A Puffed-Up Mind

July 13, 2019 by Mark Clements

Colossians 2:16-18

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” Colossians 2:18.

Early Christians in Colossae faced multiple forms of false teaching from influential leaders who appeared to have supreme intelligence and spiritual experience. These false teachers attacked the simplicity of the believers’ faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, insisting that they were somehow disqualified from the true knowledge of God since their experiences did not match the leaders’ experiences. True believers in Jesus were being judged by religious Jews because they did not observe certain Jewish feasts or festivals. Paul reminded them that those Old Testament ceremonies pointed to Jesus, who came and provided the substance of the promises to which they pointed. Other false teachers had actually strayed from Jesus and were embracing a mystical, experiential cult, promoting a false humility and the worship of angels. Both of these groups were pressuring the believers to leave their foundation of Christ through prideful fleshly manipulation, and Paul encouraged them to resist them.

Daily, we are met with spiritual resistance. God’s enemies will use every tactic possible to knock us off balance, including manipulation, bullying and asserting their superiority because of supreme intelligence or experience. The gospel is simple enough for a child to grasp, but that does not mean it is inferior. It is the power of God and it reveals His righteousness (Romans 1:16, 17). We must actively resist manipulation from false teachers and stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, no matter how smart or manipulative false teachers might be. We are qualified by faith in Christ, therefore no human being can make us disqualified through their vain imagination or high intelligence.

JUST A THOUGHT: Christ qualifies you.

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/bogard-press-daily-devotional-98/

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VIDEO Micah

By Chuck Swindoll

 

Who wrote the book?

The prophet Micah identified himself by his hometown, called Moresheth Gath, which sat near the border of Philistia and Judah about twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. Dwelling in a largely agricultural part of the country, Micah lived outside the governmental centers of power in his nation, leading to his strong concern for the lowly and less fortunate of society—the lame, the outcasts, and the afflicted (Micah 4:6). Therefore, Micah directed much of his prophecy toward the powerful leaders of Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of Israel and Judah, respectively (1:1).

Where are we?

As a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea, Micah prophesied during the momentous years surrounding the tragic fall of Israel to the Assyrian Empire (722 BC), an event he also predicted (Micah 1:6). Micah stated in his introduction to the book that he prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah, failing to mention the simultaneous string of dishonorable kings that closed out the northern kingdom of Israel.

During this period, while Israel was imploding from the effects of evil and unfaithful leadership, Judah seemed on a roller-coaster ride—ascending to the heights of its destiny in one generation, only to fall into the doldrums in another. In Judah at this time, good kings and evil kings alternated with each other, a pattern seen in the reigns of Jotham (good, 2 Kings 15:32–34); Ahaz (evil, 2 Kings 16:1–4); and Hezekiah (good, 2 Kings 18:1–7).

Why is Micah so important?

The book of Micah provides one of the most significant prophecies of Jesus Christ’s birth in all the Old Testament, pointing some seven hundred years before Christ’s birth to His birthplace of Bethlehem and to His eternal nature (Micah 5:2).

Surrounding Micah’s prophecy of Jesus’s birth is one of the most lucid pictures of the world’s future under the reign of the Prince of Peace (5:5). This future kingdom, which scholars call the millennial kingdom, will be characterized by the presence of many nations living with one another in peace and security (4:3–4) and coming to Jerusalem to worship the reigning king, that is, Jesus Himself (4:2). Because these events have not yet occurred, we look forward to the millennial kingdom at some undetermined time in the future.

What’s the big idea?

Much of Micah’s book revolves around two significant predictions: one of judgment on Israel and Judah (Micah 1:1–3:12), the other of the restoration of God’s people in the millennial kingdom (4:1–5:15). Judgment and restoration inspire fear and hope, two ideas wrapped up in the final sequence of Micah’s prophecy, a courtroom scene in which God’s people stand trial before their Creator for turning away from Him and from others (6:1–7:20). In this sequence, God reminds the people of His good works on their behalf, how He cared for them while they cared only for themselves. But rather than leave God’s people with the fear and sting of judgment, the book of Micah concludes with the prophet’s call on the Lord as his only source of salvation and mercy (7:7), pointing the people toward an everlasting hope in their everlasting God.

How do I apply this?

Much of Micah’s indictment against Israel and Judah involves these nations’ injustice toward the lowly—unjust business dealings, robbery, mistreatment of women and children, and a government that lived in luxury off the hard work of its nation’s people.

Where does the injustice dwell in your own life? Who are the lowly in your life? Do you need a call toward repentance, like the people of Israel and Judah did?

Micah’s impassioned plea for God’s chosen people to repent will cut many of us to the quick. Most of us don’t decide daily to cut people down or find ways to carry out injustice. Instead, we do it out of habit. Let’s allow the words of Micah to break us out of our apathy about extending justice and kindness to others and press on toward a world that better resembles the harmonious millennial kingdom to come. Let’s determine to live as God desires—“to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/micah


Overview: Micah


Unlocking the Old Testament Part 52 – Micah


 

AUDIO Here’s What Makes the ‘First-Century Mark’ Saga Complicated

The complex world of ancient biblical manuscripts

MORGAN LEE| JULY 4, 2019

Here’s What Makes the ‘First-Century Mark’ Saga Complicated

Last week, CT published a piece about the “First Century Mark Saga.” It’s a complicated, nearly decade-old situation that reveals much about the world of ancient biblical manuscripts.

Many Christians may be inclined to primarily connect biblical manuscripts with apologetics or Bible translations, but the ecosystem they inhabit is far more complex, says Christian Askeland, a former Museum of the Bible employee and professor of Christian origins.

“With the Gospel of Mark controversy, there’s a lot of stuff going on there,” said Askeland. “There is the paleography issue—the New Testament was written in the first century, so just the basic idea that we could have a first century manuscript, that one of those would survive and we would have it. Then there’s the issue of acquiring the artifact—what museums have the right to buy this kind of ancient material culture. And then there’s the scholarly issue—how do professionals, specifically Christian scholars look when they are trying to buy this manuscript.”

Askeland joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli this week on Quick to Listen to discuss what’s at stake in the ‘First-Century Mark’ saga and illuminate the larger world of ancient biblical manuscripts.

This episode of Quick to Listen is brought to you in part by Promise Keepers. The Christian men’s ministry that filled stadiums across America is, once again, calling on men to stand up and be counted. For more information, go to promisekeepers.org.

Highlights from Quick To Listen: Episode 168

Last year the Egypt Exploration Society published a Greek papyrus. According to their judgment, this fragment of the Gospel of Mark could be dated between A.D. 150 and 250. But while this document was extremely old, this timestamp disappointed a number of people, many of whom had hoped that it could be traced to the 1st century. Last week Christianity Today published a piece about this First-Century Mark saga, a story that has now played out for about eight years and running. One of the key figures in this saga is Jerry Pattengale, a professor at Indiana Wesleyan and until recently the Director of Religious Education at Museum of the Bible. He was deeply involved and wrote about his experience for CT, saying:

“Over the last eight years, we learned that much was not as it seemed. There seemed to be a manuscript fragment of a gospel dating to the first decades of the church. Not quite. The manuscript seemed to be for sale. It wasn’t, really. Now the world knows there were four early gospel fragments “for sale,” and at the helm was an esteemed professor, transitioning these days into a sort of Sir Leigh Teabing of Da Vinci Code lore.”

So today on Quick To Listen, we wanted to give a summary of what’s at stake in this First-Century Mark saga, and also illuminate the larger world of ancient biblical manuscripts. Our guest today is Christian Askeland, assistant research professor of Christian origins at Indiana Wesleyan University. He has also held many positions with the Museum of the Bible. His research concerns the origins and diversity of early Christianity, principally the movements from which they’re relevant texts and manuscripts arose.

Can you describe the work that goes into studying ancient Biblical manuscripts and determining their authenticity?

Christian Askeland: Let’s start with paleography, which is an extremely controversial subject in academic societies and scholars get really angry arguing over these things. it’s complicated because there are different kinds of manuscripts. Cursive manuscripts from later on in the medieval period will often have a scribe who has identified themselves and will state when and where they’ve written the manuscript. In those cases people were using a minuscule manuscript, which is usually written on parchment In a certain cursive handwriting that looks a bit like what we think of the lowercase Greek characters that modern texts are transcribed into and printing presses use. If you’re using those type of manuscripts, it’s a pretty reliable science because we have so many manuscripts with a secure date that you can date undated manuscripts with the secure manuscripts.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have manuscripts that are written with capital letters that tend to be earlier. They tend to be from either the Roman period or shortly after the Roman period. Often those don’t have the same notations to identify the scribe or the date and you have a very, very small number of securely dated examples—maybe only four or five examples—that you can really rely on, and they tend to look exactly the same for centuries. So when you assign a date range to those, it very likely may be a four-century date range or more.

Now when we get to papyri, which tend to be your earliest manuscripts we have, we have very, very few securely dated manuscripts. And actually when people are dating papyri, what they’re usually doing is they’re using other manuscripts that have been basically dated on a cycle of non-securely dated manuscripts. So the science here isn’t really much of a science at all, it’s just a small group of paleographers telling you what their stomach feels like. They may be listing other manuscripts—as in the case of this Mark manuscript—they’re listing manuscripts that have no secure date themselves. This is true for both Biblical papyri and other literary papyri.

Some of this is based on a presupposition of manuscript style and the way the handwriting looks. Handwriting that is quite simple and less complicated is usually considered to come from earlier stages in history, while more formalized, more decadent handwriting is considered to come from later stages. But there’s nothing scientific about that. There are days when anyone’s handwriting might be poor, but we wouldn’t necessarily date that to an early period of your life. It could be because you’re stressed, or you had too much coffee. So when we do this with manuscripts, we’re doing it based on the way ancient empires were thought of and what we expect from them, but it’s not an exact science.

How does the issue of cultural heritage relate to manuscript controversies? And do museums help provide some legitimacy?

Christian Askeland: For a lot of people, I think we think about biblical manuscripts and connect it to apologetics or faith and how secure our own Bible translation is. Is this really what Jesus or the Apostle Paul or the author of whatever text actually said? But we’re in an interesting period of time where several cultural institutions and cultural sites—especially in the Middle East but in other places in the world—are under attack. They’re literally being destroyed sometimes simply because groups like ISIS want to erase non-Muslim portions of the cultural history of the site. In other cases, they’re actually taking things from the site or stealing things from museums, and then selling them for profit to fund their activities. So anything that shows up in the antiquities market and gets sold, you can’t prove what site or source it came from, so it immediately comes under suspicion. People are also paranoid that things have not come from a good place, and that purchasing them is funding people who aren’t good people and who aren’t actually protecting cultural heritage.

With museums, there’s the controversy around who actual owns the artifacts. There are different international conventions and laws, but if you think about manuscripts we have in America or Europe, one might argue that it was stolen from the Middle East. Especially if you don’t consider cultural heritage as something you can own. So if you have parts of the Parthenon sitting in the British Museum, the Greeks can say, “Hey, you may have bought this from somebody and have certificates, but it’s is a key part of the cultural heritage of Greece and doesn’t belong in London.” Or say you’re a Christian institution that comes into the possession of a Torah scroll used in the Jewish worship. Well, then you have the issue of sacred heritage, which is a bit different from cultural heritage. You’re a Christian institution with the Jewish sacred object. What are the ethical ramifications of you having that?

Are these complications part of why there’s so much controversy with this alleged fragment of the Gospel of Mark? And if not, what’s driving the controversy?

Christian Askeland: Different scholarly societies have adopted standards on cultural heritage and what would even be permitted within the scholarly society. And this has become a huge issue the last 10 years. It’s typical for museums not to purchase items on their own, a lot of times they’ll have a donor purchase the item and then the donor will donate it and there can be tax benefits to that.

With the Gospel of Mark controversy, there’s a lot of stuff going on there. There is the paleography issue—the New Testament was written in the first century, so just the basic idea that we could have a first century manuscript, that one of those would survive and we would have it. Then there’s the issue of acquiring the artifact—what museums have the right to buy this kind of ancient material culture. And then there’s the scholarly issue—how do professionals, specifically Christian scholars look when they are trying to buy this manuscript.

If you think about how many people were living in the Roman Empire during Bible times, there were maybe 65 million people. And in the first century BC, you didn’t have any Christians because there’s like no Jesus. And then Jesus comes, but you still don’t have any Christians because they’re not called Christians till Antioch. But you have this movement that starts, and it’s a very small segment of those 65 million people. By the end of the fourth Century, you have a Christian Empire and Christianity grows in between those two points. So you would expect to have more manuscripts when you have more Christians, right? Our total count for papyri manuscripts right now is around 139—and not just from the 4th Century when Christianity was at its highest peak, but as a total count. So, the statistical odds of finding a first-century papyrus is so unlikely that anyone who claims to have found one would be assumed crazy. Simply because statistically we would expect to find more manuscripts when we have more Christians, we have a limited amount of papyri, and we would expect to start finding them from the third or fourth Century onward. So, the news was explosive for apologetic reasons, but also for scholarly reasons.

Where are these ancient biblical manuscripts coming from? And what happens after they are found?

Christian Askeland: Most of our papyri come from Egypt. Partially because papyri grow in Egypt, but also the conditions in Egypt or so favorable for conserving things. People tended to bury things and as long as the Nile didn’t flood, they were kept intact. So in Egypt, we have a few small caches that show up with essentially perfectly preserved papyrus manuscripts with every page intact. What we’re talking about today though are things that have been dug up after, they come from the “rubbish heap.” They are discarded papyri or papyri that maybe wadded up in the bowl. But they are still important because they’ve led to new discoveries.

Before these discoveries, we had Wycliffe who was translating the Bible from Latin because that’s all he had. And then during Martin Luther’s time, there was access to Greek manuscripts, and you get a whole new era of translations that are from the original languages. And now we’re starting to get these papyri, and it’s like moving back a thousand years. And then you have other manuscripts that are coming in from ancient monasteries like Mount Sinai, and various other monasteries in Egypt, that bring in all different kinds of translations as well as Greek manuscripts from the first millennium.

The Egyptian Excavation Society, for instance, has a massive trove of about half a million papyri that have been excavated from Egypt around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. And their stuff is housed at the University of Oxford for scholars and researchers to go and study.

So with First-Century Mark, who made this claim? And where do they fit into the antiquity world?

Christian Askeland: With the First-Century Mark, there were a lot of people saying this is insane and personally myself, I’ve always just said that it’s not a real possibility that we would have this. The fact that somebody would say this without putting forward the evidence shows there probably is no evidence. It wouldn’t just not a reasonable thing to do.

There’s nobody’s really wanting to take responsibility for making that claim. There was a Twitter mention that goes back to December 2011 and another scholar mentioned it in a debate a while later. At one point, before people knew it was Mark, someone marked it and written a note that said 1st/2nd Century. So there was an argument from someone who didn’t realize they were dating a Biblical manuscript dating it to that period of time. Now that’s not a crazy time period of date something to for the Greco-Roman period because this is what we call the Pax Romana, it was the period of greatest prosperity in the Roman Empire, so statistically we get more from this period than from any other period in papyrology in Egypt. And then in 2016, the Egyptian Excavation Society indicate that they realized that they had First-Century Mark and wanted to publish it at that point.

What questions should a typical viewer of manuscripts at a museum or through a special exhibit have as they enter into that experience?

Christian Askeland: Speaking to a Christian audience, I would want to say that if something is done, well, it should help you understand that the world is a more complicated place than you previously thought it would be in. This is part of what we that we’re never going to understand everything, We’re going to see we’re going to see things dimly. And so going to one of these institutions shouldn’t necessarily answer all your questions, but you should come to a place where you understand that the things related to your faith—but even just things related to the broader world—are very complicated and that’s okay. There are no easy answers.

You should always allow yourself to be surprised, to be challenged, to be fascinated with how complicated the world is and not see that as a threat. Use it as a reminder that our own culture isn’t the only one that exists, and that a lot of the reasons that we have things from other countries is because we took them, or we paid for them from people who are just desperate for even a small amount of money.

 

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Original here

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference

2 Kings 2

The end of Elijah’s ministry is approaching, and it is soon time for him to be taken away by the Lord to Heaven. A reading of the text reveals that this was not a surprise to any of the people described as taking part. Evidently Elijah, Elisha and the company of 50 prophets who accompanied them all seemed to know that the departure of Elijah was coming soon.

The story itself is short and to the point. After some back and forth, between Elijah and Elisha, Elijah miraculously parted the waters and he and Elisha crossed on dry land. After one more exchange between the two, a fiery chariot appeared and…Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind.

It’s that final exchange we are going to talk about briefly today. Here it is: “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” 2 Kings 2:9

Some questions are important; this one was. When Elisha witnessed the miracle of the parting waters of the River Jordan, he knew God’s power was in play; he could have asked for anything. What did he ask for anyway? He wasn’t asking for twice the miracle performing power of his mentor, although he certainly did far more miracles than Elijah had done. He certainly wasn’t asking for twice as much of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not some force that is given in increments; we get all of Him or have none of Him. Rather than try to force my own words into this answer, I will just share that John McArthur had to say because I think he said it perfectly.

“In Israel, the firstborn son inherited a double share of his father’s possessions and with it the right of succession (Deut. 21:17). “A double portion of your spirit” was not merely Elisha’s request to succeed Elijah in his prophetic ministry, since the Lord had already revealed this succession in 1 Kin. 19:16–21. Nor was it Elisha’s desire for ministry superior to Elijah’s, though Elisha did, in fact, do twice as many recorded miracles as Elijah. Apparently, Elisha was asking to succeed Elijah in the prophetic office, as God had promised, with spiritual power beyond his own capabilities to meet the responsibilities of his position as Elijah’s successor. He desired that Elijah’s mighty power might continue to live through him.”

This was much wisdom from Elisha, and no doubt this was a test to see what he would ask for. What do we want? Do we want a powerful ministry that spotlights us and makes us look like heroes? Or do we want great things, beyond our capabilities, that will showcase the greatness of God?

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2019/07/04/elijah-how-one-man-made-a-difference-part-19/

“And if I perish, I perish”. A Priceless Virtue.

June 17, 2019

Esther 4:15-17:- “And If I perish, I perish”, A Priceless Virtue.

 

There is something that God put in Esther that was going to turn around her destiny for eternity that will also give glory to Him forever. That thing is “If I perish, I perish”

God put this in her that at the right time He was going to place a demand on it from her. It’s a great virtue, unique spiritual gift, priceless, that was only meant for a very few people. God knew this is one who will be willing to give up her life for her entire nation and for His sake. She had so much love for God and for her people. It takes one with this God kind of love to be sacrificial and selfless. She forsook, pleasure, fame, wealth, position, title and recognition, all for God and for her people. She was ready to die to save an entire Jews. She was ready to forsake the throne for the sake of truth, love, and justice. She brought honor, and glory to God.

A vessel of gratitude:- She was mindful of her humble beginnings, she maintained her relationship with her uncle till the end. Remained respectful and grateful to him. A very loyal and uncompromising vessel, just like her uncle Mordecai.

What a selfless and sacrificial service she truly rendered!

Beloved what is that thing, that part of God, He has put inside of you that He might require of you at His appointed time?

Seek His face fervently and you will surely find and become who He has destined you to be in Jesus Name.

Receive divine revelation and insight to see it in you and may God reveal to you in Jesus Name.

Shalom!

From the table of God’s loving heart.

 

Original here

“A soft and effeminate Christianity”

By Allan Erickson – June 2, 2019

OPEN THEOLOGY & INCARNATIONAL MISSIOLOGY

the·ol·o·gy – the study of the nature of God and religious belief.

Historic Judeo-Christian theology reaching back 6,000 years has always held that God is Almighty: all powerful, all knowing, always present, everywhere, all the time. For sixty years, this was my understanding, reaching back to Sunday school.

So imagine my surprise when our pastor began teaching Open Theology, a relatively new theology, positing the idea God does not know everything, that he is sometimes surprised by our behavior, that he changes his mind and his methods when surprised by our responses. Some theorists believe God was surprised by the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden, that he didn’t see evil coming.  Others note that Abraham and Moses appealed to God to change his mind and he did, all of this demonstrating the truth of Open Theology. Open Theists also claim God does not know all that is going to happen in future, despite his perfect track record in prophesy.  So part of the impact of Open Theology is to encourage people to question the inerrancy of Scripture.

When questions inevitably arose our pastor indicated we were not thinking this through properly. He insisted Open Theology was valid, clearly affirmed in Scripture, and further, it did not contradict God’s omniscience, “the state of knowing everything.” One person put it pointedly: “If God does not know everything, then He is not God.”

It is the height of cognitive dissonance to suggest God knows everything, and then in the same breath claim He does not know everything, concluding there is nothing wrong with such a belief system! Clearly, Scripture proclaims from cover to cover the omniscience of God.  God himself tells us He is all knowing. So what is this foolishness about?  This article helps with a more detailed treatment:  A Critique of Open Theism.  In further study we find that Open Theology is an attempt to synthesize Scripture and Greek philosophy, heretical in the view of the majority.

If sound doctrine directs the effective work of the Church, then errant theology destroys sound doctrine and renders the work of the Church impotent. If a pastor’s job is to evangelize and disciple, how is it a job well done to teach that God is double-minded, unreliable, superficial or inconsistent?

Can any theology of doubt strengthen faith?

In seminary, another theology eventually discouraged my faith and further attendance. Out of the blue, seminary professors and administration proclaimed students would be marked down for using male pronouns in reference to the Father. We were told referring to “He” or “Him” reinforced patriarchy, the sin of excluding females. Thus, if we prayed to “Him” or wrote about “Him,” we would receive a lower grade.  This was not subject to discussion.  It was settled theology.

I suggested we were asking the wrong question: that the better question would be, “Lord, why do you refer to yourself both in terms of maleness, and in terms of femaleness?” My suggestion was treated as impertinence. Consequently I stopped going to seminary. This was about 25 years ago.

Errant theology goes a long way toward causing confusion. God is not the author of confusion. He is the author of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Now we have something called “Incarnational Missiology.”  This theology invites us to “rethink” the nature of missions. As with Open Theology and our perception of God the Father, we are encouraged to question without merit and revise belief without grounds.

At a church we no longer attend, our daughter was enjoying youth group as a 6th grader. She enjoyed socializing with friends and playing games, having a good time each week. The teaching of Scripture was a bit on the light side, but, we believed she was growing in faith. We would soon be jolted back to reality.

One week she came home with something troubling her. She reported a transgender individual had joined youth group.  Our daughter had questions of course. Apparently the transgender person had immediately notified everyone she was a boy in a girl’s body. This caused a great deal of confusion and concern, the primary concern being, ‘How do we rightly respond?’

As with so many ‘cutting edge theologies,’ Incarnational Missiology employs many, many words and Scripture references to explain a systematic approach to ‘rethinking.’

Essentially the idea is we must engage the world with sensitivity, focusing on relationships. We must be present ‘incarnationally’ and influence people by maintaining a soft and accepting proximity. Apparently the idea is this: if we are very, very nice in constant contact with the lost, good will rub off and they will eventually come around. The proclamation of the Word and the call to repent of sin are put on the back burner or removed from the stove altogether. In other words, the real medicine is withheld.

So, when we asked staff how they were going to handle the advocacy of transgenderism within youth group for 6th graders, we were told, “These things take time.”  Staff indicated an awareness the issue could not be ignored but there was no plan to intervene on behalf of the child’s welfare, and no plan to disciple Christian kids on how to rightly respond, in love. The answer, according to staff, was to make sure the child felt warmly welcomed.

Obviously my wife and I discussed all this extensively, including our daughter in many of those discussions. It felt as if the LGBTQ movement had kicked down my door and demanded my 6th grade daughter affirm them unconditionally.  Further, it felt as if our church was more concerned about offending someone than taking a principled stand, trusting God with everyone’s highest good.  The child’s welfare, though not ignored, seemed a lesser priority compared to political activism, cultural warfare and conflict avoidance.

There was no reconciliation between my feelings and the theology being applied: I was convicted about sin, but called to ignore it. It felt as if my daughter’s spiritual growth was not as important as accommodating and even affirming aberrant behaviors.  Then, it dawned on me.  It wasn’t about my feelings. It was about God’s will for people.  It wasn’t about their feelings either.  It was about redemption.  Once again, Scripture came to the rescue.

God’s Word calls on all unbelievers and believers to repent of their sin—no matter the sin—and enter the newness of life. Only by repentance can we experience the marvelous liberation God delivers! Sin is a cruel task master! Why would we leave a suffering person in sin?  It’s cruel!  God commands us to show people the way out!

God commands believers to witness to His liberating power. He commands us to preach the Word, always.  He urges us to share His love with everyone, everywhere, but nowhere does he suggest we accommodate sin, or preach a different gospel.  In fact he condemns compromise.

It has been a year since the transgender girl declared she was a boy in a girl’s body. Reportedly, she now insists people call her by her new male name.  She is still warmly welcomed in youth group yet she is apparently further away from salvation.  Is it right then to doubt the value of “Incarnational Missiology?”

Notice that with Open Theology, so-called patriarchy in the Bible, and Incarnational Missiology, all seek to address some kind of discomfort we experience. We are not comfortable with evil in the world so to deal with the discomfort we theorize God is not all knowing.  We dislike patriarchy so we assume God made a mistake and presume to edit his Word, taking out all the male pronouns.  We are repulsed by the leather-lunged preachers of the past, shunning the sense of guilt that leads to repentance, so we come up with a touchy-feely gospel to make it all cushy and comfortable.

The work of the church is to present the Gospel, urge repentance, evangelize the lost and disciple believers. It is a mission presented straightforwardly in the Scripture.  It is not complicated.  And it is not a soft, accommodating mission.  It can be very rugged.

But why do we complicate it?

Why do we think we have to ‘rethink’ or ‘revise’ or ‘redo’ what Jesus and Paul and others clearly modeled for us? Why do we come to believe a Gospel that a 1st grader can understand must somehow be refashioned by Ph.Ds so that the world will be accommodated?

In truth, our churches are weakened, even destroyed, by the author of confusion. As he did in the Garden, he tempts us by questioning God’s word and His character, and by enticing us to play god, rather than worship Him in spirit and truth.

Please consider, in conclusion, the wise words of a 19th century Scottish pastor:

A SOFT & EFFEMINATE CHRISTIANITY

Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889) Scottish churchman and poet

For there is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal theology.

Christianity was born for endurance…It walks with firm step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile; obliging, but not imbecile; decided, but not churlish. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evils, under the pretext that it is not of this world.

It does not shrink from giving honest reproof lest it come under the charge of displaying an unchristian spirit. It calls sin ’sin,’ on whomsoever it is found, and would rather risk the accusation of being actuated by a bad spirit than not discharge an explicit duty. Let us not misjudge strong words used in honest controversy. Out of the heat a viper may come forth; but we shake it off and feel no harm.

The religion of both Old and New Testaments is marked by fervent outspoken testimonies against evil. To speak smooth things in such a case may be sentimentalism, but it is not Christianity. It is a betrayal of the cause of truth and righteousness. If anyone should be frank, manly, honest, cheerful (I do not say blunt or rude, for a Christian must be courteous and polite), it is he who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, and is looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.

I know that charity covereth a multitude of sins; but it does not call evil good, because a good man has done it; it does not excuse inconsistencies, because the inconsistent brother has a high name and a fervent spirit. Crookedness and worldliness are still crookedness and worldliness, though exhibited in one who seems to have reached no common height of attainment.

 

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Kingdom Come

BY DAVID JEREMIAH

A simple law of physics has profound implications for our theme in this article: Two different objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. It’s actually the corollary to that law that we’ll build on: A single object cannot be in more than one place at the same time.

That is definitely true physically—but spiritually, it’s a different story. Specifically, we’re going to see that the Kingdom of God can be in more than one place at the same time. And what is the Kingdom of God? It is the domain over which God rules. Indeed, the most important thing to learn about the Kingdom of God is that it is not primarily a place. Rather, it is a spiritual reality that can be in more than one place at one time.

The Kingdom Here and There

For instance, Jesus taught His disciples to pray to God saying, “[May] your kingdom come. [May] your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Within those few words is found a wonderful definition of the Kingdom of God: the realm in which God’s will is done.

The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is carried out. Two other insights about the Kingdom of God are in Jesus’ words: Heaven is the Kingdom of God and earth has the potential to be the Kingdom of God. That’s why Jesus prayed (and I’m paraphrasing), “Father, I know heaven is your kingdom, the place where your will fills every space and rules every outcome. Please make earth such a place—please let earth become an extension of your kingdom in heaven. May we experience ‘heaven on earth’ by seeing your kingdom established.”

The Garden of Eden was the Kingdom of God on earth in the beginning. So what Jesus taught His disciples (including us) to pray for was the reestablishing of the Kingdom of God on earth—as it is in heaven and as it once was “in the beginning.” To do that would require an irruption, not an eruption, to use the words theologians use. An eruption is when something breaks out from within, like a volcano. But an irruption is when something breaks in from without—like a meteor hitting the earth from outer space.

In that sense, the Kingdom of God irrupted on planet earth afresh when Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth to be born in a stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. He left His home in God’s heavenly kingdom and broke into the spiritual darkness of planet earth to become the light of the world (John 8:12; Colossians 1:12-14). In Christ, and a few others committed to doing God’s will—like Jesus’ earthly parents, Mary and Joseph; John the Baptist and his parents, Zachariah and Elizabeth; saints such as Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38)—the light of God’s kingdom was just a spark.

But it was Jesus’ intention for that spark to spread, as He told His followers: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). As the spark of that light spreads to more and more hearts, so grows the Kingdom of God.

How Kingdoms Work

One of the world’s best “explainers” is award-winning author and illustrator David Macaulay. He has written numerous lavishly illustrated books, using highly detailed illustrations, to explain how things work—things like building a Gothic cathedral (Cathedral), building a pyramid (Pyramid), building an ancient Roman city (City), and building the infrastructure of a modern metropolitan city (Underground). In the absence of a Macaulay volume titled Kingdom, let’s think about how kingdoms work—and by extension, the Kingdom of God.

Simply put, a kingdom is ruled by a king or queen (a monarch, in modern terms) whose vision and values direct and permeate his or her domain. All the kingdoms on this earth, from ancient to medieval to modern, have been located in a physical place—a country or region with borders. The will of the ruler of the kingdom is carried out by his associates, hopefully to the benefit of the subjects within the kingdom. There are very few absolute kingdoms on earth today—even modern kingdoms like England and Japan have a monarch who is a figurehead only, a holdover from a time when kings and queens ruled their kingdoms absolutely.

Medieval kingdoms are an interesting example—a ruler acted beneficently toward his subjects by providing land, civil justice, infrastructure, and most importantly, protection. In return, the subjects grew food and provided services needed by all. It was a symbiotic relationship that benefited both. In the most general sense, the theocratic kingdom God established with Israel followed this pattern. In fact, the entire book of Deuteronomy is structured like a contract, common in the ancient world, between a king (God) and his subjects (Israel). Deuteronomy 28-29 summarizes what God would do for His “subjects” if they obeyed His will and what He would do if they didn’t. Obedience to the king is at the heart of any kingdom’s prosperity and growth.

How Kingdoms Grow

Unfortunately, there are few examples in human history of kingdoms growing peacefully. Normally, kings enlarged their borders by force, or failed trying. But because the kingdom of God is not primarily geographic, it grows differently. Even in the Old Testament, it was God’s intent that Israel should be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:3; Luke 2:32). As the nations of the earth saw the glory of God in Israel, they would be attracted to Him and become His willing subjects—and the Kingdom of God would expand by virtue of its inherent goodness.

We know, however, that Israel failed to be such a light. But the aged Simeon had it right when he recognized the eight-day-old Jesus as “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). Because God’s desire is for the whole earth to be the realm of His kingdom, those who have embraced the light of Christ are now responsible to spread that light—to expand God’s kingdom—“to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus and John the Baptist made the presence (the irruption) of the Kingdom of God the central theme of their early preaching. And the kingdom grew—from one, to 12, to 70, to 120 kingdom citizens in a room in Jerusalem at Pentecost where the population of the kingdom exploded to 3,000 (Acts 2:41). Prior to His ascension Jesus gave “marching orders”—recorded in various forms in all four Gospel accounts—to His disciples to grow the kingdom of God by making new disciples in all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). And it is that same Great Commission that we live under as kingdom citizens today: the Commission to continue expanding the Kingdom of God until Christ returns and establishes His throne—first in Jerusalem for a thousand years, then in the center of the New Jerusalem for all eternity.

And how do we expand the kingdom? First, by making sure the Kingdom of God rules in our own heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37). When that is the case, then the Kingdom of God—the rule, the presence, the influence of God—goes with us wherever we go. Indeed, it is by our very presence, moving about our neighborhoods and communities and world that the kingdom is expanded. It is our “light”—our demeanor, our actions, our words, our kindnesses, our deeds—that push back the darkness of Satan’s kingdom. When people see such light, they take notice.

But it is not enough for people to notice the light; they need to know its source and what it represents. To receive the light themselves means believing; believing means hearing; hearing requires preaching; preaching requires sending (Romans 10:14-15). We have definitely been sent! The question is whether we are doing the speaking, preaching, and telling necessary for those in darkness to believe.

If we are, the Kingdom of God will continue to grow until Christ returns. May you and I recommit ourselves to our calling to be kingdom builders for the glory of our King—that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

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