Christianity 201

November 9, 2017

When We Disagree (When Disagreements Arise, Part 3)

by Clarke Dixon

It is ridiculously easy to create disagreement in churches. Simply suggest painting the sanctuary, and presto, a disagreement arises over the colour. But you don’t even need to do that. Most churches harbour theological disagreements Sunday by Sunday, ours included. You won’t get very far into the Bible before disagreements arise. Some people from our church think that the earth and the universe is young, only several thousand years old. Others in our church family think our earth and universe is old, very, very old. Each can point to experts in the fields of science and theology to back up their claims. Both have different takes on how one should approach Genesis chapter one.

Certain passages of Scripture are tricky when it comes to knowing how to read them,  Genesis chapter 1 included. Is it a purely historical writing, or a poetic way of teaching theology without getting into the scientific details? On matters like these, and there are plenty of matters like these, most churches, even where there are strong opinions in the pulpits, have disagreement in the pews. What are we to do with such disagreements?

As “Convention Baptists” we could turn to the publication “This We Believe“, which we have agreed upon as our standard summary of belief. However, we will not find much within it regarding the age of the earth, or clarity on some other disputable matters we might want cleared up. Perhaps we could come up with our own supplementary summary calling it “This We Also Believe”? We could argue out all the details, declaring the winners on each point of theology until we had unity on each and every point of doctrine. We could then declare ourselves to be absolutely pure on doctrine. All five of us left once the smoke has settled.

Is there a better way? Scripture itself points us to a better way in Romans 15:1-7. Let us take a look at how Paul handled disagreement among the Christians at Rome. With some declaring freedom when it comes to Jewish sensibilities, and some finding such indulgence to be ungodly, let us see how Paul handled the disagreement:

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. . . . Welcome one another . . . Romans 15:1,7

First, let us notice what Paul does not do here. He neither declares a winner nor suggests holding a congregational meeting to determine a winner. A church council has already occurred to determine that Gentiles need not become Jews to become Christians. But here in Rome, the Gentile Christians are not to declare victory. Instead they are to put up with the fact and the results of the fact that some continue to see things differently. In fact, people on both sides of the issue are to “Welcome one another” (Romans 15:7).

Part of laying aside the desire to be declared the winner is putting aside the need to be pleased, which brings us to our next point:

2 Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Romans 15:2-7

When we are in a disagreement, we are so quick to build a winner’s podium for ourselves. We will be pleased when we can stand on it having being declared correct. The way forward, however, is the building up of the people we are in disagreement with. This is the Christian way, for it is Christ’s way. Jesus was beat up. We are built up. Death on the cross hardly seemed like the self-pleasing option in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet Jesus bore the cross for us anyway. To live in harmony with one another we may need to pick up a cross along the way.

Next, there is the encouragement to look back.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Paul is referring to what we now call the Old Testament when he speaks of “whatever was written in former days”. What are we to find as we look back? What, from the past, brings hope? What brings hope is how God handles those who should be declared the losers. Promises are made in the Old Testament, for both Jews and Gentiles, that are fulfilled in the New. In Romans chapters 1 through 3, Paul teaches how both the Gentiles and Jews alike “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). They are in a place of being declared lost. Yet in Christ there is a wonderful opportunity;

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Because of sin and rebellion, those without the law (Gentiles) do not deserve God’s welcome into His presence. Likewise, those with the law (Jews) do not deserve God’s welcome into His presence. Yet now, “Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7).

Instead of treating ourselves like winners, let us focus on treating those we think are the losers in the same way God treats those who are lost; with a sincere welcome.

Finally, instead of declaring victory, glorify God;

5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5-7

We are to glorify God with one voice. As believers in Jesus Christ we are singing the same song. However, we may find ourselves sometimes singing a different note than the person next to us. God is not glorified if we stop in the middle of a hymn so that we can bicker about the notes. God is not glorified when our greatest priority is getting everyone to sing our particular note. God is glorified when we sing in harmony. If we can’t sing the same notes, let us at least sing in harmony!

Did you notice that verses 5 and 6 are a prayer? It is as if Paul knows that the Christians in Rome will find this all very difficult. So rather than simply tell them what to do, he asks the Lord’s help. Handling disagreements can be difficult. The Lord will help us sing in harmony to His glory!

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Catch up on any of this series you’ve missed here or at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

October 26, 2017

Love’s No Tripping Policy (When Disagreements Arise, Part 2)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

You may have been surprised to find out last week that I, a Baptist Pastor, do not have a guilty conscience if I mow the lawn on a Sunday. “But it is the Sabbath, the day of rest” you might say. However, a) the Sabbath is a Saturday, and b) the Sabbath is part of the ceremonial law given to the Jews, and I’m not Jewish. Being a pastor, I already work most Sundays. Being a Personal Support Worker, my wife is required to work every other Sunday. Sunday being the Lord’s Day, we do make every effort to gather with other believers for worship, however Sunday is hardly ever a day of rest. I do keep the spirit of the law by taking a day completely off for rest every week, but Sunday isn’t it.

Now suppose you are not convinced and still feel quite strongly that Sunday is to be for every Christian, including me, a Sabbath Day, a day of rest. And suppose, for argument’s sake, that even worse than mowing the lawn on Sunday, I have now invited you to join me for a Toronto Maple Leafs game on a Sunday evening. Driving into Toronto on the 401 is anything but restful, so you think and feel that it would be wrong for either of us to go. I can see no sin in going, it will be a wonderful time especially if the Leafs win. So I insist. A disagreement has arisen. What are we to do?

Romans 14:13-23 will be of great help to us. It begins with a summary of what we learned from verses 1-12 last week: “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another . . .” (v.13). That statement is for both of us. What follows, however, is for me. From it, there are three questions I should ask myself.

First, am I putting a stumbling block in front of a brother or sister in Christ?

. . . but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. Romans 14:13

Could it be, that in trying to entice you to attend the game with me, I might be a cause of your falling? The word behind “hindrance” originally has the idea of a trap. By my invitation, you may feel trapped, not wanting to go against your conscience, but not wanting to offend me either.

The Jewish Christians in Rome were feeling pressured. Bible scholars point out that with the Jews only recently being allowed to return to Rome, having been expelled a few years prior, the Jewish Christians would have felt like a minority in a predominantly Gentile-Christian church. Where in some towns the Gentile Christians felt pressure from the Jewish Christians to keep the law, here in Rome the Jewish Christians felt pressure to give up their Jewish identity. After all, “nothing is unclean” and so there is no need to worry about food being kosher or other similar matters pertaining to the Old Covenant between God and the Jews. You can imagine the pressure at Christian gatherings for the Jewish Christians to cave and eat anything and everything.

Paul shows his agreement with the “nothing is unclean” statement in verse 14, but there is a ‘but’:

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. Romans 14:14 (emphasis mine)

This verse may sound confusing, even contradictory, but it is actually common sense. Consider again my insistence that you join me for a game on Sunday. If you are convinced that my viewpoint is correct, that is fine and off we go. However, suppose you do not find my argument convincing. To you Sunday is the Sabbath and after all, Sabbath keeping is one of the ten commandments. So you are not convinced. If, however, you still end up going to the game, then what you end up in effect saying is: “it would be better for me to keep Clarke happy than God. I would rather sin against the Lord than offend Clarke.” So even if attending a hockey game on a Sunday is not a sin in itself, if you think it is, and yet you do it, you are demonstrating that you really don’t care if you do sin against God.

The emphasis here is on my actions. I ought not put you into that sticky situation in the first place! Instead I should show some understanding and be respectful of your disagreement with me. Are there situations where you may need to show some understanding?

Second, is love showing up, or am I showing off?

If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. Romans 14:15 (emphasis mine)

Walking in love is to be the priority of the Christian. However, sometimes our priority may actually be the winning of an argument. If I am walking in love, I will be sensitive to what is best for you. Having a conversation about viewpoints is always a good thing, but leading you to go against your conscience is not what is best for you! Remembering the extent of God’s love for you, that Christ in fact died for you, I should at least be willing to let an argument go and leave off my insistence. I wonder how many conflicts within churches have smouldered on, if not escalated, not because there has been a disagreement, but because someone just had to be proven right. Are you walking in love, or are you determined to be proven right?

Third, is this a Kingdom Priority?

16 So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:16-19 (emphases mine)

Will God’s Kingdom purposes be advanced in any way if you go to the game? Or if you don’t? When all is said and done, it really won’t have mattered. However, Kingdom principles are not held up if I carry on about your not going. Even if I am correct, the onus is on me to pursue peace and seek to build you up. Peace is a kingdom priority, winning an argument isn’t.

Disagreements between Christians about the Sabbath are nothing new. They mirror similar perspectives from New Testament times.

5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Romans 14:5 (NRSV)

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

Let us remember that we are not thinking here of disagreement over fundamental doctrines or blatant immorality. The way forward on lesser matters of disagreement is the same now as it was when Romans was written; leave off judging one another, and remember that love has a no tripping policy.

 All Scripture passages are taken from the NRSV

Read more at ClarkeDixon.WordPress.com

October 19, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Always Keep Saying “Thou Shalt Not” (When Disagreements Arise)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

The recently retired pastor was on his way to see me, the new pastor. Getting closer and hearing a lawn mower he began to wonder what the new pastor thought of the neighbour mowing the lawn on a Sunday. He came around the back of the house, and there I was, mowing the lawn. In my defence, if Sunday is to be set apart for rest, well then as a father of a 4 year-old, a 3 year-old, and a 1-year old, there was nothing more relaxing than mowing the lawn! But did I need to make a defence? Should what the Christian does on a Sunday following church be the subject of a church tribunal on Monday? As we continue our study of Romans we will gain some perspective on this on other potential disagreements:

1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Romans 14:1-5 (NRSV emphasis mine)

Even back in New Testament times Christians were squabbling over what was appropriate on the Sabbath. Except, of course, Sundays are not the Sabbath. As a commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus on a Sunday, the early Christians chose to worship on Sundays instead of on the Sabbath, which falls on a Saturday. As I am fond of saying, every Sunday is Easter Sunday. Sunday has never actually been the Sabbath, but has become known as “the Lord’s Day” which many of us set apart as a holy day. However, even then, as I have heard author Frank Turek say during a recent podcast, “Every day is the Lord’s day”.

Back to Rome; Paul is responding in verse 5 to the fact that some Christians in Rome were thinking all Christians should observe the Sabbath, just like the Jews did, and that others thought that all Christians should exercise their freedom from the Jewish law instead. It was already well established that Jewish law was not binding on Gentile Christians, a fact we can read about in Acts 15.

There were other matters being squabbled over, such as whether one should eat meat. It was far easier for an observant Jew to keep the kosher food laws by keeping away from meat altogether, as Daniel did in Babylon. Some thought the observant Christian should do likewise. Others figured that that the kosher laws did not apply to the Christian anyway, so enjoy your protein! Paul picks up on these squabbles in verses one and two where he gives the solution: make space for each other even where there are disagreements. Rather than condemn each other, welcome each other.

We must be clear here what Paul is not saying. He is not saying that there is room for disagreement on fundamental truths. Since we are in the book of Romans, we should notice that Paul has spent the first eleven chapters contending for the truth. Truth matters! But not everything matters. Paul is not saying “welcome the heretic”. But not every disagreement is evidence of heresy. So welcome those you have disagreements with over those lesser matters.

Paul is also not saying there is room for blatant immorality. Elsewhere he condemns a church for not taking a matter of morality seriously:

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NRSV)

Paul does not say “welcome the unrepentant person practicing gross immorality”. Though it was clear that Gentiles did not need to start behaving like Jews to be Christians, it was also clear that they could not keep behaving like typical Romans either. Morality matters. But not everything is a matter of immorality. So welcome those who disagree with you on matters such as meat-eating and Sabbath keeping.

What is being said between the lines is, to quote an old but oft forgotten cliché, that unity is more important than uniformity. Departing from fundamental truths destroys the unity of the Church. Indulging in immorality destroys unity between people. Differences in the lesser matters of religious expression destroys only uniformity.

As we think about Paul’s solution for disagreements, let us not too quickly pass over the instruction to be “fully convinced in your own minds” (verse 5). To become fully convinced about something, we must be seekers of truth. We must be open to changing our minds if the truth turns out to be something other than what we expected. The more we do this, the more we will find ourselves in agreement with each other anyway. Some may think I am Canadian based on my accent. Others may think I am from Northern Ireland based on certain expressions and the incomprehensibility of my Mum’s. All seekers of truth will end up agreeing that I am British-Canadian based on the evidence of my birth certificate and citizenship card. (Or am I Irish-Canadian?!) An honest seeking of truth and having a teachable spirit leads to disagreements being minimized, even disappearing.

Finally, where disagreements continue to exist, don’t try to get the last word, because God always has the last word. I encourage you to open a Bible to Romans 14:1-12 to see for yourself the following: If you have a disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ over a non-essential matter, please note that:

  • God has welcomed them (v.3), therefore so should you.
  • God is their master (v4), and not you.
  • God will make them stand (v.4), so why try to knock them down?
  • They are actually making their best attempt at honouring God (v.6), and not just trying to pick a fight wth you.
  • We are all in God’s hands (vv.7-9),
  • God is the judge (v.10), and
  • “each of us will be accountable to God” (v.12).

We will today, as in Paul’s day, come across Christians we disagree with. When those disagreements are not over fundamental truths, or matters of gross immorality, we can make room for them. Disagreement with other believers is not a big deal. Being ridiculous about it is.

As for mowing the lawn on Sunday, you may be relieved to know that I no longer do that. Now I send my boys out to mow the lawn instead.


Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com

May 9, 2015

Sinning Against Another vs. Sinning Against God

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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I Sam. 2:25a If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

One of my favorite quotations is from Jerry Bridges in The Pursuit of Holiness, where he says, “We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.” (I think I’ve got that more or less word-for-word.) In other words, if it is sin at all, it doesn’t matter if is against ourselves (eg. failing to observe Biblical directives re. gluttony), against our neighbor (eg. a violation of any one of the ‘second tablet’ ten commandments), or against God (eg. blasphemy, failing to give God worship He is due); all of it is against God’s holy standards.

(Paul alludes to something similar in I Cor. 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Italics added)

But this verse seems to provide us with a different level — hinted at in the third type I listed above — of sin, “sins against the Lord.”

To begin, let’s see how some other translations (NIV is above) deal with this first part of verse 25. Compare at this page.

As it turns out only the (old) Living Bible in any way remotely departs from the wording, and even it is very close:

Ordinary sin receives heavy punishment, but how much more this sin of yours that has been committed against the Lord!

The preceding verses provide the context; here’s how The Message expresses this:

22-25 By this time Eli was very old. He kept getting reports on how his sons were ripping off the people and sleeping with the women who helped out at the sanctuary. Eli took them to task: “What’s going on here? Why are you doing these things? I hear story after story of your corrupt and evil carrying on. Oh, my sons, this is not right! These are terrible reports I’m getting, stories spreading right and left among God’s people! If you sin against another person, there’s help—God’s help. But if you sin against God, who is around to help?”

Perhaps you find the meaning of this rather self-evident. Several of the study Bibles and commentaries I consulted seem to gloss over it without adding detail. The Reformation Study Bible says,

Eli’s point is that while there may be some mediation of disputes between people, when someone offends God there is no one who can intervene.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary noted:

When a man has a complaint against another, the matter can be decided by God through his representative, the judge (Ps. 82:3), or by the sacred lot in the hand of the priest. But in a case in which God is the plaintiff, there can be no reference to a disinterested party the crime incurs the direct vengeance of heaven.  (p.277)

Although the context is quite different, the language of that verse to me is always similar to Acts 5:39, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” What I get is there is a sense of God’s vested interest in certain affairs (though the verse means far more than that); it conveys the image of sitting across the table in direct confrontation with God.  You don’t want that.

Perhaps this discussion leaves you wanting more. I was surprised at how print commentaries and their online counterparts were often silent on this verse.  Feel free to engage this in the comments section.

Heb. 10:25 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Prov. 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 9, 2015

Discernment Versus Judgmentalism

One short article, and an excerpt from a longer one:

What is the difference between discernment and being judgmental?

 It is important to understand the difference between being judgmental and discerning truth from error. In Matt. 7:1, the Lord said, “Do not judge lest you be judged.” Then, in verses 2-5 he warns against trying to correct others without first correcting what is wrong in our own lives. If we deal honestly deal with our own hearts, etc., then we have the responsibility to help others. But there is also a warning in verse 6. He said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine” (vs. 6). How can we know that someone, in their spiritual condition, is like a dog or a pig (i.e., someone who is incapable of appreciating the truth—apathetic, cold, indifferent), unless you judge, discern their character or their spiritual condition?

This passage does not teach that judgments should never be made. In fact, Matthew 7:5 specifically speaks of removing the speck from your brother’s eye. But the Lord’s point is that no one is qualified nor able to do that if they are habitually critical or condemnatory of the specks in someone else’s eye when they themselves have a plank—a hyperbole for effect—in their own eye. Such are not truly interested in righteousness, only in playing spiritual king of the mountain.

So, as in selecting elders and deacons for office (1 Tim. 3), judgment is sometimes needed, but those making the distinctions (krino„, judge, means “to distinguish” and thus “to decide”) must first be certain of their own lives and their motives. We need to ask questions like, Am I doing this to show how much I know? Am I trying to play spiritual king of the mountain? Do I think I am better than they are because I know something they do not know? These are some of the logs that we must remove from our own eyes (hearts). We are not judging people when we discern behavior or beliefs that are clearly unbiblical. For an excellent passage on having a judgmental spirit versus a discerning spirit, read Paul’s teaching on the problem of doubtful or questionable things in Romans 14.

Furthermore when seeking to help others, we must exercise care to discern their spiritual appetites and do what would be appreciated and beneficial. We need to test the waters, so to speak. Ask a question in a non-threatening way to see if they might be open to discussion. “Would you be interested in what the Bible has to say about astrology?” We do this because one should never entrust holy things (what is sacred) to unholy people (dogs; cf. “dogs” in Phil. 3:2) or throw … pearls to pigs. Dogs and pigs were despised in those days. This is one of the reasons the Lord spoke in parables. He did so to hide truth from the indifferent and to reveal it to those who were hungry and prepared.

Finally, remember that the ultimate issue is not seeking to get people to change their behavior, but come to know and believe in Christ. This includes biblical repentance, but in a salvation context, that means recognizing their sinful condition and need and turning from their sources of trust (religion, human will power, cultism, astrology, etc.) to trust in Jesus and His death for their sin. It does not mean cleaning up their lives and then trusting in Christ. Only Christ can change lives in a way that is significant.

For this one complete, you need to click the header below; this is just a representative sample of three general paragraphs, but the article distinguishes between judging non-believers versus judging fellow-Christians:

Does the Bible Tell Christians to Judge Not?

…As Christians, we should be living godly lives so that we can first concentrate on our own repentance of sin. Sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed every day into the image of Christ. Without this, we have no place in helping another brother or sister. What Christ teaches His believers in Matthew 7 is that if we ourselves are not personally repenting of our sins, we are in no place to tell others how sinful they are acting. But the Bible does tell us to preach the gospel—and part of the gospel message is that people are sinners in need of salvation…

…Are we being loving if we allow our fellow brethren to remain in error and even deceive others? Of course not. Loving others requires that we graciously correct them when they fall into error (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Galatians 6:1). Those who err do not necessarily know they are in error; they are possibly  deceived or ignorant. So we gently and carefully correct the error in regard to teaching, no matter what the situation. After all, this is one of the responsibilities of the church: to teach sound doctrine and correct erroneous teaching (2 Timothy 2:25, 3:16; Titus 2:1). For example, we have to use discernment (judging between right and wrong) if we are to obey verses like 1 Corinthians 5:11–13; 6:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:20; and Titus 3:9, just to name a few…

…Those people who call for tolerance and quote “judge not” out of context are not using sound thinking. Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories…


Every once in awhile we encounter articles that won’t fit here due to length, but which we think C201 readers might have some interest. Today we have two for you:

  • From Genesis 3’s garden narrative to being “clothed with the righteousness of Christ” this article covers (no pun intended) it all. Check out A Biblical Theology of Clothing.
  • Who did Jesus have in mind in Matthew 25, when he spoke of “the least of these?” This article focuses on how scholars view this passage, and it is a different result than what we pick up from casual reading. Check out What You Probably Don’t Know About ‘The Least of These.’

May 27, 2012

Many of Us are Guilty of Religious Violence

Or should that “many” actually say “all?”

While sourcing an image for the second of two posts today at Thinking Out Loud, I ended up at Wilderness Wanderings, the blog of Jon, pastor of Lights of the Canyon (LOTC) United Methodist Church in Anaheim Hills, California.  There were a number of great devotional posts there, but this one got my attention; he titled it Sticks and Stones.

Matthew 23:29-39

New International Version (NIV)

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus said a lot of things that make me uncomfortable. This scripture passage from Matthew is a case in point. Jesus passionately criticizes (perhaps “condemns” is not even too strong a word) the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus’ says that they are complicit in killing the prophets of old. This is impossible, of course, because none of the people that Jesus is speaking to were alive during the age of the prophets. Jesus, knowing that he himself is going to be crucified soon, and knowing also that many of his followers will face persecution, is pointing out the scribes and the Pharisees complicity in those acts of violence.

Since this subject is disconnected from us at LOTC, we talked yesterday about violence in general (physical, emotional and spiritual) that people perpetuate in the name of God. The point I really wanted to communicate was that we are all guilty, to one degree or another, of the sin of the scribes and Pharisees. We have all committed a degree of religious violence at some time in our lives. Whether we passionately criticize someone for their beliefs, whether we lean on the tried and true technique of just calling people names, or whether we simply look down on other people, we are doing violence to the gospel.

Yesterday, I shared about my experience in college and in seminary. Another experience that I had in college that speaks to this issue involved our rivalry with Biola University. At the first Westmont/Biola basketball game in our gym, the fans from Biola held up letter signs that ultimately spelled out a word. Their sign read l-i-b-e-r-a-l-s. I was surprised by two things. First, that there was a place that thought Westmont was liberal. But, I was also surprised that the Biola students chose a theological critique at a basketball game. Not to be outdone, when Westmont visit Biola later that season, students held up the following letter signs; l-e-g-a-l-i-s-t-s. And the debate raged on.

It seems sometimes that Christians are more eager than we should be to be critical of others, when perhaps our “go to” response should involve love and compassion first and asking questions later.

~Jon Wesley Waterson

September 25, 2011

No One Knows The Day, Nor The Hour

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:28 pm
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This is from the blogger known as Christopher at The Christian Journey

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:36-51

Here are some thought on this passage from the pen of J.C. Ryle:

The… thing that demands our attention, is the dreadful separation that will take place when the Lord Jesus comes again. We read twice over, that “one shall be taken and the other left.”

The godly and the ungodly, at present, are all mingled together. In the congregation and in the place of worship–in the city and in the field–the children of God and the children of the world are all side by side. But it shall not be so always. In the day of our Lord’s return, there shall at length be a complete division. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; at the last trumpet, each party shall be separated from the other forever more. Wives shall be separated from husbands–parents from children–brothers from sisters–masters from servants–preachers from hearers. There shall be no time for parting words, or a change of mind, when the Lord appears. All shall be taken as they are, and reap according as they have sown. Believers shall be caught up to glory, honor, and eternal life. Unbelievers shall be left behind to shame and everlasting contempt. Blessed and happy are they who are of one heart in following Christ! Their union alone shall never be broken. It shall last for evermore. Who can describe the happiness of those who are taken, when the Lord returns? Who can imagine the misery of those who are left behind? May we think on these things and consider our ways…

[We also see that] True Christians ought to live like watchmen. The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. They should strive to be always on their guard. They should behave like the sentinel of an army in an enemy’s land.

They should resolve by God’s grace not to sleep at their post. That text of Paul deserves many a thought–“let us not sleep, as the rest do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:6.)

True Christians ought to live like good servants, whose master is not at home. They should strive to be always ready for their master’s return. They should never give way to the feeling, “my Lord is delaying his coming.” They should seek to keep their hearts in such a frame, that whenever Christ appears, they may at once give Him a warm and loving reception. There is a vast depth in that saying, “Blessed is that servant whom his master finds doing so when he comes.” We may well doubt whether we are true believers in Jesus, if we are not ready at any time to have our faith changed into sight.

J.C.Ryle
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels Vol 1 Matthew and Mark pg 327-329

June 14, 2011

After That He Took The Cup…

While reading through the Psalms, Cindy at Cindy by the Sea gets some new insights into Passover…  There’s much more than that here as well, you might want to click the link at the very bottom and catch up on previous installments of this study…

“Who shut up the sea behind doors, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment, and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it, and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther, here is where your proud waves halt?’”  Job 38:8-11

God separates light from dark, sea from land and the righteous from the unrighteous.

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Yesterday afternoon, I went out shopping and when I returned to my car, I found the following hand written words scrawled in blue pen on a white sheet of paper and attached to my windshield –

“Please do every one a favor and learn how to park!’  Signed, “the public.”

Indignant, I looked at the note and then at my tires and sure enough, I was parked a little over the line; well, maybe just a little more than a little, but, not that much!  I then glanced around at the cars parked near me and wondered who had the gall to write such a note and who would make such a big deal out of such a small thing.  After all, I had only gone a little over the line.

It didn’t occur to me until this morning, that my little parking episode had provided the perfect opening for today’s post.

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When I started researching these Psalms, I came across a foot note in my Bible that really excited me, a foot-note, which at least for me provided the key to understanding the prophetic implication of this particular group of Psalms.

According to my foot-note, Psalms 113- 118, (the Egyptian Hallel)  is broken in to two parts, when read at Passover. The first two Psalms (113 & 114) are recited before the pouring of the second cup and the last three Psalms (115-118) are recited before the filling of the fourth cup.  Now this is very important. As someone who loves Passover and has taught on it many times, I was blown away, when I understood the implications of this.

Let’s start here:

There are four cups of wine at a Passover Seder.  In order, they are:

The cup of Sanctification, the cup of Judgment, the cup of Redemption and the cup of Praise.

If Psalms 113 and 114 correspond with years 2013 and 2014, then, we would expect to see someone or something sanctified (set apart) before judgment (wrath) falls.  *not to be confused with the chaos of 2012, which is a type of judgment, but, is not the wrath that falls during the last 3.5 years of the seven-year period.

Now, Sanctification is a big word which simply means to “set apart”. 

Passover, of course, did exactly that. By bringing his people out of Egypt, God separated them unto himself.  In the last days, there will be another group of people sanctified or “called out”.  We find these people listed in Revelation chapter 7, and they are the 144,000, 12,000 Jewish men from each tribe. 

Starting with Psalm 114 and working backwards –

The 114th Psalm opens with a recounting of the Exodus events –

“When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.  The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, O sea that you fled, O Jordan that you turned back, you mountains that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs?” Psalm 114:1-6

Now, why would it be important for the 114th Psalm to start out this way?  If God is going to call out this great group of people, who will be instrumental in bringing a remnant to faith in Christ during this period, what better way than recalling the great events of the Exodus.  Don’t you just love the wording used, this was a time of incredible joy for the Father, “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs!”  This was marvelous, this was incredible, God had chosen a people for himself and called them out of Egypt.

Life in Egypt was darkness, life in Egypt was slavery, life in Egypt was hopeless – but, God delivered them!  Out of the chaos of 2012, a light shines, God raises up 144,000 spirit filled dynamos that will powerfully preach the message of the cross.  And, people will be saved!  A remnant to be sure, but, nevertheless, people will be saved!

Psalm 114, therefore, serves as a reminder that God is not yet finished – even in the midst of chaos God has set apart, chosen and sealed a people for his purposes. 

The Psalm ends with these words:

“Tremble, O earth at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock in to a pool, the hard rock in to springs of water.”  Psalm 114:8

The indication here I believe, that the same God who brought water out of the rock, will turn even these terrible events of the tribulation period in to springs of living water for those who will hear and believe.

How many will be saved during this period, I don’t know. But, I do know that we are told in the book of Zechariah that 2/3 of the population of Israel will die, while 1/3  will survive – therefore, of the estimated six million people living in Israel today, at least two million will come to faith in Jesus Christ at some time during this period. (Zechariah 13:8)

Backing up to Psalm 113 – the year that follows on the heels of the opening of the six seals during the year 2012.  The Psalmist opens with these words:

“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forever more. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

God has begun a mighty work; world-wide in scope which will culminate in triumph over his enemies. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED!

The Psalmist reminds us in verses 4-6 that God is exalted ABOVE the nations, enthroned on high, he stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 113: 4-6

Can you imagine? God stoops down to see who is making such a fuss. The nations raging against Israel are really raging against God. In their vain imaginations and their pride, they think by defeating Israel, they can defeat God. They don’t want their ten commandments and they sure don’t want their Messiah. They want their self-made, man-made religion without any restrictions, without any boundaries and without any responsibilities. And, as long as Jews and Christians are around, it’s a sore reminder of a God who says otherwise.

During this chaotic time period, those who are poor and needy ( in other words, those who see their spiritual need and respond to the call of Jesus) will be lifted from the ash heap and the dust to be seated with princes.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.” Psalm 113:7-8

Every Passover Seder begins with an invitation to Passover. A call for any one who is hungry or thirsty to come to the table. The implication, that what ever your needs, they will be met at the Passover table.  And, of course, in a very large sense it is true, as the Passover Seder is a wonderful picture of the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus, who also said, ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” To be seated with the princes, is to be seated with Christ.

And, the Psalm concludes –

“He settles the barren woman in her home, as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 113:9

The barren woman (Rachel) matriarch of the Jewish people, was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin; Joseph, a type of Christ. Israel, will never be moved from their land. And, Jew and Gentile believers, their happy-off spring of whom there are many, will share in this blessed inheritance.

I started todays post with my little parking incident and though minor and of no real consequence, I have to admit, how quickly, I took offense at being shown the error of my ways. There are laws and boundaries that govern even nature itself. Only man has the choice and the capability of defying the creator. Humbleness is not easy to come by and without the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, not one of us would see our sin and how desperately in need of a Savior, we really are. 

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6   Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!  

~Cindy

October 1, 2010

Two Headlines, Two Choices

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 pm
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Although today’s post is a little longer, I want to introduce you to Cindy, who lives in the Hawaiian Islands and blogs as Cindy By The Sea.   Romantic, huh?   Her blogs posts feature a mix of politics and current events combined with scripture.    This one was posted last month under the title The Dividing Line.

In the early morning hours of September 4, a powerful earthquake shook residents awake in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. At an estimated 7.1, it was the most powerful earthquake to strike the region in many years.  I find it interesting that the epicenter for this earthquake should be a city called Christchurch on the day following two very significant headlines making news on September 2.

On the day prior to the New Zealand quake, two headlines (among others) competed for attention.  One was the Mid-East peace talks taking place in Washington DC and the other was the announcement by world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking that the universe was not created by God, but, was rather a spontaneous event related to the law of gravity.  For these two headlines to share space on the same day can hardly be called coincidence.

The Bible tells us of course, that the heavens declare the glory of God and the reality of his existence. It doesn’t take the mind of a Stephen Hawking, a powerful telescope or a degree in physics to tell us this. All it takes is a look in to the night skies for the simplest of people to understand.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands, Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”   Psalm 19: 1-3

Through the heavens God has made himself known; through Israel, God has made himself knowable.

Chosen for a purpose

In Isaiah 43:10, speaking of Israel, God says:

“You are my witnesses saith the Lord, my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”

In other words, it is Israel who bears witness to a knowable God.  A God who has made himself known, a God who loves us so much that he sent his only Son, a God who has a plan for our future and knows the beginning from the end. A God who chose Israel to be his instrument of grace (specifically fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah). I believe the headlines of Sept 2 clearly outline the choices we face today, whether people realize it or not.

Do we choose a Stephen Hawking world and the humanistic philosophy which naturally follows or do we stand with the God of the Bible in support of Israel?

Choose this day whom you will serve!

Lines are being drawn now and in the not too distant future, it will become increasingly difficult to have a foot in each camp – in fact, it will become impossible.

I thought it was interesting that the James Lee, Discovery Channel hostage situation occurred the same day as the Hocking announcement.  A clear indication to anyone paying attention of the natural outcome (tragedy and death) of a humanistic, self-centered, ”no-God” society.  Mr. Lee, a deranged individual (or perhaps just a strong proponent of the earth first propaganda that has been force-fed to us by the humanistic environmentalists) who believed with such fervor that humans and the birth of new babies are the scourge of the earth; so much so, that he was willing to take up arms to prove his point.

When the walls crumbled in Christchurch, it may have been a warning for the church of Laodicea, that you can only straddle the fence so long before you will fall.  Like the house built on the sand, without the firm foundation of Christ; collapse is certain.  Sadly, the humanistic philosophy of the culture has infiltrated the teachings of the church which bears his name.  And, among the many heresies which have crept into the body, none is more insidious and sinister than that of doubting the truth and infallibility of his word. Evidenced by a number of things such as – the acceptance of the gay agenda, support of abortion rights, denial of creation as outlined in Genesis, denial of the miracles of the Bible, denial of Jesus as the only way and denial of God’s calling and purpose for Israel, among a whole host of other things.

In these last days, God has brought Israel to the forefront and what happens with Israel is instrumental to the return of Jesus.  In Matthew 25:31-46, we read of the judgment of the sheep and goats -in this passage, the sheep and goats are separated.  And, the basis on which they are separated is this: how the brethern of Christ (Israel – the Jews) have been treated.  Take note Quartet and all others who doubt God’s word and who seek the division and destruction of Jerusalem, this is the dividing line for nations and it is on this basis, by which you shall be judged.

~ cindybythesea