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

Of Pigs and Men

Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to leave the man, and Legion’s last request is that Jesus allow them to go into the nearby pigs. Granting Legion’s request, they leave the man and enter the herd of about 2,000 which immediately rushes downhill and drowns itself in the Sea of Galilee.

Whenever I read these accounts, one of the first things that puzzles me is that the people ask Jesus to leave the area. Why, I wonder, would they send away such a powerful miracle worker, one who had returned one of their brothers to them? Why would they not rejoice that a local travel hazard was removed? What if the demons left that man and infected others?

Some teachers say that the expense of the pigs was a factor. Jesus had just cost someone (or maybe several someone’s) a lot of money. Others say that these people weren’t supposed to be growing pigs for market because pork was not to be eaten according to the Mosaic Law. I get that these were possibilities, and perhaps they can stay in the mix for explaining the incident. But they just are not that satisfactory to me. Wouldn’t the loss of the pigs be worth removing a hazard like a man who could break chains and attack people? I’d think so. Were the citizens Jews, who would care about the Law, or were they gentiles, who wouldn’t? The ESV study Bible says that they were Gentiles, but there must’ve been some Jews around too. And Jews aren’t exactly known for always sticking with all of the Law anyway.

I was able to make a great deal of progress understanding this situation as I read further in Mark and got to the rich young man of Mark 10, and the question on the authority of Jesus in Mark 11. Now how, you may ask, did I connect the people of Gennesaret unwilling to allow Jesus to stay in the area with a rich man unwilling to give up his riches and the unwillingness of the chief priests to answer Jesus about whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? I’m glad you asked that. (You might be guessing at the same conclusion as I because of the way I phrased the question.)

The chief priests could not answer a simple question, because they refused to acknowledge that the authority of Jesus was from God. If they did it would mean that their authority was from man, and they would have had to give up their cushy positions. The rich man knew that Jesus was a “good teacher,” but not so much that he was willing to suffer economic harm to follow Him. The Gennesaret people knew Jesus was at the very least a holy man of God, but were not willing to suffer further economic harm in order for Him to have stayed in the area.

In other words, none of these people wanted to go all the way. They saw the miracles done by Jesus, acknowledged His power and authority, recognized that He was from God, but didn’t take the next step of risking everything to follow Him.

In modern times we find the same sorts of attitudes. We hear people saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” all the time, in song and prayer and sermons. We see regular attendance at a church service, with many an “Amen” during the preaching. There are bumper stickers and hats and T-shirts proclaiming that the wearers “know Jesus.” Mega-churches abound, pastors have carved out positions with nice paychecks claiming to speak for God, and television stars rake in the bucks while hawking their latest books and trinkets.

Very few will see the Kingdom of God because the ticket into the Kingdom costs a lot more than simply raising a hand and “going forward.” Faith is putting your money where your mouth is, like the rich young man refused to do. It is the willingness to give up possibly everything you have to follow Him, like the people of Gennesaret could have done. It is submitting your will to His, and giving everything to welcome Him into your heart unlike the chief priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders then and now.

Jesus obviously had authority from God because He did what God told Him to do and taught what God wanted Him to teach. Everything Jesus did or said was right from the written Word, and could easily be checked if one wanted to do so. But we don’t want. We fear to give up our position, our money, our reputations or our lives because the short term suffering is not worth the long term gain.

Like Frank Sinatra or Cain, we want to do it our way. We want to retain parts of the world system and try to merge them into the Kingdom. We say “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. We want to patch the garment with unshrunk cloth because we don’t want the work of making it right. We try to fit new wine and old wineskins together when they are just not compatible.

We refuse to accept a message from the Christ because it will cause us too much trouble and might wreck the nice little corner of the world we have made for ourselves. It might cause us some discomfort. It might make us change. It might make us realize that even with the talisman of the name of Jesus we are still far short of what God requires of us.

Shalom

Bruce

Christian Statues

So I was catching up on the news this morning and ran across an article titled 50 Christian Statues Defaced and Decapitated in Germany (Heatstreet by way of The Drudge Report 12/15/16). My first reaction was “Huh? Christian statues?” My next reaction was, “This is supposed to be bad news?”

Vandalism is not good, but why do we have “Christian” statues? I mean, there are statues, and then there are “Christian” things, but not Christian statues. God specifically tells believers not to have statues. So you would think we wouldn’t have “Christian” statues in the first place, or the destruction of them would be good news.

I hate to say it because of all the wrong things about Islam, but this is one of the very few things that Muslims have right. They really detest images such as statues or idols. This they borrow from the Law of Moses, and you would think the real “Christian” thing would be to do the same. Most Muslims stick to their laws, however twisted, way better than “Christians” ever thought to do themselves with their Law. But Christianity has become so watered down that God’s Word is just a distant echo in many of the sound rooms of church.

If we were as loyal and zealous about our true God as Muslims are about their false one the world would be a much different and better place. Our young people would be trained up to know the Word of God instead of the words of American Idol. If we stuck to the Christian law (actually the Law of Christ, Moses or God) then we wouldn’t have any such thing as “Christian” statues, we wouldn’t be losing kids to the strictures of Islam, and we wouldn’t be losing families to adultery and divorce. Among the many things that are wrong about Islam, they’ve got a point about the mushy “Christians.”

Shalom
Bruce

Whole Bible Christianity, The Book

Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI

There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.

The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.

Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.

Shalom
Bruce

Tolerating Jezebel

The congregation at Thyatira in Revelation 2:19 seems to be doing everything right according to Jesus.

“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” (Revelation 2:19, ESV)

There was apparently nothing to fault in their faith and service. However, the one glaring problem was that they tolerated a woman called Jezebel.

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.(Revelation 2:20, ESV)

There might’ve been an actual woman whose actual name was Jezebel. More probably, it was a woman like Jezebel. Jesus was most likely calling her out by her actions, which were in keeping with the original Jezebel. Queen Jezebel was the wife of Ahab king of Israel, daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians. The Sidonians were one of the nations left by God to test Israel (Judges 3), but Israel failed time and again by marrying the daughters of these nations, following after their gods instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jezebel’s claim to fame was in using the usual tools of her Canaanite people to recruit followers for Baal notably sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage as God designed it, divorce, homosexuality, sex with animals, sex with close relatives, prostitution, and so on). Elijah had a famous battle with her priests and prophets (1 Kings 18) and wiped them out.

This woman in Thyatira was using similar methods to move people away from the worship of God alone. An interesting part of the charges by Jesus against Thyatira was that Jezebel allowed or encouraged “eating food offered to idols.” How could this be a bad thing when all the “ceremonial” laws were eliminated (according to the modern church)? The answer is obviously that all of the Laws were in fact still in effect.

So Thyatira was doing everything right, except they tolerated Jezebel’s teaching that sexual immorality was okay. Anybody see where we are doing the same thing today? The church wants to be “tolerant” of sexual immorality by “loving” homosexuals and transgenders and God knows what else. Love has been redefined to allow sexual immorality. The church is teaching that we should tolerate it. They allow unrepentant sexually immoral persons into their congregations. The more things change the more they remain the same.

The congregation at Thyatira is no longer with us. The followers of Jezebel were given time to repent, but apparently did not. Jezebel was thrown onto a sickbed, and those who committed adultery with her were thrown into great tribulation and were killed. It seems obvious to me that Jesus was not really talking to just that particular congregation at that particular time. He was talking to all of those who claim His name (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations” Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22). If we have ears, and hear, we will repent of the same things that others were told to abandon. We shouldn’t be embracing these unrepentant sexually immoral people. We shouldn’t be tolerating the woman Jezebel in our midst. Cast her out, disavow her teachings, cast her children out of our congregations and hold fast what we have until He comes. Otherwise we will suffer the fate Jesus warned would come upon all those who tolerate those same teachings. Amen. Even so come Lord Jesus.

Shalom
Bruce

Crucifying Another Christian

Well, they’ve got another Christian up on the cross.

The Duggar family is the latest to donate a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter, and the morally bankrupt media are gleefully driving in the hypocritical nails. The corrupt and flaming leftist Lena Dunham writes a book detailing the sexual abuse of a younger sister and the Pontius Pilates of this age just yawn.

But a man who has proven himself to be an exemplary adult, who paid for his sins while still a minor, and whose record should’ve been sealed, has those same neo-Roman officials washing their hands.

You and I both know what is really going on. The people who don’t shrink back from following God are being torn down, just like that guy who walked here 2,000 years ago. This world cannot stand anything or anyone associated with God, especially those high profile people who make People magazine. The goody two-shoes are despised and always will be. Even reformed, repentant goody two-shoes are targets, not because what they have done is so wrong or so different from the normal behavior of the godless but because the depth of godless hate runs so deep. Those oh-so-tolerant Canaanites simply will not tolerate someone who reminds them they are on a path to hell.

If the Duggars are smart they’ll be preparing lawsuits as I write. Hopefully they won’t chicken out and hide behind a few frequently misinterpreted Scriptures about loving everyone and letting God be the judge. There is more at stake here than just hurt feelings or resignation from a job. The fight is not physical, it’s spiritual. Christians are being wrongly maligned left and right (mostly left) and there are solid biblical reasons for using our God given judgment to push the darkness back even if only a little. Our weapons might be spiritual, but there’s nothing wrong with smacking the lions on the nose with a sword every once in a while. Or the Pilates.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look at the Book of Galatians

Just posted. New video looking at the book of Galatians using mostly just the book itself in simple, plain language. It’s a little long (1 and a quarter hours), but there is an outline in the notes with time marks so you can skip to particular sections as needed. We show you how easy it is to understand the book the way Paul intended, in keeping with the teachings of the whole of the Word. Three times Paul gives us the subject: 2:6; 3:11; and 5:4. Tutors and guardians are explained, as well as “under the law” and “works of the law.”

Enjoy.
Shalom.

Atheism: The Seinfeld of Religions

New video just got uploaded to our youtube channel which is already raising the ire of atheists (shown by their clicking of the dislike button and the comments they make). I couldn’t be happier. Like I told one of them who made a disparaging comment that my dad used to say, “Throw a rock into a pack of dogs and the one that barks the loudest is the one that got hit the hardest.”

Boy are atheists going to bark now.

Shalom

Hating Religion

It seems fashionable nowadays to talk about hating religion but loving Jesus. One young man (Jefferson Bethke) has even made a career out of it, starting with a youtube video of a rap song he created titled ‘Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.’ It has over 27,546,644 views, so he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Others are writing books, like the

book by Alex Himaya. He’s a pastor of a church that has grown from 120 to over 5,500 people in eight years (by his own testimony), so he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Um. No. Neither are correct, at least from a biblical standpoint.

Why? Because they only offer two choices – religion or no religion for one thing. For another, they confuse (as many people do) Bible teachings. They are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They both define religion as “following rules,” when they should distinguish between God’s rules (the Law) and man’s rules.

There is good religion and bad religion. Bad religion defined correctly is man reaching for God or trying to get to God on man’s own terms. I prefer to call this “man’s traditions.” Good religion is following God’s rules written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit in love. We can call this “God’s traditions.” Also known as The New Covenant.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, ESV)

Man’s traditions can include some of the Bible, but frequently are way outside what God requires. God’s traditions, however, are always good. We can follow His rules or laws with confidence that they are living oracles, a light to our path, a guide to eternal life, and in every way huge blessings and a beneficial lifestyle.

It is true that God hates man’s efforts, in his own knowledge and pride, to connect with Him. From fig leaves in the Garden to works righteousness by following some laws (even His), He has always discouraged man’s efforts to buy a stairway to heaven. The opposite is to use the free stairway of His Word, the stair steps of His Laws, statues, commands, and charge, a ticket to which has been secured by the blood of His Son our Messiah. Even repentance is a command.

Just because people have a big church (which in my opinion isn’t biblical) or a lot of views on youtube, that doesn’t make them right. Popularity to me is suspicious, because generally people don’t like the truth. Truth is too uncomfortable. Ear tickling is more fun. When the popular kids are poking at you for following His laws, remember that they are only using part of the Bible. We need to fill them in on true religion. God’s religion. The New Covenant. The Law written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit. God’s traditions followed in love.

Shalom
Bruce

The Testing of Jesus

At the stoning of the woman caught in adultery, did Jesus teach that the Law was gone, or did He criticize because the Law was not followed? Did Jesus eliminate the Law as popular church teaching suggests, or did He disapprove of the mishandling of God’s living oracles? I think in each question it is the latter. When Jesus was tested, He stayed with the Law while His opponents stuck with their own interpretations and traditions. His opponents were wrong in nearly every case.

Jesus never tells us that “we all sin” so none of us can judge. What He tells us is that to judge properly we need to stay within the whole of His Law. The people testing Jesus wanted permission to sin. They wanted certification for their self-appointed authority. But they didn’t want God’s Law. See the video for more details.

Shalom
Bruce