Before retiring a few years ago, I was an auditor and analyst. A successful auditor requires a well developed nose for error, i.e., we’re a suspicious lot, but hopefully not to the point of paranoia. Likewise, a good analyst is all about the facts and data. So I suppose it was only natural that my suspicions together with my need for fact-based truth, would compel me to sit down with a large stack of church bulletins spanning several years of worship services, to inventory and analyze the many scriptures that were read for the sermon. My “gut” strongly suspected us pew-warmers were not getting the whole story and so I set out to confirm my suspicions.
It was quickly apparent that the same scriptures were read year after year in the weeks preceding Passover, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, while entire books and chapters of scripture were never read at all. The first time I attempted such an investigation back in the early 80’s, I discovered that the pastor read just 10 verses of scripture on average, before giving his sermon. A few minutes of number crunching demonstrated it would take almost 60 years** to preach through the Bible at that rate, assuming no scriptures were ever repeated. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; “how anal” and I don’t deny that. It’s just one of those things us analyst and auditor types do for fun when we’re not digging through the freezer to sort TV dinners in order of the “best used by” date. Suffice it to say, the exercise showed me IF I wanted to know what was in the Bible, I would have to read it for myself. Continue reading
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… (Revelation 12:11 ESV)
When it comes to teachings about overcoming the adversary, teachers often ignore Revelation 12:11 and instead cite Matthew 4:1-11 wherein Jesus rebuked the devil 3 times by reciting scripture. For all the messages I’ve heard and read that admonish believers to do the same, you would think Revelation 12:11 actually said:
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by
the word of their testimony reciting scripture. (Revelation 12:11 ESV)
Let’s consider for a moment, what Jesus was really doing when He rebuked the devil with those 3 scriptures. John 1:1-14 says that Jesus is the ‘Word become flesh’ and Revelation 19:10 says that “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Thus when Jesus was reciting scripture and prophesying, He was giving His own testimony. In fact, when addressing Pontius Pilate before He was sentenced to death by crucifixion, Jesus said:
“… I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 ESV)
Pilate should have asked “WHO is truth?” Continue reading
Religionists have a habit of interpreting spiritual things physically and literally. Take for example the prophecy of Amos wherein God said “I will rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David … declares the Lord” (Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:16). In Kansas City, Metro Christian Fellowship (formerly Kansas City Vineyard) church has created the International House of Prayer (IHOP) which they claim to be a model for the rebuilt tabernacle of David, where musicians, singers, dancers and other artistic people have “worshiped” God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since September 19th, 1999. Clearly they have made a literal interpretation of Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:16.
But is that a Spiritual and Biblical understanding of the prophecy in Amos/Acts?
I am of the belief that IHOP is misguided, even a vain work of the flesh as are many of men’s efforts to replicate old testament temple worship practices and to build that which the Lord has said HE himself will build. Once again, following the command of Paul who wrote “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), which I believe to mean “let scripture interpret scripture”, nowhere in the NT are we commanded to go out and build buildings for worship or holding church services.
Concerning all the buildings we have put up “for God”, scripture still says “God does NOT live in temples made by men” (Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24, Matthew 23:38) and Jesus said, upon leaving the temple in Jerusalem for the last time before His trial “BEHOLD! Your house has been left to you, DESOLATE.” In other words, God has left the building. We could cover the world over with buildings we’ve built for God and not one would be good enough or big enough to serve as His house. That is why the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house, then, could you build for me, what kind of place for me to live in?” (Isaiah 66:1 GNB) Where God uses the earth as His footstool, the best we might do is make Him a foot cushion, but certainly nothing big or grand enough to serve as His house. Continue reading
As mentioned in the post Fun with numbers, I was a professional business system analyst before I retired. When I first hired into the aerospace industry, I worked for Quality Assurance and traveled all over the country to conduct audits and reviews of major space and defense hardware systems. My work exposed me to government contracts, military and federal standards and specifications, technical documents and statements of work that give me a somewhat unique approach to studying and understanding the scriptures, now that I am retired and have devoted my life and talents to Christ Jesus.
While writing the post The crook who forsook the assembly, I began to meditate on the word assembly and remembered an old Military Standard that defined the word “assembly”. The thought launched me on an amusing thought train, worth sharing.
In my observation, when paid ministers, aka “hirelings” (ref. John 10:12-13) make accusations from the pulpit, they are often guilty of the very thing they have accused the congregation of doing. Psychologists refer to the phenomenon as “projection”, or more commonly “blame shifting”. Of course that doesn’t account for the spirit(s) behind the accusation about which Jesus said the religious rulers were speaking for their father, the devil. Scripture says Satan is a liar, the father of lies (John 8:44), and the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
So when a hireling resorts to accusing the sons of God about whom scripture says there is NO condemnation (Romans 8:1), is their behavior any different than when the religious leaders did so in Jesus day? And what of the hireling’s minions, aka “members of the congregation” who more often than not, mindlessly parrot the hireling’s accusations? Are they not also acting on behalf of their father, the devil in accusing the brethren? It is well to remember that Jesus runs off the accuser and He does not condemn (John 8:3-11).
One favorite accusation among hirelings is “you are robbing God”, which stems from a deceptive application of Malachi 3:8. The manner in which God was being robbed is outlined in Nehemiah 13:4-13, wherein the wicked priest Eliashib allowed Tobiah, a Molech worshiping Ammonite, to plunder the temple storehouse thereby robbing the Levite priests of the tithe, which was theirs by law. When the Levites did not receive their portion of the tithe, they abandoned their temple duties and took to the fields and pastures to raise food for their families. Thus, robbing God had to do with robbing the priesthood who ceased their temple service.
If as the law of Moses teaches the tithe is brought to the temple for the priests, where now according to the new covenant every believer is a priest and living temple, then all believers should share the tithe (if the tithe were still applicable under the new covenant, which it is not). Accordingly, hirelings are modern day Eliashibs and Tobiahs who are robbing believers of their inheritance in Christ Jesus! No wonder John 10 speaks of hirelings, thieves and robbers, who come to steal, kill and destroy in the same breath! Continue reading
When Christians meet for the first time, the question most often asked is “where do you go to church?” I dread that question more than any other because the people who ask are usually shocked by my answer. I hope by the end of this column, to show the reader just how silly the question really is.
Since the time of Christ, the question has been asked in many ways. There was the woman at the well who asked Jesus about worship on Jacob’s mountain or in Jerusalem. Jesus’ reply made it clear that where we worship is no longer relevant, but who and how we worship (John 4:21-23). On another occasion, the disciples stopped a man from working miracles because he was not a member of their church. Clearly angered, Jesus said “don’t stop him – if he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally” (Mark 9:38-40).
So if where is not important and there are only the 2 sides in the conflict between light and darkness, can there be more than one church (Mark 3:25)? Continue reading
Among the things that continue to grieve me since the Lord first called me out of man’s traditional church, is the observation of how seldom believers ever question whether or not common church practices are even of the Spirit and the Word. For example, most churches refer to the Sunday service as a “worship service” and hold to the notion that “worship means singing” hymns and choruses. Rarely have I seen the idea challenged; believers simply accept the modern worship model as handed down from our forefathers as Biblical and correct.
For the sake of examining the modern “worship service” and in particular singing as worship, let’s lay a Biblical foundation for discussion.
- In the OT, the temple was a stone building in Jerusalem. In the NT, the temple is us (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 1 Pet. 2:5).
- In the OT, the priests were the sons of Levi and Aaron. In the NT, the priesthood is us (1 Pet. 2:5, :9, Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).
- In the OT, the Spirit did not indwell the people, He resided in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. In the NT, the Holy Spirit has made His home in us since the Resurrection and Pentecost (Jo. 20:22, Ac. 2:4)