We No Longer Live in Christendom

Baltimore Sun October 23, 2017

Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past”

The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He’s studied the trend of churches closing and merging for 20 years. The article presents his point of view, as well as documenting the decline in church attendance which occasions the closing and merging.

Jonathan Pitts, the writer of the article, offers Mr. Webster’s opinion of one of the most important factors in declining church numbers.

While it’s hard to pinpoint a single most important factor, Webster says, it’s impossible to ignore the repeal of most of the old state blue laws, regulations that had long placed restrictions on commercial activity on Sundays, starting in the mid-20th century.

Today’s faith leaders must compete with everything from youth soccer and pro football games to shopping at the mall.

Mr. Pitts doesn’t really spend much time on causes. He just assumes that competition from the world is the cause and details a number of church’s efforts to merge or close.

However, I do not agree that competition from the world is the cause of church closings and mergers.The world has always been in hostile competition with the Kingdom of God. Believers have been in a fight since the Garden of Eden with those who oppose God and His plans. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at my opinion that the church has also been in hostile competition with the Kingdom. The church (in general) and the world are not much different from each other. Churches claim to follow Jesus, but when we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible we can see that they don’t have much in common. On the other hand, compare churches with the world and we can see that the real merging has already taken place.

Just because the church has some trappings that look Christian, does not mean a church is automatically part of the Kingdom of God or the body of believers. Much of what the church has done is to merge some stories and tradition borrowed from the Bible with self-seeking behavior. Way back in 325 A. D. when the Roman emperor Constantine took a fancy to some of the Christian concepts the merger with the world got a big boost. For centuries the visible church has been in a tug-of-war with the world sometimes holding to God’s Word better than at other times. But in modern times it has mostly been tugged in the wrong direction.

The church merged with the world a long time ago, and the loss of some people or buildings is not the biggest hurt. It is the loss of God’s Spirit due the refusal to do what God says that has really sunk the church. Churches might be shrinking or merging, but the body of Christ has been steady and growing because we hold tight to the Word of God, living and teaching it to all who would listen.

I don’t even agree that “we no longer live in Christendom.” Believers have never lived in Christendom. We are salted throughout the world, and even throughout the church or churches. A church member is not the same thing as a believer although there are believers who might be church members. The world has always been hostile to God and the body of believers, and we’ve never had a Christendom. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we no longer live in Churchdom.

Shalom

Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At: Romans 13 through 16

New up on our Youtube channel is the fourth video for Romans covering chapters 13 through 16. The truth seeker will enjoy the comments on the famous Romans 14 chapter helping to clarify the plain meaning stated by Paul that he is talking about opinions, not God’s Word. Taken all together it is clear that Paul has a high regard for the Law and many suggestions for application. He “upholds the law” (Romans 3:31) rather than trying to change Scripture. For Paul the “law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14) and he “agrees that the law is good;” (Romans 7:16 and others) and he “delights in the law of God, in [his] inner being” (Romans 7:22) although he finds that the “law of sin” is waging war with the “law of his mind” (God’s law) (Romans 7:23) making living it out very difficult. Freedom (Romans 8) from the impossible struggle of trying to earn our own righteousness comes from the sacrifice of the Christ, who has paid the penalty for our disobedience and given us a way back to intimacy with our Father and Messiah.

Instead of rejecting the law as many in the church suggest, he wants us to present our bodies a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) by renewing our mind, testing to discern the will of God (Romans 12:2) and holding fast to what is good (Romans 12:9) which includes God’s law (which he said before). Paul reminds us that the first word of the law is love (love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength) and love fills up the Law (Romans 13:10). This is all included in his admonition to “put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh.” By the time we get to Romans 14 it is obvious that the subject is a continuation of principles laid down in the previous 13 chapters.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At Romans 9 through 12

The third video in our Romans series is up, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard Romans this way!

Shalom
Bruce

Freedom from Sabbath Keeping

Hey All,

Just spent a few days writing a new article which is a point-by-point response to an article by Ray Comfort that he titled Freedom From Sabbath Keeping. It took a while, because the article is filled with a lot of, shall we say, less than biblical information.

Ray is a good guy as far as I know, and has a lot of good teaching. I have quoted from him, and use some of his material in my conversations with atheists. However, there are a number of areas where he falls short of biblical truth, and a bunch of them are in this article. So I went through it and inserted my comments directly into his text. I included Bible verses and commentary all with a whole Bible perspective. You’ll find a nicely organized selection of responses to what are also typical Christian arguments against observing the Sabbath. Why people would reject a day off from God is beyond me, but they do. So this article should help you with standard Christian objections to observing the whole of the Word, not just the Sabbath.

An excerpt from Point by Point through the Ray Comfort article Freedom from Sabbath Keeping. His words are in red, my comments are in square brackets and in blue (on the web page they are just in a different font).

Let’s briefly look at their arguments. First, nowhere does the Fourth Commandment say that we are to “worship” on the Sabbath Day. [True. Worship was every day. The act of resting on the Sabbath is worship. Worship has taken on an inadequate meaning in the intervening centuries, and it used to be that worship included sacrifices. But worship has always been obedience at its root.] It commands that we rest on that day: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). [Notice that he does not answer the issue he raises: why does the church not “rest” on the Sabbath?] Sabbath-keepers worship on the Saturday. [No. Sabbath keepers might MEET on Saturday, but worship is obedience and for every day.] Do they know where the word “Saturday” comes from? It’s from the Latin word “Saturnus–Saturn + Old English dæg day.” Obviously Saturday is from the pagan day of worship of the planet Saturn (astrology). [In spite of the attempt at sarcasm, I can agree here. However, Saturday is also the seventh day, and therefore the Sabbath. The name of the day is not important. But the Sabbath is.

And another excerpt.

The Scriptures tell us that at one point, the Apostles especially gathered to discuss the attitude of the Christian to the Law of Moses. [This is biblically incorrect. The council in Acts 15 met mainly to discuss salvation by circumcision (verse 1). This was proved to be wrong. Salvation was coming to Gentiles without circumcision and by grace through faith just as Abraham and JUST AS THE JEWS (who had the Law). Verse 5 also asks a question about following the Law, which was answered in verse 21 (Moses is read in the synagogue every Sabbath.) This meant 1) Moses is read. 2) Moses is read in the synagogue where all believers met at the time. 3) They met every Sabbath.] Acts 15:10-11, 24-29 was God’s opportunity to make His will clear to His children. [Biblically incorrect. God had been making His will clear to His children for a long, long time.] All He had to do to save millions from damnation was say, “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy,” and millions of Christ-centered, God-loving, Bible-believing Christians would have gladly kept it. [Not so. He already said many times to remember the Sabbath, and just about as many times was ignored. He is still being ignored today as is evidenced by this article by Ray. Many Christians do not want to obey God’s commands. Mostly because we do not want an objective, absolute standard. We want to give ourselves permission to sin.

Enjoy the article.
Shalom,
Bruce

Opposite Day

I was thinking about what to call today. For pagans, it’s Easter Sunday. I know that’ll get me in trouble. I know I’m not supposed to actually connect people’s behavior directly with something that is not biblical. I usually don’t; I try to teach the truth and let people make up their own minds. But it’s tough in some cases to be neutral. Some people just make themselves an easy target.

So I was thinking we could call today “Ham Sunday.” But then we’d have to call Christmas, Ham (whatever day it falls on), but this might cause some confusion. Then I was thinking we could call it pagan Day but there isn’t enough discrimination there between days. All the other so-called Christian holidays are also pagan. We generally say “Merry Pagan Holiday” which is pretty good, but lacks a little oomph. Naw, I needed something more fitting. Something more descriptive. Something more flexible. Because after all that is the name of the Christian game they are playing. After considering several other names, I settled on Opposite Day.

Opposite Day is where we do whatever is opposite of what God wants. Does He want us to stay away from unclean meat? Well, let’s make it part of our tradition. Does He want us not to have images that might lead people to worship gods other than Him? No problem. We just use our freedom in Christ as well as the cosmic eraser of Christ to sanctify unholy things.

I know that the name Opposite Day is not particularly discriminating. All the standard Christian holidays, heck, every day, is Opposite Day when you have freedom in Christ to rub God’s face in our disobedience. But I capitalize the term so that we know that today is a SPECIAL opposite day where we deliberately pick opposites of God’s desires. Then we coat them in sentiment and tradition which we call “love” but are the opposite of God’s love, and comfort ourselves that our “intentions” are good though opposite of God’s. As long as we “think” it’s okay and as long as we don’t “intend” to do opposite, we can coat our perversions with the opposite of God’s intent and still call it good.

We do it all the time anyway. Immorality takes many different forms, but we can use the techniques we learn in Opposite Day to cover all the other opposites we do too. Sexual immorality becomes an alternate lifestyle. Marriage vows become marriage promises. Sentiment is substituted for love. We’ll just wash some feet to make up for all the theft, adultery, and other opposites we’ve accepted and confirmed.

Happy Opposite Day.

Shalom,
Bruce

Judging with Righteous Judgment Pt. 3 – Baby Steps

Training in righteous judgment comes from balanced and consistent practice. This is illustrated for us in Scripture such as 2 Timothy 3:16 and Titus 2:1-10 among many others. We learn how to apply the Law by applying it ourselves to our own life on a daily basis. We start with small things, which some call shadows, learning love and faithfulness with baby steps. Later we can perhaps run a marathon.

 

The feasts and holy days of our Father are excellent places to begin training in righteous judgment. Think about how many questions have to be answered in order to practice His instructions in the feasts and festivals. Am I going to take the Sabbaths off from work? Will I let worldly things get in the way of our celebration? Is it all important, because every word He speaks is important? What does it mean to take time to blow a trumpet or learn how to blow one? What are the themes associated with a feast, and where else do we find them in the Word? Where is Jesus in the symbols? Since Jesus was the one to prescribe these, is there a new connection I can make with Him, making His presence more real and concrete in daily living?

 

We need to carve out time for His appointments with us, just as we would for a dentist, doctor or lawyer. Each instruction has to be contemplated, incorporated into our planning, and juggled with other commitments. How we treat the less weighty things is an indication of how we will treat the more weighty things. We have to rate the importance of His commands compared to all the other demands on our time. There are times the other things will have to give way. How much do we love the Father, and how willing are we to clear everything out of the path to Him?

 

Questions and considerations like these also play into weightier issues too. If we are faithful in small things, we will be faithful in greater things. If we are unfaithful in small things, how can we be trusted with bigger things? Are we the second son who says “I will go” then doesn’t?

 

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28–32, ESV)

 

On the other hand, do we get caught up in all the showy stuff about holy days such as Hebrew language or mystical interpretations and neglect to just do them with a heart of flesh in the Spirit? Do we worship the traditions or the One who gave them? These are just some of the issues that help train us not only to see the right things to do, but also to do them.

Distractions, Part One

Just about the time you think you’ve found the missing pieces to connecting with God through a complete and whole Bible, all kinds of distractions are thrown at you to slow you down. I found the pure light of the source, and so many are out with their wet blankets trying to cover it up again. Maybe it’s just man’s natural perversity. Show him a narrow gate and a hard way to life and he has to go to work on the gate to make it wider and easier. Distractions turn into detours into the wide, easy way. Below is a partial list of some of these distractions.

 

Judaism. Judaism is the collection of rulings and interpretations by rabbis of the Bible, also known as the oral law. It is assumed by many that somehow Judaism is a superior belief system to every other. This is a popular but not biblical view. In real life Judaism is no better or worse than other belief systems. There are good things about it, and bad things. I see Judaism in the Word described as hard hearted, idolatrous, disobedient, flint headed, and so on. Just because someone is Jewish or follows Judaism does not make them any more right than any other pagan.

 

Hebrew only. This is a belief that somehow Hebrew is a holier and more pure language than any other. Since the New Testament manuscripts are written mostly in Greek, and these people think Jesus and the apostles spoke and wrote only in Hebrew, they conclude the New Testament is a translation from a lost, imaginary Hebrew original and therefore suspicious. If we just had this Hebrew original, goes the thinking, then we would have a better understanding of the New Testament. In the meantime, the Greek manuscripts are sniffed at as if they were something that dogs dragged in. Literally.

 

Hebrew is a nice language. However, it’s just a language. It is no holier or more meaningful than any other. Language is not the problem with obedience to God. Israel had tablets written by the finger of God and still didn’t follow them. All through history Israel is marked largely by disobedience, though they had the “holy” language of Hebrew. Obviously the language has nothing to do with abiding in God’s Word.

 

Two houses. This one is a little hard to follow but I’ll try to simplify. When Israel (the northern 10 tribes) was taken into captivity by Assyria, they were scattered then intermarried and migrated up through what we know as Europe today. Over the centuries they lost their identity, and according to the theory there is no specific record of their return to Israel. The southern tribe of Judah (actually Judah and Benjamin) from where we get the name “Jew” kept their identity even though they went into captivity about 150 years later. According to two house people there are specific records of the return of the Jews to the Land (and it is assumed it was only the southern tribes). In Ezekiel 37 God says these two sticks will be reunited one day.

 

Two house theology has hijacked this prophecy. Believers in this distraction think that Gentiles who want to return to a whole Bible including Torah (first five books of the Bible) in their walk with God must be (somehow) descended from the ten tribes lost in Europe (or thereabouts). They think it is their job to reunite themselves to modern day Jews (bring the “two sticks” of Ezekiel 37 back together). So they try to be as “Jewish” as possible. Never mind that God said He would do it (nowhere are disciples told to do it), and that no one can tell which tribe they are from now (so there is just one stick). Followers of God are supposed to make disciples, not repair sticks.

 

Distractions pop up like squirrels at a picnic (think the Disney move “Up”) and all they’re doing is detouring from the narrow way of returning to the whole Bible. Not worth it, people. Read the Word, abide in it, and stay on the path.

 

End of part one. Next up, Bible Codes, ID forms and the mark of the Beast, two Laws, and two bodies.

Childbearing salvation

One of the more puzzling verses in the Word is directed at Timothy by Paul in what some refer to as a pastoral epistle.

 

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:15, ESV)

 

It seems that Paul is saying that women can be saved through having kids. I’ve heard a lot of teaching connected with this, mostly focusing on the second part of the verse (faith, love, holiness, self-control) but also trying to work in how women are saved by having kids. I’ve tried to understand it myself by going with that teaching and thinking that perhaps the discipline of actually having kids (it is very difficult to bear children in case you didn’t know) was somehow helpful for learning salvation. Sort of going along with “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But I could never really make it fit with my understanding of other parts of the Word, such as that salvation is by grace through faith.

 

I recently read a different take on this by Dr. Walter Kaiser in the book The Promise Plan of God. He says that we should think of this as the act of childbearing as in the fact that the Son of God was birthed by a woman. Salvation came to the world because a woman bore a child. Paul was trying to elevate women because of the gift of bearing children, contrasting their poor treatment at the time (which continues to the present time) with the godly point that they should be honored instead. Yes, Eve was deceived, but a woman was given the privilege of birthing our Messiah Jesus.

 

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11–12, ESV)

 

Paul is encouraging godliness by acknowledging faults in both genders and at the same time pointing out equal blessings from God. We are not independent; we are interdependent. We each have different jobs, we are made differently (thank you Jesus!) but one gender is not inferior to the other. Women are not property, they are sisters in the household of God and have equal standing with men before God. The childbearing gift was how God chose to bring the Messiah to us, and should not be discounted. Women are saved through the act or gift of childbearing, because our salvation Jesus came to us by way of a woman.

 

An interesting proposition, and one that fits better with the rest of Scripture than any others I’ve heard so far. It’s probably an old teaching in some places, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4–5, ESV)

Eating Out Without Leaven

When you’re on the road, trying to find food without leaven is a little more difficult than at home. Though each meal took a little more planning on a trip we took recently, that was time to reflect on God’s ways and the reasons for following them. Each menu decision was flavored with love for God, and God’s love for us. We wanted to skip leaven as He instructed because He loves us so much. We get to love Him back a little by slight diet changes. He dies a tortured, painful bloody death on an execution stake and we return a tiny bit of that love by eating crackers. What a deal.

Of course, it’s far more difficult to remove the sin, symbolized by the leaven, than it is to find a restaurant that isn’t centered around leavened bread. It’s a little hard to eat a sandwich without the bread. But a week making decisions about bread translates to keeping the removal of sin in focus too. And it’s a great kick start to a habit of removing a particular sin.

Hypocrites and Passover

5273 ὑποκριτής [hupokrites /hoop·ok·ree·tace/] n m. From 5271; TDNT 8:559; TDNTA 1235; GK 5695; 20 occurrences; AV translates as “hypocrite” 20 times. 1 one who answers, an interpreter. 2 an actor, stage player. 3 a dissembler, pretender, hypocrite.
ESL

5273. ὑποκριτής hupokritēs; from 5271; one who answers, an actor, a hypocrite:—hypocrite(2), hypocrites(16).
NASB Dictionaries

), corresponding to the above, primarily denotes one who answers; then, a stage–actor; it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice; hence the word became used metaphorically of a dissembler, a hypocrite. It is found only in the Synoptists, and always used by the Lord, fifteen times in Matthew; elsewhere, Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; 11:44 (in some mss.); 12:56; 13:15. HYSSOP HUSSŌPOS (ὕσσωπος , (5301) VEDONTW

Also means men of falsehood 26:4, evil doer Is. 9:17, godless, deceitful men, pretenders, vain persons, and profane.

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (Mark 7:6–7, ESV)

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51–53, ESV)

Those who receive the Bible as the Word of God yet do not keep it? Eating ham with leavened baked goods ignoring Sabbaths on Easter Sunday directly opposite what God teaches? Honoring with lips but hearts are far away, perhaps?

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. (Isaiah 65:2–5, NRSV)