Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Congregationalist Manifesto

During the last week of His life, Jesus turned the tables on the religious leaders, both literally and figuratively. He told them The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. He was talking about a new Kingdom of Priests, those of us who are born again, baptized, believers in Christ. He exposed the religious leaders as frauds, showed them up, shut them down and made it clear that no one would ever rule over His people or take advantage of them that way again. But there are still those who try.

While I highly value cooperation and humility among believers and throughout my life I have always worked together with Christians from various backgrounds and always will, I am a Baptist Congregationalist. I believe in the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of every believer. Following is what I call:

The Congregationalist Manifesto

No man gets to be the apostle or prophet of me unless his name is in the Bible. I don't need a priest or pastor to be my "spiritual" father, I have an amazing Father and a Heavenly Father. I don't need a rabbi to disciple me, I have the Holy Spirit as my teacher and guide. I don't need a priest to forgive me of my sins, Jesus is my high priest who intercedes for me and I can speak to God directly. I don't pray to saints, I am a saint. I don't need a pope to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, I AM the Vicar of Christ on earth (and so are you if you are a believer, bought with the blood of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit).  I don't need a church administrator to be my "covering," Jesus is the only covering I need. I don't need the permission, blessing or sending of anyone on earth, nor do I need them to recognize my calling, though it is good and appreciated when they do. The Holy Spirit called me, as he does all believers, and Jesus sent me at the Great Commission. I WILL carefully check the Scriptures to see if what I have been taught is accurate. I will correct you when you are wrong. I DO have the right and responsibility to meet together with a local body of believers. There is no hierarchy of spiritual authority in the church. We are all equals who should consider others as more important than ourselves, humbly cooperate with local church leadership and willingly partner together to spread the Gospel.

Continue reading for a closer examination of each of these statements. The 1st section is longest, the others much shorter:

1. No man gets to be the apostle or prophet of me unless his name is in the Bible.

Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20)

Today, there are so-called "apostles" around the world ruling over large, lucrative networks of churches, some going so far as to claim that they are the foundation the church is built on. The passage above is actually referring to the Old Testament prophets in the Bible and the original Apostles as being the first part of the foundation of God's church built upon Jesus, Himself. This passage makes us equal to them as "fellow citizens," "saints," and "members of God's household." We are His children.

There are all sorts of Prophets for Profit making money off of trusting Christians and/or using their "gift" to gain influence, authority and prestige in the church. But under the New Covenant All may prophesy. All Christians may teach the word of God, give prophetic words of knowledge, words of wisdom, offer wise counsel, encouragement and advice and operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as the "office" of prophet. In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone that God spoke to through His Spirit. Under the New Covenant, no individual gets to claim spiritual superiority over others because we ALL have that same Spirit. 

Additionally, vast networks of churches are being brought under the control of only a few influential individuals, some claiming that modern "apostleship," involves overseeing churches in a management sort of way. Wealthy, suburban churches are gobbling up struggling, smaller congregational churches at an alarming rate, often acquiring these properties at no cost and extending the right hand of power grab instead of the helping hand of fellowship. This sort of Protestant Popery is dangerous and unhealthy. The ministry of the apostles was nothing like that. They devoted themselves entirely to the teaching of God's word and its application. For 2 millennia, the traditional church interpretation of Scripture has been that an apostle had to be a first hand eye-witness of Christ or possibly one of their associates. The clear signs of an apostle were incredible skill and gifting in the teaching and application of God's word and the ability to perform huge miracles. I am not aware of any modern day apostle, or overseer, who meets any of these 3 criteria. Many just deliver Ted talks with a Bible verse. They are overly interested in marketing and management, which is the exact opposite of the Biblical Apostles who were phenomenal teachers and did not wish to use their time for anything other than spreading the good news and explaining God's word. I once heard someone refer to Jack Hayford as an apostle. I think all leaders should follow the example of his response: "Let it Never be said that Jack Hayford claimed apostleship." Look at this example from the apostle Paul found in 2 Corinthians 1:24 and 2:17

I do not mean that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in your faith....For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many.

2. I don't need a priest or pastor to be my "spiritual" father, I have an amazing Father and a Heavenly Father.

Do not call anyone on earth your father for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9)

Ephesians 6:2 reminds us of the first commandment with promise to honor our father and our mother. The word "call" in the above passage from Matthew 23 refers to choosing a person to bestow the name of "Father" upon. The person who loves you and raised you is your father, a position given to them by God and it is right and proper to call him "father." It is wrong though, according to the passage above, to refer to a priest as "Father," or to a church leader as your "spiritual father." This practice is common among Catholics and Charismatics and it should not take place. Now, it is true that Paul viewed Timothy and others as sons, he had a Fatherly demeanor toward them in terms of his love and affection. This is healthy and appropriate. We are never told that they called him Father. The problem is that people try to twist this around and act like they have authority over those they have discipled. The Biblical view is that we are all brothers and sisters and equals. It is through Christ that we are born again into new life, not through any man. If you are a Christian, GOD is your Spiritual Father.

3. I don't need a rabbi to disciple me, I have the Holy Spirit as my teacher and guide.

But you are not to be called 'Rabbi', for One is your Teacher and you are all brothers. (Matthew 23:8) The anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you...his anointing teaches you about everything...(1 John 2:27) But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. (John 14:26)

A rabbi had his own set of disciples, followers who wanted to be like Him. We are disciples of Jesus, we are NOT disciples of men. We can teach and learn the word of God from each other, but we are not to attach ourselves to certain teachers or to collect followers for ourselves.

For when one says, "I follow Paul," or another "I follow Apollos," are you not unspiritual people? 1 Corinthians 3:4

4. I don't need a priest to forgive me of my sins, Jesus is my high priest who intercedes for me and I can speak to God directly.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens--Jesus the Son of God--let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:14-16

5.I don't pray to saints, I am a saint
God's people are consistently referred to as saints throughout Scripture.

To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord... -1 Corinthians 1:2

Sing to the Lord, O ye saints of his -Psalm 30:4

O love the Lord, all ye His saints -Psalm 31:23

To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 1:7

6. I don't need a pope to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, I AM the Vicar of Christ on earth (and so are you if you are a believer, bought with the blood of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit).  

A Vicar is a representative, an agent that acts on behalf of a superior.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

As a believer, Jesus lives in my heart, I am His representative on earth. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galations 2:20)

7. I don't need a church administrator to be my "covering," Jesus is the only covering I need.

Under the Old Covenant, the high priest would throw blood on the Ark of the Covenant as an offering, a covering, to protect him when he entered into the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom. We now have direct access to God without fear because Jesus' blood is our covering that protects us. It is a grave mistake to use the concept of spiritual covering to refer to a person in a position of leadership or power in the church. The idea that a person or some spiritual leader could be our "covering," is not only unbiblical, but shockingly arrogant and downright blasphemous.

8. I don't need the permission, blessing or sending of anyone man on earth, nor do I need them to recognize my calling. The Holy Spirit called me, as he does all believers, and Jesus sent me at the Great Commission.

Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. ( Mark 16:15)

Every important disciple, apostle and follower of Christ in the New Testament was in direct opposition to the religious authorities of their day. In our day, while religious authorities don't have the ability to beat us or ask our government leaders to crucify us, they actually have far more power and control over the teaching and granting of influence within certain types of churches. This needs to be remedied.

9. I will check the Scriptures to see if what I have been taught is accurate.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11

10. I will correct you when you are wrong.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. Rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. -2 Timothy 4:2-3

11. I have the right and responsibility to meet together with a Local Body of Believers

I have the right to meet together with any body of believers at any location, anywhere in the world. I have the right and responsibility to teach the Bible and to correct any wrong teaching that may be occurring there. I have the right and responsibility to work cooperatively for the Kingdom of God. I need fellowship. I need to gather together for corporate worship. I need accountability. I need to teach and to learn God's word. I need deep friendships with other believers. We are a priesthood together. 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:24-25

12. There is no spiritual hierarchy in the church
If I am a Christian, then no one in the church gets to be the boss of me and I don't get to be the boss of them. We are partners and co-workers in Christ. Now, if a person chooses to become an employee of a church they will have a "boss," but even then they answer first and foremost, directly to God. Any position of leadership in a church is a position of service, not of power. When Jesus took power away from the religious leaders, He replaced it with something better: Mutual submission and loving cooperation. God gave pastors to feed and teach the people. An overseer is to make sure that the Bible is taught correctly. Taking care of the operational aspects of the church is also an important ministry. Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember those who taught us the word of God and observe their good actions, then imitate their faith. Verse 9 warns us not to be led astray by strange teachings, affirming our own responsibility and decision making ability. We are to be wise and discerning. Verse 17 tells us:

Obey your leaders and submit to them since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief.

This verse is referring to local pastors. The word "obey" means to trust or put confidence in. The idea of being persuaded and making friends with them is in place. There is a certain reciprocity implied. This is willing co-ministry. "Submit" means to cooperate and partner together with them. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of mutual respect and personal relationship. This has nothing to do with far away overseers who don't know the local flock. Pastors, Elders and Overseers in Scripture are local leaders who watch over their church. New Covenant leaders serve the church. They do have authority to protect the church from false teachers and wolves. We should wholeheartedly cooperate together with godly leaders. But we should reject power seeking, controlling men and resist anyone who tries to elevate themselves over other believers or churches. We are all equal heirs in grace. It all comes down to humility. We willingly choose to put others above ourselves and to work in partnership with those we meet together with each week.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave (Matthew 20:25-27) 

This first post focuses on our rights as Congregationalists, the 2nd post in the series focuses on our responsibilities:

The 3rd post in this series on congregationalism shows the practical application of congregationalism in action: 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are Patriotic Church Services Ok?

Now that Easter has passed, this is the time of year when churches might begin to plan a "Patriotic Service," for Independence Day weekend. I think we need to carefully and prayerfully consider how to approach this issue. Full Disclosure: I am 100% opposed to all secular music in church. As a child, the one Sunday a year my family did not attend church was if there was a special "Patriotic Service," on or around the 4th of July. Now my family is patriotic, we love America, but my Dad had some legitimate concerns with that sort of service. I too, have misgivings about certain aspects of Patriotic services in church and I remain grateful for his wise leadership. No place in the Psalms, the hymnbook of Israel, is the nation of Israel ever the object of praise or the recipient of glory. They praised God for what He had done for their nation. They asked for His blessings. They asked for deliverance from their enemies. But they never dared glorify themselves. If God's chosen people, a Theocracy founded on and by His own Word, would not dare to sing songs glorifying their own nation, then how much more hesitant should we be to honor and glorify sinful America in the House of the Lord, standing before the presence of the Almighty? Church is a place where we glorify and honor God, not sing about how awesome WE are as a nation. Perhaps a song titled "Lord Have Mercy on this Sinful, Arrogant Country," or "God, We Beg Your Mercy For Our Nation's Sins," or even "Thank Thee O Lord for Not Smiting Us," would be appropriate, but pomp and circumstance and banners for America do not belong in church. That being said, Here are 4 things that ARE appropriate to do in church:

1. Pray for our Nation
It is always right and proper to pray for our nation and it's leaders.
I urge that petitions, prayers intercessions and thanksgiving be offered in behalf of all men, for kings and all those in authority, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

2. Thank God for our Blessings
It is always appropriate to thank God for the blessings we have received and to show gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights -James 1:17  In past generations, He let all nations go their own way and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. -Acts 14:16-17

3. Respect Those Who Serve
It is very appropriate to thank those who have fought for and protected our religious freedoms and to pray for them
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. -Romans 12:10

4. Be Good Citizens
We should be good citizens who shine brightly in a dark world.
For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  -Philippians 2:13-15

Romans 13:1-4 demonstrates the intended purpose of just government and the appropriate response to that government:
Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God....For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Here are some examples of The Wrong Stuff to Sing, straight out of Our Baptist Hymnal:

1. The Star Spangled Banner
This is a great song to sing and respectfully perform at athletic events and patriotic gatherings. It is not appropriate for church. It has nothing to do with the worship of God and even if you sing the never-heard 2nd verse, it's theology is highly questionable because it makes America sound like Israel.

2. Battle Hymn of the Republic
The theology of some verses of Battle Hymn of the Republic is ridiculously bad.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored----No they havn't.  If they had, you would be dead, or Jesus would have already come back we'd all be in heaven. Is blood flowing all around you in a 180 mile river as high as a horse's bridle from God's ultimate judgement in the end times as you stand in Israel? No? Then, God is not trampling and He will not be until the that time. (Revelation 14:14-20)

He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword....Not Even. We are living in the age of grace. God is holding back his judgement. That judgement WILL come and God WILL exact justice upon evil. But He has certainly not unleased it: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

There are some very good sentiments in some of the other verses, but Verse 1 is so terrible, that this song should never be used in church. This song promotes the idea that a soldier killing in battle is an instrument of God's judgement using end-times language. This is highly inappropriate. Certainly fighting for the freedom of slaves was a noble and just cause around the time this song was written. But certain incidents from that era where American soldiers killed Native Americans were highly questionable. Less than 100 years later, fighting against Hitler's regime and ending the genocide being perpetrated against the Jews was a holy and just cause, but dropping the Bomb on Nagasaki was certainly not God's judgement. The bomb exploded directly over it's target, the Urakami Cathedral, the largest church in Asia. Nagasaki had the largest population of Christians in Japan and at least 12,000 Baptized Believers, whose forebears had endured centuries of Japanese persecution, were murdered by that bomb. It wiped out the Christian witness to Japan. On that fateful day, those individuals responsible for choosing to target Nagasaki were inadvertently instruments of Satan, not vessels of a righteous God. It is good to take up the just cause. But it is extremely dangerous to assume that our nation's actions have always been in the right, let alone that they were always God ordained. I would never program this song for any event, secular or sacred.

3. My Country Tis of Thee
A lovely song for a veteran's day assembly. Tacking on a last verse which mentions God does not change the fact that this song is entirely about America and is not a praise or worship song and therefore has no place in church.

For those who strongly desire, or are required to provide a Patriotic service the first weekend of July, here are a few better options.

God of Our Fathers is a fine song to sing. Whether talking about Abraham, Isaac and Israel or Christian American heroes, the song focuses on God and asks for his help.

America the Beautiful is a better alternative than some others. While the title shows that it is a song first and foremost about America, at least it speaks of the beauty of creation and asks for God's continued blessing on our nation, which is a good prayer to pray

God Bless America is a simple prayer asked for God's blessing on the nation we love

I love Independence Day celebrations. I was almost a Firecracker baby myself, born just a few hours before the 4th of July. I am grateful for my country and the religious freedoms I have grown up with and I am grateful for those who fought, died and sacrificed to give us those rights. I will always honor, respect and cherish them. My Grandfather was a WWII veteran, my Great-Grandfather a WWI veteran and my Great-Great Grandfather came to the United States as a conscientious objector, seeking freedom and to escape from the madness rising up in Germany. I am proud of the times America has been on the right side of history, saddened by the times we were wrong and concerned about our future decisions. I believe that special prayer services and respectfully honoring veterans and active-duty military are appropriate for that time of year. Reflecting upon religious freedom and offering thanks is always appropriate. Sermons that teach how to be good and faithful Christian citizens and how to be light in this world would be timely and meaningful. It might be fun to show off your church's choir and orchestra with Patriotic fanfares and flourishes, but I believe that glorifying our nation and singing it's praises in God's house is arrogant and unwise. Let us be good citizens, pay respect to those who have served, thank God for the blessings we have received and humbly repent and pray for our nation.

Here are links to the other articles in my series on Worship Ministry:

Monday, April 17, 2017

SUNDAY: A Harmonic Narrative of Events

Imagine that you had been following Jesus as He taught around Galilee, in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. What if you had seen the miracles, heard the teachings, experienced the compassion felt the love, known the man and were convinced that he was the promised Messiah? It must have felt like devastating, soul crushing despair for them to watch their friend be crucified. Imagine that Sunday comes and people are seeing angels, the saints of old come out of their graves and walk around Jerusalem, and Jesus, the man you saw crucified and pierced through with the sword, the man you watched die is seen, ALIVE. There must have been excitement, fear, joy, chaos and every emotion known to man that morning. 

Four people wrote down the events of that EPIC morning. In order to get the full story of what happened on the day of Jesus' Resurrection, we need to read all 4 Gospel accounts. This post is my humble attempt to combine and harmonize the reports of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into a single narrative:

Early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath day of rest was over, a group of women who were followers of Jesus came to his tomb. This group included Mary Magdalene; another Mary, who was the mother of James and Salome; and also Johanna. They purchased spices and brought them to Jesus' grave to make sure the body was given a proper and respectful burial. As they walked along in the twilight before dawn, they wondered how they would move the very large and heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb, but as they arrived at sunrise, suddenly there was a great earthquake, an angel from heaven came like a flash of lightning and rolled the stone away from the tomb. They found him sitting there on top of the rock, to the right of the tomb, wearing bright white robes. The men guarding the tomb appeared like dead men, either passed out or catatonic with fear. The angel told the women Jesus had risen from the dead, reminded them of His words, and invited them to look inside the empty tomb, telling them to let the disciples know He would meet them in Galilee. At this point, I believe the women may have run back and forth to the other disciples, with some of the women entering the tomb on the first trip and some upon their return visit. At one point, Mary Magdalene, cried out to the disciples that Jesus had been taken and she did not know where. Mary, who had carefully watched as Jesus was put in the tomb, now stood outside of it, sobbing that they had taken Jesus and she did not know where they had put him. Upon looking inside, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Johanna met 2 more angels, all dressed in white with the appearance of young men. The angels affirmed that Jesus was alive, reminded the women again of Jesus' own words that He would be resurrected on the 3rd day and sent the women to tell the other disciples the Good News. As they ran out, joyful, fearful, excited and astonished, they ran into JESUS and grabbed onto his feet worshipping Him. They were not seeing a ghost either, they physically touched his resurrected, corporeal body. At first, Mary M. thought he was the gardener, but when Jesus said her name, she recognized him and he had to ask them not to cling to his feet because he had not yet ascended to the Father and was going to.

Next, while the women ran to the disciples (or ran back to the disciples), the Guards of the tomb gathered themselves up and went to the Jewish leaders who paid them off to tell a lie that the disciples stole the body while they were sleeping. It wasn't a very good lie, because if they were sleeping then they would not have known what happened to the body. The Jewish religious leaders also promised to bribe Pilate, the governor, to keep the guards out of trouble if necessary. Fortunately, both Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus were prominent members of the Sanhedrin, and secret followers of Christ. As members of the Jewish high council, they were probably aware of these dirty dealings and they are most likely the ones who informed the disciples of the devious deception. In future years, other Jewish leaders would come to believe, so they could have told the truth as well. Sadly, this lie has caused many Jews through the centuries not to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.

When the women ran to the disciples, to the place where Jesus' inner circle and other believers were gathered, they were so overwhelmed that they did not mention these events to anyone along the road. When they told the disciples, most did not believe them or couldn't understand their erratic communication at first, but Peter and John sprinted out the door and raced to the tomb, John got their first. As I mentioned before, the women might have run to the disciples after meeting the first angel and before meeting the 2 angels inside the tomb and subsequently encountering Jesus. John's Gospel seems to indicate this may have been the case and it harmonizes nicely with the other accounts. John Mark, the writer of "Mark," may very well have followed them back, the young man had a knack for being a silent observer after all. Peter and John entered the tomb, found the white linen which Joseph of Arimethea had wrapped the body in and found the face cloth folded and laying separately. Then they left. Eventually the women were able to calm down from the incredible shock and excitement of speaking to angels and seeing Jesus alive and explain everything they had seen and experienced, proclaiming the good news about Jesus' rising from the dead to the disciples.

After the Resurrection, many of the bodies of the Old Testament saints were raised from the dead, came out of the tombs and entered Jerusalem, appearing to many people. Jesus may have taken them to heaven to the Father before this next series of events.

Later, that same day, Jesus appeared to Peter and Cleopas as they walked the 7 mile road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He explained to them all of the things about Himself in the Scriptures from the first 5 books of Moses and all of the Prophets, affirming the validity of the Old Testament canon of Scripture that is in our Bible today. They didn't recognize Him at first, but when He broke bread together with them, they realized it was Jesus and then He vanished into thin air. They immediately went back to Jerusalem to the place where the other disciples were gathered together.

Next, while they were telling the other believers about these things, Jesus suddenly appeared right in the middle of them and spoke Peace to them. They thought He was a ghost, so he let them touch his very real body, showed them the scars on his hands and feet and then ate a piece of fish right in front of them, so that there could be absolutely no doubt He was raised, body and soul, from the dead. He then affirmed again the Law of Moses, the Prophets and also affirmed the Psalms as being Holy Scripture and opened their minds to understand the Bible. He declared that repentance for forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in His Name to all nations. He appointed them as witnesses to these things and then told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power before going out.

In all, Jesus would appear to over 500 eyewitnesses. He did indeed meet with the disciples in Galilee as He promised and then before ascending into heaven, He delivered the Great Commission, calling all of us as believers to go into all the world, bringing the good news of His Resurrection and of forgiveness of sins through His name to every nation, Baptizing and making disciples as we go.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

SATURDAY: A High Sabbath Day of Rest

SATURDAY: Having endured the cross, Jesus was resting in paradise with the Old Testament saints and the thief who repented on the cross. On Earth, the Jews rest and observe the Sabbath, while the Roman soldiers carefully guard the body of Christ. How nice of the best trained, greatest fighting force in the world to provide security guards for the tomb, keeping the body safe until it was time for the Resurrection. Just before He died, Jesus had declared victory, shouting Teleo--completing the last line ...of Psalm 22, which means "It is Finished," or "It has been accomplished," but His disciples do not yet understand. All of Hell now sits aware that they have no claim on Christ. Jesus has made His appearance there, and being the sinless, perfect Son of God, has past right through the fiery gulf separating them from Paradise. The Saturday after Passover was a High Sabbath day of Rest for the Jews. Jesus observed that Sabbath rest as well. Now Sunday is coming. All the rules are about to change. Wait for it.................

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thursday-Friday. 10 Lessons Jesus Taught During His Last 24 Hours

THURSDAY-FRIDAY: This is a bit quickly put together. But I was just thinking about the remarkable ministry Jesus performed during his last 24 hours.

1. Fellowship--He earnestly desired to share the Passover meal with His friends

2. Service--He washed his disciples feet. Not only did he show us how Christian leaders are to serve and not take advantage, but by washing their feet, he also for-shadowed the way that He would send us out into the world as His representatives. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7)

3. Relationship--He spent time in prayer with His Father and came into agreement with His will

5. Healing--He healed a soldier's ear when Peter cut it off

6. Mercy and Forgiveness--His character convinced the thief on the cross to repent and recognize the goodness of Jesus. He saved the man and promised Him eternal life right then and there.

7. Intercession: He prayed to God to forgive those who crucified Him. (really-All of us)

8. Providential care--On the cross, He entrusted Mary to John's care and John to Mary's care. He made sure that His mother would be cared for and that his close friend would not be left all alone.

9. Trust--He committed Himself entirely into God's hands. When Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He was quoting Psalm 22. This Psalm declares the faithfulness of God to the generations of Israel and this phrase was a cry for help. Verse 24 declares He has not hidden his face from Him, but has heard when he cried to him. Heaven did NOT look away.

10. Strength--As he drew his last breath, even in the midst of suffering, He shouted triumphantly "TELEO." Which means "It is Finished." or '"It has been accomplished."  In the last line of Psalm 22, which is a narrative of the cross, it reads It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation, they shall come and proclaim the righteousness to a people yet unborn, that HE HAS DONE IT. Then the whole earth shook, the veil of the temple was torn in two, showing that we were no longer separated from God. And the Roman soldier declared that surely Jesus was the Son of God. The Christ didn't whimper on the cross. He shouted a great victory cry.

We can learn so much from Jesus' actions alone during that last 24 hours. The words He shared with His disciples go further still. John records the depth and wealth of the teachings that Jesus' shared that final evening and you can read about it John 13-17. Most importantly, On Sunday....................................HE ROSE AGAIN!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Scarlet Worm

Psalm 22 provides a narrative of Jesus on the cross. Verse 6 reads: "I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people." Some translations phrase it as a question "Am I a worm and not a man?" But this worm, isn't just any worm. This is the kermes worm, named for the type of tree it is usually found in. The Hebrew word towla, translated here as "worm," refers to a very special worm, coccus ilicis. Red dye was made from the body of this dried worm. As a matter of fact, the worm's name is synonymous with red.  In the Bible, towla is frequently translated as "scarlet."

This phrase provides us with some incredible imagery. This worm would attach itself to a tree and lay its eggs, protecting them with its own body. It would die in order to give new life to it's children. The body would burst, covering the offspring with crimson fluid which provided nourishment for them, permanently staining the tree trunk. In the same way, Jesus was nailed to a tree, the cross. He died in order that we, His children, can be protected and covered by His blood. We observe the Lord's supper, drinking the fruit of the vine to represent Christ's blood. Our spiritual nourishment comes through His Spirit.  Jesus died so that we might have new life through his sacrifice. 

The worms body would also be crushed and used to make red dye for the coloring of wool. This type of red dye was used to tint a number of symbolic items for the tabernacle of Moses. A red-dyed cloth was even used in certain purification ceremonies. Jesus was crushed for us (Isaiah 53:10). The word Baptism actually comes from the word that describes the way wool is plunged into the dye. There is a wealth of rich symbolism to explore here, But I want to focus on one specific characteristic of this worm: 

The Kermes worm was also known to have medicinal and anti-bacterial properties. Most "worms" in the Bible devour crops and life and steal nourishment in order to satisfy themselves. But the scarlet worm sacrifices itself to give life and nourishment to it's children and its broken body brings beauty and healing, not destruction and disease. Jesus' body was broken for us. He was crushed for us. His scarlet blood was poured out for us. 1 John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. He is our healer, our Great Physician. Jesus constantly healed people physically while He was on earth. He still does. But more importantly, He heals our hearts, heals our minds, and brings us new life. Just like the Kermes worm, Jesus died on a tree to bring new life to His children. Just like this worm's broken body brings healing, Jesus' broken body brings healing. But unlike the worm's offspring, we have to make a choice, to accept or reject His offer.  Jesus died to heal, renew, restore and allow us to be born again into new life in Him. Do you believe?