our own government. First they allege that the Bible is equally violent and quote some passages from the Old Testament (O.T.) to proof text their point. Second, they point to historical events in which Christians were involved (like the crusades, even Hitler and others) and say that this is proof that Christianity is every bit as violent as Islam. Third, they say that modern Christian nations, such as the U.S., are terrorist organizations that slaughter Muslims under the banner of Christ. The first problem is that to compare the Qur’an's violence to even the worst example of the O.T. is utterly duplicitous. No where in the Bible are God’s people given a general command to kill those who do not know God. No where in the Bible are God’s people incentivized to “kill all unbelievers unless they convert.” An inspection into any O.T. case of violence always shows that it is not generically aimed at “enemies” but rather at specific groups (the inhabitants of Canaan who Israel was instructed to destroy) or for specific circumstances (for crimes punishable by death). The violence of Mohammad and the Qur’an are generalized against ANY and ALL non-Muslims who don’t submit to Islam or paying the tax for unbelievers. There are NO such passages in the O.T. This vast difference must be noticed even before secondly, showing that Christ in the New Testament, which is the moral standard for Christians, teaches “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Even if the change of covenants taught in the Bible is ignored, it is still plainly visible that there is vast difference between the literally “conquer the world” violence of the Qur’an and the localized and criminal punishment of the O.T.
2) They deny that the Qur’an is violent by saying these verses are out of context. There are also a number of stock “peaceful passages” in the Qur’an which are quoted ad nauseum to claim that Islam is peaceful. Now, it is possible that young American Muslims have been taught and truly believe that the Qur’an is peaceful, but if that is the case then they are the ones who are ignorant of the actual history and meaning of the Qur’an according to Muslim scholars down through the ages, and according to Mohammed himself! All Muslim scholars know about abrogation, the implications of which are not fully explained to initiate level Muslims until they are totally brainwashed. This little known fact that knowledgeable Muslims realize is avoided at the outset because if you know they could not deceive you so easily. Abrogation is actually a core Islamic teaching (from Mohammad and the Qur’an itself) that if any 2 passages of the Qur’an contradict one another, the LATER one supersedes and replaces the former one. Now, the Qur’an is not chronological, so only educated Muslims (or outsiders who research it in depth) will know which passages came early in Mohammad’s life and which ones were later. The truth is that the peaceful passages from Mohammad came early in his life when things were going well for him, and the violent ones came later as he made military conquests against those who would not bow to him and his teachings. Just the single passage of Sura 9:5, for example, abrogates over 100 peaceful passages which historically preceded it! Most, and likely ALL of the verses that Muslims quote from the Qur'an that sound peaceful have been replaced by violent ones by their own teaching, but they hide this fact from outsiders to make Islam seem more palatable. This brings up another extremely dangerous teaching that Muslims follow from the Qur'an called "Takkiya." Takkiya teaches Muslims that they are to defend Allah and Islam in any way possible, even through lying and deceit. So they are literally encouraged to lie in order to make sure Islam looks good to people. Think about that for a moment the next time you hear a Muslim defend their faith: truth is less important than looking good. The reality is that the Qur’an is utterly murderous, and online Muslims always try to cover this up by showing you peaceful passes and claiming that all violent ones are out of context. The truth is that all peaceful passages have been replaced (abrogated) by the violent ones which came later, and thus it is the peaceful passages that are all taken out of context!
3) They will point to the 1+ billion Muslims worldwide who are not beheading people and say, “see, the majority of Muslims are peaceful and you cannot characterize the religion of Islam by a few extremist who have hijacked the cause of Islam for their political ideals!” Thank God that most Muslims don’t behead people, but that does not change any of the facts mentioned above. They will also point to the rare examples of people who have claimed the name of Jesus while committing atrocities and saying “see, Christians are violent too” all the while ignoring that those who do so do it AGAINST the teaching of Jesus, abusing it, and not by actually following Him. In 100% contrast to this, those Muslims who choose to live peacefully CANNOT do so by following the example of Mohammad; they only live peaceably by going AGAINST the example and teachings of Mohammad! Those Muslims who choose to live peacefully do NOT do so by following the teaching of the Qur’an; they do so only by following the abrogated verses AGAINST the verses that have officially replaced them. Those Muslims who choose to live peacefully do so knowing full well that they cannot restrain or condemn their violent “brothers of faith” who are being true to both Mohammad’s example and the teaching of the Qur’an. In other words, it is LOGICALLY consistent to be violent against any unbeliever as a Muslim, you can be 100% true to Mohammad and the Qur’an while slaughtering all who don’t submit to the cause of Allah. Diametrically opposed to this stands the cause of Christ, who choose to die for the love of His enemies! Wow, the core of the Christian message is that God loved lost humanity so much that He was willing to give His own life for those who were His enemies to win them by His love!
In short, the objections of Muslims to the violence of Islam is all based on deception or misdirection.
Some Muslims are forthright enough to own up to the truth about Islam, while others are quite possibly ignorant of their own history, having been deceived into believing a watered-down Westernized, and dare I say, “Christianized” version to make it more palatable for them until they have bought into it hook, line and sinker. Either way, the truth about Islam is a grim picture indeed. The people involved are not all bad, but those who buy into a dangerous philosophy become themselves... dangerous. Just ask the very normal people who were convinced by Hitler to commit the most infamous and heinous murder of millions of innocent people. The vast majority of Nazi's were not crazy people, they were normal just like you, me and our Muslims friends and neighbors.
Ideas are powerful. What we believe makes all the difference in the world.
Yes, Islam and Mohammad are to blame for the violence we see among Muslims today.
If you are wondering why I have not quoted Suras (what Muslims call the chapters of the Quran) and given more specifics on the history, it truly was to save space and your time in reading it. If you have never seen these facts with your own eyes before, you need to do some personal research. Please pick up some history books and read about it for yourself.
We get these tidbits in Scripture we get these images, snapshots of what the church was like in the first century and based on what we see there we can learn some things. If we want to experience what the church was like, we won't find it in just our own imagination but rather by first looking back at the New Testament.
We've also got to understand the church today will not look exactly like it did back then; it can’t. They are coming from a different place, a different time and we have different cultural expectations and a reality. Just because the church won’t be identical doesn't mean that we are not the real church, or even that we are not Biblical, it is just the realization that we will not do the exact things that they did.
All that being said, we see that the early church as often in each other's homes, and not just for small talk or to watch the big game. They had another purpose in mind for their meetings. Look at Acts 2:41-47: "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
They began a habit right from the beginning of sharing life together, of opening their homes and lives to one another. Together they praised God and the result was that each day more and more people joined this sharing of life.
We all know how easy it is to live isolated from those around us, and as technology increases it seems easier all the time to stay within our own bubble. We now have to make concerted efforts to get back into a life-sharing relationship with those around us, not just from the church, but with our friends and neighbors as well.
Home study groups are about sharing this life together. It is about opening our lives up to one another to reconnect and share together in the Christian life rather than trying to go it alone. It is about inviting those who have never experienced the gospel of Christ to belong with a group of believers to see what a difference Christ truly makes in those who believe in and follow Him.
Has it ever troubled you that post-modern thinking is not a logically consistent mode of thought?
I mean, post-modernism claims that you cannot know anything... except the fact that you can't know anything. That kind of statement cannot be sustained, and in fact, a way of thinking based upon this maxim doesn't really work. Let me see if I can illustrate what I am saying.
Post-modernism seems well characterized by the analogy of the group of six blind-men who bumped into and encountered an elephant one day. The first blind man put out his hands and felt the side of the elephant and declared, "An elephant is like a wall." The second blind man put out his hand and grasped the trunk of the elephant and said, "No, an elephant is like a snake." The third blind man put out his hands and touched the tusk of the elephant, observing, "It's sharp! An elephant is like a spear." The fourth blind man bumped into and reached around a leg of the elephant saying, "an elephant is like a tree." The fifth blind man felt over an ear of the elephant. "How wide and thin!" He said, "An elephant is like a fan." The sixth blind man was hit by the tail and grabbed it saying, "An elephant is like a rope."
The point of the parable is that all are right and all are wrong at the same time because they cannot grasp the reality. Post-modernism claims that reality for people is like the elephant encounter that these blind men had. The only thing you can be sure of is that no one can actually be sure they understand it. They go on to say it is arrogant to claim certain knowledge about anything. The only viewpoint that cannot be correct (according to post-modern thinking) is the one which claims to actually be exclusive truth. They say this is the one line you cannot cross, you cannot have certainty that you are right and others are wrong.
The problem with this thinking, of course, is seen within the parable itself! The person who tells the story (i.e. the post-modern thinker) is actually another, unmentioned, character in the story. The narrator constitutes a 7th man, and he is the only person who SEES both the elephant and the blind men for what they really are! In other words, post-modernism, unwittingly becomes the most arrogant of all claims! It says there can be no exclusive claims, but this itself IS an exclusive claim. According to the parable, everyone is blind EXCEPT for the post-modern thinker! How much more arrogant can you get?
The person who says "no one can really know" is actually making just as bold, and just as arrogant, and just as grand a claim as the one who says "I know what this means." There is no difference between one who claims to know exclusive truth and one who claims "no one can know exclusive truth." The notable difference is that one position is not self-contradictory while the other is. Post-modern thinking contradicts itself by its own maxim, whereas pre-modern thinking at least is self-consistent with tis view that exclusive truth exists and can be known. Perhaps equally troubling is the attitude created by post-modernism of pride in having "more knowledge" about it than anyone foolish enough to claim to have found the answer. This makes them less likely to engage in honest dialogue because of their surety, whereas those who admit truth can be known ought to be able to discuss and debate the facts rationally.
So, lets say you begin where a post-modern person does, with the belief that nothing can be known apart from that which is personally experienced (and even that is subject to doubt because our senses can lie). Even in that way the Bible can withstand the post-modern investigation. They can try out what the New Testament teaches and see if it works in their own experience, and it will. When it does, then they have to consider how this book gained such insight into the human nature and mind to be able to have accurately portrayed something so complex as humanity and reality some 2000 years ago.
This would lead the post-modern thinker back to the idea which the text itself suggests, that it is of divine origin, and would engender a trust in the text and its author at ever deepening levels which will eventually lead back to pre-modern thinking in that respect.
My point is this: post-modernism cannot survive on its own; it will either lead back to a reasonable way of thinking or it will end with insanity, because it is not a logically stable position.